Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should have a Facebook page for your business

I know this is a pretty radical statement as everyone is feeling the pressure to get “digital” these days. Don’t get me wrong, I really love digital tools – I’ve built my business using them and I believe in their potential. But going digital can be a big time suck with very little real business return for the trouble if you aren’t careful. So before you launch that Facebook page – here are a few things to consider that may save you big headaches down the road.

  1. Have a goal. As with any advertising, having defined business goals helps you budget time and resources better. Another big plus – goals give you more opportunity to measure your results. Facebook is only one of hundreds of ways you can advance your business online. FB should be one piece of a larger digital strategy, not the only piece. By taking just a bit of time up front to create a solid plan that rationalizes your digital goals, you have a much better chance of success with much less frustration long term.
  2. Fish where the fish are… Radio, TV and print publications have distinct, unique audiences; so does Facebook. Make sure your target demographic actually uses Facebook BEFORE you add it to your plan. Since every social platform has a distinct user community, do your homework and find out the profile of Facebook’s user base today. Remember, Facebook is international. I recommend local businesses think hard about their goals if they are targeting an audience close to home. Spend your time where your target demographic spends their time and be thoughtful about what you say once you find them.
  3. Learn the etiquette and rules or suffer the consequences. Life online is very interactive – everyone has opinions and they share them liberally. Any business person with a bad Yelp review will be happy to tell you all about it. Unlike a newspaper ad which is pretty static, your online viewers will tell you EXACTLY what they think (good, bad and ugly). They will also react quickly when you make them mad and they will share their anger with lots of people quickly. Online etiquette is a key component to building a meaningful online presence and also critical for building engaged users. Facebook also has rules that govern business activities on their platform. If you don’t understand these rules and you break them, FB could exile you with no warning. If you lose FB privileges, you have little recourse.  Take a moment to learn about this environment and adjust your approach accordingly for the best results.
  4. Be interesting and actively engage or don’t bother. Building a page is only the first step, building a community of caring brand advocates who hang out with you, buy stuff from you and say nice things about you is an entirely different kettle of fish. This takes a huge amount of time and effort – plus, once you have this network, then you have to continue taking care of it. The minute you stop paying attention to them, your community will turn their attention elsewhere. This takes a lot of time and effort – it’s also the step most businesses fail to take. When I evaluate existing FB pages for my clients, they have very few friends and little interaction. Is it worth the time, effort and expense required to launch and maintain a FB page if no one knows you exist? The correct business answer: absolutely not.
  5. You can’t take “likes” to the bank. Don’t forget that the reason you want an engaged community is to build your business. I see clients spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get people to “like” them. A “like” is only useful to a business if it somehow ties to increased business, brand awareness (that leads to more business) or positive PR (that leads to more business). “Likes” are not a bankable commodity….so design your “like” campaigns with calls to action that lead to more money in your bank account.
  6. Finally, understand what you “own” and what you don’t. When you join Facebook, you must agree to their terms of service before you get an account. When you do this, you sign over ownership of your content to Facebook. Generally, I advise clients to use Facebook as an “outpost” drawing people back to your primary “real estate” – your business website, blog or ecommerce site – to do business with you. That way you can capitalize on Facebook’s vast user base to increase traffic to your primary business sites.

A great friend of mine always reminds me – when you are online, if it’s free, you’re the product. Facebook needs you, me and the rest of their 1 billion users (yes, FB currently has around 1 billion active users worldwide) and they are doing everything they can to sell every one of us the dream of easy, “free” success. What FB doesn’t tell you is their business goals don’t include the advancement of your business – p.s. that’s up to you. FB sells potential, you have to do all the work. And the better your plan is up front, the more likely you are to achieve it.

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