We've covered the mechanics of getting started on Facebook with instructions on how to create and complete your business Facebook Page. But before a business jumps onto Facebook, it's important to consider whether or not Facebook is the ideal platform for finding and engaging customers. And if it is, what, exactly, should you do to be successful? While a Facebook Page is free, the time investment is not, and there are opportunities to invest additional resources in Facebook Ads, custom graphics and more. Like any marketing activity, your Facebook presence has to provide a return on that investment in order to be worthwhile. Businesses who understand what Facebook can actually provide, and execute a plan to achieve that, really can achieve social media ROI.

About Facebook
Let me give you some background information on Facebook:

  1. Facebook has 1 billion active users.
  2. The average Facebook user has 130 friends.
  3. The average Facebook visit lasts 23 minutes.
  4. 46% of Facebook users are over the age of 45.
  5. 57% of Facebook users are female (43% male).
  6. 57% of Facebook users report having been to "some college" (24% bachelors or graduate degree).
  7. 47% of Facebook users report making between $50,000 $99,000 annually (33% between $25,000 $49,999).

Why is this important? Because whether or not you actively promote your business on Facebook depends on whether or not your target audience is there! Before I tell you what to do, it's important that you consider if Facebook is even a good use of your time. If your clients are mostly other businesses (B2B), or if your target audience just isn't using Facebook, then certainly have a presence on Facebook, but focus the bulk of your time on whatever other networks seem more appropriate.*

Personal vs. Business

Before we jump into how you're going to use Facebook to help your business, it's probably important to give some thought to how you're not going to use it. Facebook specifically separates personal and business profiles. For most business owners, I do recommend that they have both, but that the personal profile really is for personal use. You can, of course, talk about your business - it is a networking platform after all, but I wouldn't recommend posting anything to your personal profile that is pure marketing or advertising. You may also want to carefully consider whether or not you even "friend" clients and customers. You may want to keep your personal life completely private.

I recommend that business owners create a Social Media Policy that applies to both themselves and how they use social media, as well as to employees. By taking the time to think about how social media and a particular network can benefit you personally and professionally, you will be able to better focus your time, as well as easily decide whether or not to engage in specific future activities.

Get Social
Facebook and other social networks are not advertising mediums. This isn't Craigslist. Social networks are designed to let people be social. They're all a little different in focus and execution, but the basic premise is the same. People use Facebook to connect with other people.

Businesses can use Facebook to connect with customers and fans.

Your top priority as a business on Facebook needs to be to form actual, lasting connections with your followers. Treat the people who Like your Facebook Page just like someone walking into your physical location. If someone walked in your front door, would you put a sign in their face telling them your latest sale? Or would you greet them and ask them if they wanted help? Be helpful and conversational and natural on Facebook, and your fans will respond positively.

Do not focus on Page Likes.
The number of Likes that you have for your Page is irrelevant. You definitely need fans, but what's more important is how the fans that you do have respond to what you're doing.

The nature of Facebook is that whenever someone Likes or Shares or Comments on one of your posts, that activity gets seen by their network. Imagine the number of people who Like your Facebook Page as a circle. When they Like what you do, your post gets seen by their friends, extending your circle of influence.

When their friends see and Like your activity, you've extended your reach into friends of friends of fans. This third circle of influence is where we're hoping to reach with every post.

Facebook Best Practices
So, let's review some Facebook best practices and business strategies.

Start by actually creating a plan for Facebook and social media. Success requires careful planning and execution. Decide what your goals are, how you're going to get there, what you're going to post and how often, and then stick to it.

Consistency is important to any internet marketing.
All of your Facebook Page posts should be designed to educate, entertain and engage your followers.
Include pictures as often as possible.

Images have an exponentially higher engagement rate over plain text or links.

Ask questions! Ask customers what interests them, what's bothering them, or what their opinion is on a topic.
Do not be afraid to be personal or controversial, as long as it is in moderation. Your customers want to see you as being human, and not a corporate robot.

When you have a new blog post on your website, share it to your Facebook Page so that an image thumbnail, title of the post, and a brief summary are all included. Facebook will do that automatically when you copy and paste the URL of your post, or click a Facebook share button that's on the blog post itself.

Follow the 80/20 Rule as much as possible. The 80/20 Rule originally said that 80% of your sales will come from 20% of your customers. It has been adopted and altered by the social media community to state that 80% of your social media activity should be about or from others, while only 20% should be about or from you. In other words, if all you did was post blog articles that you wrote, for every one of your articles, you should be posting as many as 4 articles from other people and sources. The idea is to provide as much helpful information as possible, but to dilute how much of it comes directly from you in order to ensure that you're not "over-selling" yourself.

Respond to questions and comments promptly, and respond to every one. Too many businesses fail to respond to questions on social media, losing valuable opportunities to not only gain a customer's trust and respect, but also demonstrate expertise to other potential customers. If someone posts a question to your Facebook wall and you answer it, that answer will be seen by any other visitors to your wall.

Make sure that you have Google Analytics or a comparable analysis system in place for your website and learn how to monitor that, and Facebook Insights, so that you can see how effective your Facebook activity is for generating leads and sales.

Growing Your Facebook Fans
I said Likes shouldn't be your focus, but that doesn't mean we don't want to continue to attract more followers. Use as many of these techniques as possible to increase your Facebook Page Likes:

  1. Include a link to your Facebook Page on your website.
  2. Include a link to your Facebook Page in your email signature.
  3. Share a link to your Facebook Page on other social networks periodically.
  4. Run Contests and Specials
  5. Put your Facebook address on your business cards and other printed materials.
  6. Encourage visitors to your store to Like you on Facebook.
  7. Use QR Codes to get people to your Facebook Page easily.
  8. Be Active on Facebook!

By focusing on these best practices, and utilizing some of these methods to grow your Facebook Likes, you will begin to create a true community on Facebook. This community will be comprised of both clients and potential clients, and if you foster those relationships, some of these individuals will become true brand advocates and ambassadors.

It takes time to develop this kind of community, but customer relationships like this cannot be formed through any other form of traditional marketing.

Success can be duplicated, and developed in a balanced perspective from simple collaboration.

What else has worked for you? Any other tips you'd like to share with others? Please leave them, and any questions you may have, in the comments below.