Your business can't afford to not have a Facebook presence. The social networking site now has more than half a billion users -- despite users' privacy concerns, and a recent survey suggesting that customer satisfaction is abysmal. Here are some tips to follow if you want your business to tap into that audience of half a billion potential customers.
First, you need to set up a page. They were once known as Fan Pages, and those that wanted to follow had to elect to be a "fan", but Facebook changed them to simply Pages, and members can now "like" the page rather than becoming a fan of it.
This was a good move because being a fan of a business or its products or services intimidated some users who felt it sounded like too much of a commitment. However, most members don't have any qualms with sharing which products and services they like.
This is subject to change, but you can find Ads and Pages by clicking on the linked word "More" somewhere in the middle of the left pane when looking at your Facebook Home page. Once the left pane is expanded, click on "Ads and Pages", then click on the "+ Create Page" button.
You can create a Facebook page for a company, or for a specific brand or product offered by the business. You can also set up a page for an artist, band, or public figure, or use a page to promote a cause.
Select the type of page you want to create, and assign it a name. Check the box indicating that you have the authority to represent the person, business, brand, or product you are setting a page up for, click on "Create Official Page", and you're in business.
Once the page is created, you need to configure and customize it. Add a logo or photo, and basic information about the business, product, or brand you want to promote. At that point, you need to get other Facebook users to "like" your page and start to build an audience.
The first thing Facebook suggests is that you invite all of your Facebook friends to "like" your new page. That may be fine, but understand that your friends are probably already familiar with your company, or its products and services, and that -- at least as a marketing and customer relations tool -- there is probably little value in having your friends see the page.
In fact, one of the primary advantages of the Facebook page is that you can interact with Facebook members without letting them connect with your inner-circle of friends. Try one or more of the Social Plugins widgets available from Facebook. You can use them on the company website, or blog to promote the existence of the Facebook page.
Inviting your Facebook friends may defy the goal of setting up the page, but if your business has an established e-mail, newsletter, or blog following those are exactly the audience you want to connect with your Facebook page. Post or distribute an announcement with a link to the Facebook page and invite them to join the community.
You should also add a link to the Facebook page to your standard e-mail signature, and you can cross-link with Twitter -- both to promote the existence of the Facebook page and to cross-post content so it appears on the Facebook page and on Twitter simultaneously.
If you have a budget, and want to pursue Facebook members more aggressively, you can purchase a Facebook ad to promote the existence of the page as well.
There is little point in going to the effort of building a Facebook page and attracting an audience if you don't follow through to engage customers. Now that you have built an audience for your Facebook page, you have to give the audience a compelling reason to visit the page.
The rules of the Facebook page are similar to the rules for effectively building an audience for a blog. Make sure you are adding content frequently -- preferably at least daily. You want to provide a reason for the Facebook page audience to check in and see what's new.
Equally important as the frequency of posting is the content of the posts. Customers want to be informed and engaged, not pitched and harassed. It's OK to tie in your products and services where they're relevant, but don't simply use the Facebook page as a platform for marketing soundbites.
You can post news or stories related to your business and provide unique commentary or insight. You can also use the Facebook page to provide tips, tricks, or information content. Rather than just talking at the audience, though, try to incite comments and feedback from the members to foster a sense of community with the customers.
Facebook represents a huge opportunity to market your business and promote your products and services. Make sure you take advantage of the massive audience Facebook has to offer.