One of the most underused features on Facebook is the revamped "Interest List," which is available to anyone with a personal profile. The individual benefits are most obvious and include creating a Twitter list or Google+ circle list. But Interest Lists also can help business owners aggregate and view content from the brands or people -- namely customers -- they care most about.
Think of Interest Lists as your brand's "listening station," where you can monitor what goes on with your competition, customers and industry leaders.
To create a new Interest List, hover over the settings icon next to any page or profile's like/add button while logged in as yourself, not your company's page. Adding that page or person to a list is the first option you'll see in the dropdown menu. You don't have to "like" a page to add it to a list.
You can create a new list or add to an existing one and choose from three privacy options: Public, Friends or Only Me. (Public lists are searchable.)
While you may want to create lists of, say, family members or friends who share an interest with you, using them for business is different. Here are three key strategies for making Interest Lists a valuable business intelligence tool:
1. Stay up-to-date with key clients.
Create a private Only Me list that includes your key clients' personal profile and brand Facebook pages.
Remember, Facebook is a place where people go for a sense of personal community, and you can gain useful insights by keeping abreast of clients' major life events, new business developments and even their feelings about other brands. Knowing what your clients are talking about on Facebook in real time should help you build stronger relationships and give you a sense of when to connect with them, such as sending a congratulations message after a baby's birth.
2. Monitor the competition.
Create a second private list of your top competitors' brand pages so you can follow their posts, events and, most important, their interactions with fans and customers.
Following your competition is an easy way to stay on top of major industry developments and take the temperature on potential clients. They could be up for grabs when, say, a competitor changes direction or fails to provide good service.
It's also useful to "listen in" on competitors as you develop and refine your social media strategy. What kinds of posts garner a lot of responses? Which types of fans are interacting and why?
3. Create a public list for your customers.
Finally, use Interest Lists to benefit your customers by creating industry or expert lists specific to your business niche. Not only does this show your clients or potential clients that you care, it helps position you as an expert in the field.
For example, I keep a list of top social media influencers that I update and regularly share with my fans. Sure, some of those people are my competitors, but by sharing the list and the free information with my followers, I'm showing them that the No. 1 reason my business exists is to support their social marketing efforts.
Of the three list types, this is the only kind you want to make publicly available. The public setting will allow users to share your list (a share button is in the upper right corner) and find it in a search, which can lend credibility to you as the curator.
The best public lists get as granular as possible. There are plenty of general marketing lists out there already, but a list that is quite specific, such as one with only SEO experts, for instance, can be valuable. What's more, people and pages are not notified when you add them to an Interest List -- unlike Twitter -- so you're providing value for value's sake.
Based in Carlsbad, Calif., Amy Porterfield is the co-author of Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies (For Dummies, 2011) as well as a speaker and trainer, teaching small businesses and entrepreneurs how to drive more traffic, leads and sales with Facebook marketing.