Facebook is a social network, not a shopping network, so why should any business spend resources establishing and maintaining a Fan Page on Facebook? (A Fan Page, by the way, is a profile for a business or organization rather than for an individual.) Because even if members have no intention of buying anything on Facebook, the relationships you establish and community you build there can benefit your business in countless ways. Here, I reveal the top 10 ways a Facebook Fan Page can help your business.
- Establishes another outpost for your business on the web
Creating a Fan Page provides your business and brands with another branding outpost on the Web where prospects, customers, future employees, vendors, and even the media can find information about your company and the products and services you offer. Unlike Facebook's personal Profiles, which are member-only accessible, Facebook Fan Pages are public-facing by default; that is, people need not be logged into Facebook to view a business's or brand's Fan Page, so even more people have access to the information you post.
Tip: To save time updating your Fan Page, create an RSS feed on the Page's Notes tab to pull entries from your existing business blog. As long as your blog posts aren't overtly "salesy," the additional content should be well received.
- Drives Traffic to Your Website
Fan Pages have no restrictions on driving Facebook traffic to websites. In fact, Facebook encourages you to link to your website from your business's Fan Page. Redirecting even a small portion of Facebook's huge amount of daily traffic to your website could significantly improve the amount of qualified traffic on your site.
Tip: Turn Facebook members into Fans, Fans into customers, and customers into Fans by cross-promoting your Fan Page and website. Link your Fan Page to your website and insert a Facebook widget on your site to link back to your Fan Page.
- Improves your SEO
Google, through its new Social Search feature, and other search and decision engines are now indexing content created on sites like Facebook, so your Fan Page content has the potential to generate favorable search engine results for your business and brand. By linking your Fan Page to your website, you can leverage Social Search to drive even more Facebook traffic back to your site.
- Allows you to engage with your community easily and for free
A Facebook Fan Page provides an inexpensive (free) alternative to implementing customer engagement on your own site. In minutes, you can have a branded Fan Page where customers and other brand advocates can post to your Facebook Wall, share photos and video, ask and answer questions, and interact with you and one another. Creating and managing a Fan Page, complete with a Discussions tab, is easier than launching and monitoring discussion forums or message boards on your own domain.
- Connects you and your staff directly to your customers and fans
A Facebook Fan Page gives you a direct pipeline to your Fans. You can send messages to Fans all at once or target individuals or groups by country, state, city, gender, and even age range. Using the Events App, you can even schedule special events or promotions and then send invitations to only those Fans who live in or near the town where the event is scheduled to take place. All of this and more is available free of charge to any business or brand using Facebook.
- Strengthens customer relations
You can significantly deepen your relationships with customers by connecting with them in a social rather than a business setting and not selling. Facebook members may not shop on Facebook, but 90 percent of them expect the businesses and organizations they deal with to have a Facebook Fan Page.
- Provides a breeding ground and platform for brand evangelists
Only 25 percent of Facebook members want to be sold to, but a much higher percentage are apt to sing the praises of a quality company, brand or product to their Facebook Friends. Establish strong relationships with a number of influential members who have plenty of connections, and you gain valuable brand evangelists who authentically market and sell on your behalf.
Tip: As you post updates to your Page's Wall, or as Fans interact with your Page, these interactions appear in the Fan's News Feed, reaching even more potential Fans (i.e., your Fan's Facebook Friends), making Facebook the ultimate opt-in, permission-based marketing tool available online today.
- Listening and observing has the potential to improve your business
In a social setting like Facebook, customers and prospects are likely to let down their guard and share information with you and others about products and services they like, good and bad experiences they have had with your business or your competitors, and their unfulfilled needs. Each time a Fan interacts with your Page, you are presented with a wealth of information.
Tip: By default, Facebook Fan Pages include the Discussion tab. Encourage discussions to mine valuable market data and ideas on how to improve your business.
- ROI-related metrics are readily available
Facebook's Page Insights tools and dashboard facilitate the analysis of marketing and communication by revealing data related to interactions (Comments, Wall posts, and "Likes"); discussed posts, reviews, and mentions; Fan demographics (gender, ages, geographic location/distribution); and so on. These tools improve your ability to identify and target specific demographics and gauge ROI.
Tip: Use Facebook's powerful metrics, along with information you gather from your Fan Page, to develop custom messages and talking points that speak directly to your Fans' needs, are suited for your community's style of engagement, and support your business's word-of-mouth goals and objectives.
- Allows you to keep pace with the competition free of charge
Still not convinced a Fan Page is worth setting up? Then consider the competition. Even if only one of your competitors launches a successful Fan Page, that competitor can corner the market on Facebook and build a following long before you do. Stake your free claim early to establish your business as the industry leader before the competition has a chance.
Mikal E. Belicove co-authored The Complete Idiot's Guide to Facebook with Joe Kraynak (Penguin Group USA/Alpha Books, 2010), and is a business strategist specializing in content development, market analysis, and messaging/positioning for individuals and businesses of all sizes. Belicove's latest book, 2009 Internet Directory: Web 2.0 Edition, is available now at fine booksellers everywhere, and you can read his monthly column on social media marketing and website promotion, management, usability, and design in Entrepreneur magazine. When he is not working, Belicove can be found musing about the world on Belicove.com and can be reached at Mikal@Belicove.com.