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Using Facebook Can Benefit Small And Local Businesses

Michael Gray Posted by

If there’s one aspect of social media that mainstream press seems to love, it’s Facebook. For this post we’re going to be talking with Greg Finn of Cypress North, Victoria Edwards of Linkshare, and Marty Weintraub of aimClear about how small businesses can use Facebook.

1) It was recently reported that Facebook was the most visited website in 2010, beating out Google for the first time. Do you think that there is value there for small businesses or is just part of the social media hype?

Greg Finn
I honestly don’t think that Facebook Marketing is hype at all, and I think that many businesses are hesitant due to the perception that Facebook is a friend-to-friend network. Now with Facebook pages showing up directly into a user’s stream, businesses can have highly visible messages displayed to their fans – and it is far more than just advertising.

The fact that Facebook users are regular users is really the biggest upside to me, and it’s not just kids using it anymore. Facebookers really are adamant about checking the site frequently, whereas Twitter is used very differently (outside of our industry). Sure, Twitter has 15 million users, but according to a study from Edison Research, only 33% of users use Twitter once a day whereas 50% of users log on to Facebook in any given day. I have seen traffic stats mirror this research as well.

I also love the format that Facebook provides, allowing for easy communication, fan interaction, and sharing. Take a look at this post from the UFC – it not only has a link, but a description, video and comments/likes as well.

Whereas the same thing on Twitter looks like this:


I really look at Facebook as the most popular RSS feed in the world, pulling in information from friends and businesses. I would say that Facebook marketing may be the furthest thing from hype as Pages allow for businesses to post directly into arguably the best and most popular stream – the Facebook wall.

Victoria Edwards
I think there is great value in small businesses adding Facebook to their online marketing initiatives, as it’s a great way to promote a business in an area that essentially is free. While some may think it is hype, it has become an additional way to benefit from an organic perspective, as well as acquiring a larger audience for your brand. The trick is having a proper strategy with detailed and measurable KPI’s so you can track your success, so it does not become a time suck.

Marty Weintraub
I’ll focus on Facebook Ads, because we’ve been in the space since 2007. Paid Facebook is an incredible small business tool, both b2b and b2c. For perspective, 2 years ago it was already easy to recruit local plumbing businesses to up for Yellow Page products by serving ads reading “Free Internet Listings for Your Plumbing Business” to hundreds of SMB owners interested in “Master Plumber.” They signed up in droves across a number of local business segments as early as 2008.

A quick look shows that 30,580 people living in the United states “like” master electrician, master mechanic, master plumber, small business owners, business owner, or business development. FB rocks for many types of small business marketing assignments.

For instance, circumvent Groupon-type services to accomplish the same types of objectives for a much lower cost.

2) There are some businesses that are a natural fit for Facebook, and other businesses that don’t make too much sense. Can you give me some examples of who should definitely be spending time on Facebook and who shouldn’t?

Greg Finn
As a rule of thumb, if your business doesn’t have a kick-ass web presence, you probably have other things to worry about than Facebook. I do believe that most companies can achieve some facet of their overall goals on Facebook, but obviously some niches fit more than others. Companies that should be involved 100% are:

  • Restaurants
  • Retailers
  • Ecommerce Sites
  • Media/News/Blogs
  • Destinations
  • Charities

Types of companies that may benefit less & analyze their goals before participation:

  • Highly Specialized B2B
  • Industrial
  • “One-Time Client” Services – i.e. Dishwasher Repair in Phoenix

With that being said, I do think that these companies can still find value if used correctly – just not as much. For example, a specialized widget manufacturer may not appeal to the majority of users, setting their Facebook page up as a news source for reps could be beneficial in keeping relationships. By updating their Facebook page with new products, company happenings, and industry news, a useful and informative destination would be created that could reach customers off of the main website. This type of communication is still valuable, just at a smaller scale than a post about a sweater sale at Old Navy.

Victoria Edwards
I feel anyone who is trying to gain a broader audience with their service, product, or brand has potential in utilizing Facebook as a robust online marketing channel.

Businesses that should not be on Facebook are the ones who have created a Facebook page, but have either left it on auto pilot or have forgotten about it. Not only does it make your brand look lazy and unprofessional, but it also leaves a window open for potential brand damage.

Marty Weintraub
Branding using FB actually lifts direct response search CTR in Google and Bing, because marketers can make any product a household name to the right users. Understanding that KPIs are sometimes secondary is key for SMBs. Anyone who’s been around the block will say that marketing famous brands is a much easier than unknown brands. The ability to tightly brand what you’re selling to highly specific social segments using Facebook Ads, at CPMs that are often still below 40 cents (a fraction of the cost of AdWords) is an opportunity that you should not miss while it’s still cheap. The price is going up and will continue to do so.

Therefore, anywhere marketers are successful in direct response search PPC, FB Ads is a natural build out. FB Ads ads are still much less expensive than AdWords. For SMBs and local business, understanding this dynamic opens up fabulous opportunities at dirt cheap prices. The barrier to entry is that FB, as grass roots as it is, requires savvy marketers to leverage for local. That’s the reason things are sometimes hard for local businesses.

3) Let’s stop talking theory and dig in. Are there any small businesses that you think are doing a good job on Facebook?

Greg Finn
Here are a few (and what I like about them):

YouTube

They do a great job communicating regularly using their own media. I think it is really clever how they post, and it is always topical. They also have perfect frequency and relevancy for their audience in my opinion.

UFC

I think that the UFC does an exemplary job in pushing their branding with Facebook. They work fans into regular photo updates, feature exclusives with fighters, and also let fans know what’s coming up. Best yet, they make users feel like they are important and somewhat of a VIP just for following. It would be hard to find a better event & branding example than the UFC.


WebProNews

This is hands down, no questions asked the best Facebook page in the Search space currently, and should be a model for any news source/blog. Instead of just spitting out info from their sites, regular posts include group questions/discussions, links to relevant stats/posts (not on WebProNews), company updates, and of course links to their content! It is a great job all around of not just broadcasting their news, but creating a valuable destination for marketers.

Boca Java

This is a good example of how a smaller retail company can not only promote product, but have a good time doing it. From asking questions to showing people at work to hosting events, Boca Java does a great job at updating fans. They also do a great job of creating unique Facebook only specials that provide fans with that VIP feel!

Victoria Edwards
Example #1: WUSLU http://www.facebook.com/wuslu

WUSLU is a ‘deal of the day’ site focusing on home furnishings. Not only does this Facebook page make use of the FBML to bring in the brand, the individual constantly monitors and engages with their fans, in addition to utilizing 3rd party applications, like Wildfire, to bring in contests that further engage the audience.

Example #2: http://www.facebook.com/horsetreats
As mentioned before, anyone who has creativity can be on Facebook and also find like minded people within this platform to engage with. Here is another great case and point. Horsetreats.com is exactly what is says: a website/Facebook page dedicated to selling treats specifically made for horseses…HEY…sorry bad joke.
What is so great about this page is seeing how many people are sharing pictures of their horses on the Facebook page, in addition to incorporating a tab that shows some of their products. This is great because it’s giving an additional bonus by incorporating conversion opportunities in Facebook.

A few other small businesses that I feel are doing a good job in Facebook, whether
from an engagement stance or by incorporating customization and conversion areas:
http://www.facebook.com/pointofviewcameras
http://www.facebook.com/Vamplet

http://www.facebook.com/mezstudio

Note: These are not clients, but I have gotten approval from these individuals to use them as examples.

Marty Weintraub
Sure. aimClear does not have any very small clients. We tend to work for large, multi-national type clients…SO this is a local business that I patronize and respect. Sammy’s Pizza, a small regional chain of mom and pop pizza shops, has over 8,000 fans with engagement and community involvement. Friends range from the Mayor of Duluth to the elderly and their grand kids who have been patronizing the shop for generations. I love the way the owners and their shrewd local agency drive traffic to MySammys.com, which turns public participation into actual equity for the website they own. There are only about 80,000 people that live in Duluth, maybe another 10,000 in the other communities Sammy’s serves. We’re talking about 7.2% of the population that has fanned Sammy’s!

4) I understand that lots of businesses are hesitant to publish metrics, but what are realistic goals that you have seen people achieve from Facebook?

Greg Finn

Obtainable Facebook goals should really mimic your overall website goals in my opinion (with the exception of e-commerce on Facebook). Whether it be increase in branding, increase in engagement, increases in site traffic, or increase in website sales, these can all be achieved on Facebook. In regards to traffic, I have consistently seen Facebook send 10% of the Daily Users to one’s website (the Daily User stat can be found within Facebook Insights in the Users section).

Victoria Edwards
I have seen a page surpass its 10,000 fan mark within a 4-5 month period without doing any advertising; however that number could have been reached in half the time if they were doing Facebook ads, as they are a well known brand & are a great fit for Facebook.

I think realistic goals must be set if a business wishes to do Facebook marketing but does not want to invest in Facebook ads. One must communicate that it will be a long, slow process by not adding Facebook advertising into the mix.

Marty Weintraub
For Facebook Ads, expect that for every 300K user segments targeted with average overlap, we can serve about 10 million impressions a month. It’s common to have 3/10th of a percent CTR, ranging as high as 1.2%. Costs can be as low as $.10 and can cost well over $1.00. Conversion to realistic KPIs is often over 3.5% and sometimes up over 10%, rivaling search. The key here is setting realistic KPIs.

5) For a small business who is getting ready to get involved on Facebook, what are three tips or actionable items you can share?

Greg Finn

1) Use the “visible-to-connection” tag Whether you are Kayne & Jay-Z or a retailer, you can entice users to like your page in return for an exclusive offer. By implementing this tag on a custom Facebook tab (full details here), you can give users a reason to like you, but keeping them after that is up to you…
2) Make it Easy
This seems like it is a no brainer, but you would be surprised by just how many sites overlook the placement of Facebook buttons and widgets on a homepage. Facebook has both share and like buttons as well as community widgets. A few simple things:

3) Leverage Off-Line & Other Marketing to Help Promote Page
The easiest and quickest way to grow your page (with useful fans) is by utilizing your existing customers. There is no shortcut. To speed this process up, leverage as much offline as you can and include messaging in your other marketing as well. Not only will you have a high conversion rate, but the fans will be of the utmost quality – they already like you and are customers! This is one of the big resolutions that I talked about this year … even Wal-Mart is doing it.

6) They say that you learn more from your mistakes than your successes. Care to share a mistake you made or that you saw a small business make on Facebook?

Greg Finn
One of the biggest mishaps that I have been a part of involved a mishap with a promotion due to technical issues on the behalf of a website. I learned that while promotions can be a big positive for your page (now with less restrictions as of Dec 1st!) you should try to envision what will happen if everything goes wrong and devise a failsafe. If you are generating a coupon code – have a backup plan where you can identify winners; if you are using an app – make sure it is tested and can handle the traffic; if you are offering a giveaway – make sure you have enough supply for all of the demand. Issues do occur – especially on sites that you don’t own and control. By taking 15 minutes to virtually troubleshoot issues that will arise, you will absolutely save yourself from massive headaches.

Victoria Edwards
It was not a huge mistake but regardless I learned from it was trying to implement content, monitor and manage multiple pages for businesses. Reason why is that it was very time consuming and not very scalable if you’re doing it alone. Also, when questions on the page were customer service related, I would have to ask the client as I was not aware of the correct answer.

Another lesson learned was how slow of a process it was to increase various key performance indicators, for example fans acquisition, without leveraging Facebook ads. I became quickly aware how slow the process can become, in addition to realizing that if you have a client who does not want to do ads on Facebook, you MUST communicate how the process is much slower rate at which you increase like, fans etc. Set a realistic expectation and make sure they are communicated to your client if they do not add Facebook advertising.

Marty Weintraub
When trolls are incorrigible, it’s important not to take them on and ban them. Though I’m a big believer in letting the mob have it’s say, knowing when to end a conversation is a valuable skill that is out of most SMBs league. You can’t reason with a crazy person.I’ve seen simple complaints escalate into Better Business Bureau complaints and lawsuits as SMBs mismanaged trolling jerks in public, viral, and Google-indexed space. The biggest mistakes I’ve ever seen is when SMBs don’t call professional reputation managers when they’re in over their heads.

A big thank you to Greg, Victoria, and Marty for taking the time to participate and share your knowledge. There’s a lot of actionable advice that hopefully the readers can put into place.


Greg Finn

Greg Finn

Greg Finn is the Chief Marketing Officer for Cypress North, a company that specializes in social media and search marketing services and web-based application development. He has been in the Internet marketing industry for 7+ years and has managed social media campaigns for clients of all shapes and sizes.

In addition to Cypress North, he is a regular blogger on mainstream search engine blogs and has spoken about Internet Marketing in a variety of marketing conferences. You can also find Greg on Twitter (@gregfinn) or LinkedIn.

Victoria Edwards

Victoria Edwards

Victoria Edwards has been working in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social
Media Optimization (SMO) for the past two-and-a-half years. Through her various online marketing experiences, Victoria realized that, no matter whether you are a small, local business or a medium-to-large corporation, search engine optimization along with social media should be an integral part of your marketing efforts. Victoria also has hosted several educational SEO and Social Media webinars as well panel discussions talking to small businesses on the importance of SEO and how to intermingle your SEO and social media efforts. Victoria also has written blog posts for Search Engine Journal and ONE AWESOME blog post for this site ;) If you need to find Victoria on the interwebs, she uses the name TallChickVic, because that is what she is.
Marty Weintraub

Marty Weintraub

Marty’s online marketing experience dates to 1992, the dawn of the interactive era; however, his career has spanned more than three decades working in traditional and online marketing channels. Marty has been described as “not your typical agency type.” A “social media maverick” and “more innovator than follower,” He’s often to be found leading the conversations about search and social media marketing, and aimClear has become internationally recognized for its work in the field.

An avid blogger, Marty shares his insights via the company’s online marketing blog, named an AdAge Power 150 blog, as well as in blogs and columns for SearchEngineLand, SearchEngineWatch, and Search Marketing Standard.

He’s has spoken at many conferences worldwide, including Search Engine Strategies (SES), Search Marketing Expo (SMX), PubCon, International Search Summit, BlueGrass South, Direct Marketers Association, Search Engine Marketers of Portland (SEMpdx), and Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA).

aimClear, Marty and his team specialize in paid and organic search and contextual online marketing. aimClear’s services include blended search and social demographic research; search engine optimization (SEO) technical and semantic audits, analytics monitoring, and consulting; pay-per-click (PPC) audits, setup, testing, and ongoing management; online reputation management (ORM) dashboard configuration and ongoing monitoring; social media marketing consulting and data-driven community management; public relations; and copywriting. aimClear will be presenting a full day Facebook Training at SMX West upcoming.

Client credits range from small start-ups to such household names as Martha Stewart Omni, Washington Post Properties, Malt-O-Meal Brands, Angie’s List, Second Life, BlueCross BlueShield, CBS, and Siemens North America.

Marty enjoys camping, canoeing, fishing, eating (both cooking and patronizing James-Beard-award-winning restaurants), fine wine, listening to and recording music, and coaching his daughter’s soccer team.

Comments

About the Author: Michael Gray is an SEO specialist and publishes a Search Engine Industry blog at www.Wolf-Howl.com. He has over 10 years experience in website development and internet marketing, helping both small and large companies increase their search engine visibility, traffic, and sales. Michael is a current member of Internet Marketing of New York ( IM-NY.org) and a guest speaker on Webmaster Radio. He is also an editor for the popular search engine new website Threadwatch.org.

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