Endangered Species: Business Owners Who Skip Facebook

I remember when I first entered the technology industry, I talked to business owners who would say, “What do I need a website for? All of my business is done right here in my shop!” But long gone are the days when I hear business owners say that. For the most part, they’ve not only conceded to the fact that they need a website, but they understand that they need an attractive website that actually does something for their business. Today, not having a website means that customers who are looking for products or services you offer likely won’t find your business in the first place because a vast majority of consumers search the Internet for providers before making a purchasing decision.

More importantly, the growth that we saw with consumer adoption of Internet use was grossly overshadowed by the rapid growth in consumer adoption of social media. While the growth rate of Facebook users has slowed in the U.S., there were 158 million Facebook users as of April 2012 according to a comScore report. That’s over 51% of the entire population and over 66% of the total online population. Moreover, 1 in 6 minutes spent online is spent on social networking sites and the average U.S. Facebook user spends 6.3 hours on the site each month.

So what does this mean for your brand online? The short of it is this: if you’re business doesn’t have a brand presence on Facebook, you’re likely failing to reach a large portion of the population.

I recently saw several news stories, like this one, about how some U.S. companies have decided against spending ad dollars on Facebook ads. This news spread like wildfire and I’ve even heard business people using this as a reason to avoid having a presence, but if they understood the social network even just a little bit, they would understand how flawed their decision is.  In my opinion, there are right and wrong ways to advertise on Facebook, but you don’t have to spend advertising dollars to get the benefits from having a brand presence and a following.

Here are a few examples of how Facebook can help enhance your brand and introduce you to new customers:

  1. Each Like is a Subscriber – Facebook users have no reason not to like your brand on Facebook unless they simply don’t like your brand. Unlike email newsletter subscriptions, your posts don’t feel like spam when they appear in a fan’s news feed. However, if your post is seen, it’s a free impression and an opportunity to remind them that you’re there if they have a need. By simply liking your brand on Facebook, consumers are more likely to buy your product over the competition.
  2. Fan Engagement = Endorsements – People tend to be followers and they pay attention to what their friends are doing. When someone likes your brand on Facebook, checks in at your business or shares something that you post to the social network, they are essentially endorsing you because they know that the activity will appear publicly for their friends to see. The friends who see that activity are likely to follow suit if they too can relate to your brand or feel compelled to engage based on the content that is being posted.
  3. Fans Can Serve as a Marketing Army – Once you’ve amassed a following on Facebook, your posts have the potential to reach a much larger audience. When a fan likes something, comments on a post or engages in any way with your brand on Facebook, it generates a “story” that is visible to the friends of your fan. A post that I selected to demonstrate this point had 168 views on Facebook; 143 fans viewed the post and the other 28 were friends of theirs, but the post only received 8 likes. It’s should serve as proof that even a small amount of fan engagement expands the reach that you have.
  4. Page Enhancements Mean Bigger Opportunities – There are a plethora of apps that are available for fan pages that maximize the opportunity to engage new and existing fans. From apps that allow you to sell products from your online store to sweepstakes, Twitter feeds and coupon apps, their features allow you to block participation until the potential fans like your page. This is called fan-gating. Generating curiosity is often all it will take to get someone to click the like button.
I could list four more examples of how you can promote your brand using Facebook, but if I did I might be out of a job! My point is, you’re business is missing a big piece of the pie if you stand still while your competition moves forward with a Facebook fan page.
I know what you’re thinking – “Well Jane in the office does all of our Facebook stuff. She’s fresh out of college and knows all that social media stuff better than I do.” I have to give you credit – at least you’re on Facebook. So why is it so important that you know how to use it too? I’ve read too many bloggers write about this topic to go into too much detail, but the short answer is: your brand is exposed on Facebook and to it’s users much the same way your business is exposed to the media in the event of a business disaster and in the event of very positive news. Do you really think leaving that in the hands of someone fresh out of college is the best decision?
Because your brand is exposed and because of the viral nature of Facebook, good news is amplified, but so is bad. Having your thumb on every situation is important so that you can be there for crisis management and so you can listen to the feedback of your customers to understand when theyreally like something. The former is an opportunity to correct a potentially devastating situation and the latter is an opportunity to capitalize on marketing events that you may not have known exist. In making this point, I want to emphasize that Facebook negatives aren’t very likely unless your business is having some serious problems, so don’t let that exposure deter you. The benefits seriously outweigh the potential risks.
Perhaps you’ve moved on from this idea and are making a valiant attempt at creating a great brand presence online. Maybe you’ve even hired and expert like me to coach you, develop a social media strategy or manage your brand on Facebook. If you are, congratulations, but you’ve got more learning to do. My advice is to spend a little bit of time on Facebook every day. Spend time using it as a Facebook user and spend time looking at the contents of your fan page and its associated admin panel. You won’t learn it overnight, but you’ll get there. Lastly, if you’re looking for a little jump start on your fan base, read this article, it turns out Facebook ads aren’t as bad as some have made them out to be.
Will Melton is a digital marketing consultant based in Williamsburg, VA. He owns Proximo Marketing Strategies and helps companies and organizations with social media, Internet marketing and marketing integration.