Guest Post: Don’t Overdo Your Facebook Marketing, Anita Brady

As part of our commitment to bringing you information and opinions about entrepreneurship and technology, our August 2012 Guest Post features Anita Brady, industry veteran and President of 123Print.com, a Maryland-based supplier of highly-customizeable business items.  Having created a strong social media presence (5,000+ Twitter followers, and 10,000+ Facebook ‘likes’), 123print.com is a worthwhile social media case study for any entrepreneur to consider.

Today, Anita is on hand to share her experience with leveraging the power of social media to grow her business.

Don’t Overdo Your Facebook Marketing

Facebook has grown into a common denominator in our society.  Although the content on our individual pages varies widely, the majority of us have subscribed to Facebook’s template as a primary vehicle of expressing ourselves and sharing our lives with friends and family.

Businesses, in turn, recognize the value of marketing with social networks.  Facebook paved the way for that, and now entire college courses and job descriptions are centered around social media marketing.

For those of us who manage or work for a business where social media is an important part of outreach but perhaps not our sole endeavor, it’s important to stay abreast of the ever-changing spectrum and how our marketing efforts may be affected.  Facebook, in particular, has changed dramatically in 2012.

The Background:  How Facebook Pays the Bills

When a company like Facebook goes public on the stock market, they sacrifice any remaining shred of ‘underdog’ spirit.  After their IPO in May, Facebook’s stock immediately plummeted by a quarter of its projected value.  Mark Zuckerberg and company have responded with a variety of attempts to prove Facebook’s viability as a money-making venture.

For Facebook to prosper, they need to monetize the user experience in some way.  Sidebar ads have long been the company’s bread-and-butter, but even these took a major hit when General Motors pulled their $10 million campaign just before the I.P.O.  With few users clicking on the ads, and even fewer of those clicks converting to sales, how is Facebook to make money off of their nearly one billion worldwide users?

This spring, the company launched a paid post beta program in New Zealand, allowing users to pay a small fee to make their status updates ‘stickier,’ meaning that they remain longer and in higher visibility on other users’ news feeds.  That same principle is already in affect for businesses with their own Timeline brand page on Facebook.  As of yet (at least in this user’s experience), personal pages have not been overtaken by paid marketing posts that trump the algorithm dictating the order of our news feed.

Still, the idea of paid content dominating users’ news feeds (and the fact that our habits are being carefully tracked to tailor marketing to us), has already driven some users to start-up alternatives like Path and DuoBoard.com, or simply to close their account altogether.

How to Market on Facebook:  The Strategies That you Need to Know

So, if you’re a business, you have an attractive-looking Timeline page on Facebook, and you’re looking to step up your marketing, what are the rules you need to follow?

Create Content for Your Audience, Not for Yourself

Even though it might seem otherwise, a Facebook site that does little more than pitch deals (“25 percent off for the next hour!”) won’t retain a healthy, regular readership.  Engage with your audience.  Ask honest questions about the quality of products you’ve released, put questions up for a poll, and seek critical feedback.

Opening up a company-sponsored page to anything other than ‘ra ra’ positivity can be a difficult step, but Facebook is all about the conversation.  If you can’t let people talk openly on your page, you won’t have anyone there at all.

Don’t Duplicate Your Blog or Website on Facebook

Your Timeline profile page should not be a satellite of your official company website.  There should, of course, be consistency in logos and overall look, but Facebook allows for a far more integrated experience with customers than a website.  Give your company’s moderators the freedom to engage beyond just reciting stale company lines.

If You Don’t Have Anything Good to Say, Don’t Say Anything

Many companies assign a marketing employee to social media duty and instruct them to make a certain number of posts each day or week.  Unfortunately, it only takes a few stale posts to turn viewers away.  Make sure that everything posted to your wall is exciting or conversation-generating in some way.  You’ll be better off skipping a day or two of posts when there’s nothing going on than posting for the sake of posting.  And when a post does generate conversation, stay involved.  The job of managing a Facebook page should not end after the initial post is made!

Don’t Oversell

The fastest way to render your Facebook page irrelevant is to stuff it full of shameless marketing and sales pitches.  Users already know where to find that information — on your website or through a Google search.  They come to your Facebook page to get the up-to-date low-down from your company and from other customers about your products and services.  Be an information tool with your Facebook page, not just another marketing gimmick.

Last week, a survey from the American Customer Satisfaction Index revealed that user satisfaction with Facebook has fallen significantly in 2012, now ranking below Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest.  With in-your-face sales-pitch-style marketing becoming more and more ubiquitous on Facebook, why be part of the problem?

When people feel like they’ve learned something or are more informed buyers because of their experience on your Facebook page, you’ll build loyalty and trust.  Even if it seems like a risky, use your Facebook profile to take the step from sales pitch to dialogue generator and you’ll find that your traffic increases in turn.

Over to You

What social media tips can you share?  Do you think that social media offers small businesses a great way to connect with customers, or is it just a hassle to update with little return?

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