Small businesses are flocking to Facebook, taking advantage of its massive user base to create an effective online channel for their business. But what’s the best way to use Facebook to drive business sales and build brand awareness?
First, let’s look at some figures: in the first quarter of 2015 there were 1.44 billion active monthly users of Facebook worldwide. In Ireland, over half of the population (2.2 million) uses it regularly. There’s no doubt it’s the most dominant social media platform.
And Facebook isn’t just for personal use, it currently hosts 40 million active small business pages and of the 2 million people who advertise on Facebook the vast majority are small business owners.
Here in Ireland 72% of Irish SMEs said they use online media to market their businesses, according to a Bank of Ireland Ipsos MRBI survey of Irish SMEs. Of those, 68% said Facebook is one of the main tools they use; even ousting search engine marketing at 48%.
These figures highlight the potential of Facebook, but how can small businesses tap into its massive reach to gain awareness of what they do?
Mix and match your status updates:
There are several different kinds of status updates – plain text, image posts, link posts and video posts. There’s plenty of articles that will tell you that plain text posts are more successful than image posts or that video posts outperform everything else. But read these with a pinch of salt: every business is different and every audience is different. Mix it up – use all different kinds of posts, then check your Facebook Insights to analyse how each type of post is performing for you. Facebook Insights also gives you valuable information on when your audience are online and what days or times are the best for you to post. A handy scheduling feature in Facebook allows you to line up status updates to post automatically during the week.
Top tips for posting so that you can use Facebook to drive sales:
• If you’re mentioning a person or a brand in your update, make sure to tag them; they might see this and share your post, broadening your reach.
• Show your personality in posts – use humour where applicable and give fans a look behind the scenes of your business, either through images, video or even interviews with employees.
• While you should promote your products and services, don’t over sell. Add value by posting about relevant news articles or blog posts you’ve seen.
• Ask open ended question that are relevant to your products or services to encourage interaction with your audience.
Try Facebook Advertising:
It’s no secret that the organic reach of status updates has taken a nose dive in the past year as Facebook made tweaks to how often your fans see your updates. This has pushed businesses to use Facebook’s advertising features, including boost posts and ads. Boost post is almost self-explanatory; you can give your posts a boost, making sure they are seen by a targeted audience. This is a relatively inexpensive way to get your posts seen by as wide an audience as possible. Don’t boost every post – instead use Insights to see which posts are most popular and boost them.
Separately, Facebook advertising allows you to create a short ad about your business which is then displayed on the side panel of a person’s timeline/homepage. Again, you can customise your target audience here, right down to age, gender and location. Facebook Ads is a useful way to generate likes on your page and helps you to build your fan base and gain brand recognition.
Reward your Facebook fans:
Once you’ve amassed your fans it’s a good idea to reward them. Use your status updates to post special offers exclusively for your Facebook fans. If you like you can ask them to share, like or comment on a post and in return they can gain access to a discount code. This encourages engagement and loyalty and can inspire fans to share your page to their friends, gaining you more likes.
Respond to people:
It’s vital that you respond quickly to any queries or comments people make on your Page. People expect a fast response from brands to their questions and comments. By getting back to people quickly you’re also showing that their query or comment is important to you.
Call to action button:
Facebook has been working to make its platform more appealing and useful to smaller businesses and at the end of 2014 it introduced a ‘call to action’ function for Pages. This lives on the right-hand side of your large cover image and there are a number of set options you can choose from: book now, contact us, use app, play game, shop now, sign up and watch video. Decided what your objective is and choose the best CTA to meet your goals. Do you want to direct people to your online shop? Or you might want people to sign up to your email list. This button is a simple and effective way to encourage action from your fans.
Top tip for CTA:
Draw attention to your CTA by customising your cover image to include an arrow and a couple of words e.g. click here for great deals!
Even though it’s difficult to place financial value on a ‘like’ or a status update many brands are enjoying a high return on investment from their Facebook activity. During a comprehensive media campaign, General Mills, which makes the Old El Paso products, found that Facebook outperformed all other media, generating 27% of sales. Popular online fashion and beauty store ASOS has also used Facebook to good effect; it achieved a 130% increase in sales using Facebook campaigns.
Although these are large brands, smaller companies can also drive sales using Facebook. The key is to be consistent and stick with it – factor in time each day to check your Page, reply to comments, write new status updates, and check your Insights. Also keep up to date on how your boosted posts or ads are performing and see if you need to make any tweaks. By investing a small amount of your marketing budget and some time each day you could have an effective sales channel, driving traffic to your website.