Most Facebook “how to” guides for small business focus on the site’s effectiveness as a marketing tool. And while the site’s potential as a lead generator and marketing platform is important, it's only one part of the story. More than being just a marketing tool, Facebook is an integral part of the modern business-customer relationship.
Why Small Businesses Need to Use Facebook
Many small business owners don’t appreciate just how much Facebook shapes consumer behavior. Even something as simple as whether or not a business has a Facebook page can have a dramatic impact on what consumers think of them, and how likely they are to do business with them. A survey by Hubspot found that 84% of consumers expect businesses to be on Facebook.[i] In another survey, 33% of millennials said that they are more likely to buy from a company simply because it has a Facebook page.
Let’s take a look at some other relevant statistics about how Facebook shapes consumer attitudes:
- 70% of monthly active Facebook users in the U.S. are “engaged and connected” with businesses on Facebook.
- 47% of Americans say Facebook has a greater impact on their purchasing behavior than any other social network.
- 50% of all social media users under the age of 35 follow their online connections’ recommendations for products and services.
- 82% of Americans say they trust companies more when their senior leadership is active on social media.[ii]
All these numbers add up to one obvious conclusion: small businesses need to be on Facebook.
Building a Facebook Following
The goal of every small business Facebook page is to build an audience of online followers. Whether your business plans to use Facebook as an advertising platform for its products and services or just wants to increase its visibility, the key to success on Facebook is connecting with consumers in a way that keeps them engaged with your online presence.
The most important thing to remember about how consumers interact with business online is that social media offers a more personal level of connection. Facebook audiences want more than just sales pitches and rote status updates; they want to have genuine interactions and to get to know what a company is really like. Updating regularly is important, but so is knowing when to hold back: according to one study, small businesses who post 60 or more updates in a month average 60% fewer interactions.[iii] More than just offering a constant stream of content, businesses need to offer the kind of content their audience is looking for.
"The most important thing to remember... social media offers a more personal level of connection."
Content they want:
As you probably noticed, “the kind of content your audience is looking for” is a very vague description. While we’ve discussed some of the basics of creating good social media content before, it’s important to keep in mind that every business (and thus every business’ online audience) is different. The best way to figure out what your audience wants from your Facebook page is to pay attention to what kind of content they respond to. Facebook provides a lot of data on how followers interact with your account and how many likes, shares, and interactions each post receives. Rather than spending all your social media time blindly writing and posting updates, take the time to really analyze what the data is telling you, and let it guide your content strategy. Studying how your personal audience behaves can tell you everything from what kind of content you should focus on posting, to what time of day your account should be updated to get the most interactions.
The audience can speak:
In addition to paying attention to account metrics, businesses should also listen to what their audience is saying to them directly. A surprisingly common mistake that businesses make with their Facebook accounts is not responding to comments as quickly as possible. When someone leaves a comment or asks a question on a business’ Facebook page, they expect a response. Engaging with your online audience is a great way to get feedback directly from the consumer, and to encourage more people to interact with you. Likewise, ignoring comments and not responding to customer inquiries in a timely manner sends a signal to potential followers that trying to interact with your business is a waste of time.
Building relationships takes time:
Like any business project, building a Facebook audience takes time and effort. The biggest mistake businesses can make with their social media accounts is to think that followers will come to them without any effort on their part. Just posting updates isn’t enough; to get the most out of Facebook, businesses need to be willing to reach out to their audience, and to respond to what their audience has to say.