Tips on Using Facebook for Business

Monday, July 06, 2009

Since last Fall, I have been talking about how Facebook would not be as hugely popular with its original user group by the end of this year as it has been over the past couple of years.  My assertions on this were based on studying the patterns of past social media sites that were widely popular and then not so much in what seemed a matter of minutes.  As you can imagine, this hypothesis has not made me the most popular person in the room as many people who have spent a lot of time focusing their business marketing on Facebook don't want to switch gears so easily.  At Engage!09, someone even remarked that my forecast on the future of this tool during my panel session was "doom and gloom". 

Today, some statistical data was released that shows my predictions are on track.  The largest group of Facebook users now fall between the ages of 35-54.  On top of that, the younger crowds are decreasing.  While some of you may be targeting couples who are older than 35, that is a very niche market within the wedding industry, and the majority of you have clients who are in their twenties and early thirties. 

Facebook was - and still can be - a very useful marketing tool; the danger comes with putting all of your marketing efforts in that one basket, which is what many wedding professionals have done.  If you're on there already, I wouldn't advise jumping ship just because the demographics are changing.  There are still uses that can benefit you.  Here are some ways to use Facebook to your advantage:

*If you have a fanpage or a group, it should drive people to your site and/or blog.  If you have a blog, allow a partial feed into Facebook instead of a full one.  While you can track metrics for your blog visitors and subscribers who read via Google reader, you can only track limited statistical data within Facebook itself.  Allowing a partial feed will bring readers to your site where they can then subscribe and allow you to collect metrics. 

*Use your Facebook page to encourage fans to sign up for your newsletter list.  This gives you a permission-driven database to contact in the future and again, allows you access to the data that if only limited to Facebook, people couldn't see.

*If you have a video or photos that you want to make exclusive to "special fans", post them on your blog under a password protected post (you can create these with a wordpress plug-in).  You can then post the special password to these posts in your newsletters (encouraging people to sign up), or on Twitter, Facebook, etc.  Again, hosting them on your own blog gives you the metrics to track instead of the full data being inaccessible by solely using Facebook.

It may seem as though I am big on being able to track your own metrics and, well, I am.  Some of the best business advice I ever received was to treat your company as though you will eventually sell it, whether you intend to or not.  By acting as though you are going to sell your company, you will constantly seek out ways to add value to your business, making it stronger and more resilient.  By hosting everything on Facebook and not cross-promoting it with your own site or blog, you are building value for them - not for you.  Even if you have name recognition from your fan page, if you can't quantify anything or have the necessary metrics to back it up, it is going to make you a tough sale. 

I will never be the one who says everyone should be on Facebook and/or Twitter or that no one should be on MySpace anymore or that everyone should jump on the bandwagon of the next big thing to come along.  Anyone who tells you those things doesn't understand online media.  It is the conversation, not the tool, that defines social media.  Knowing how to best interact and implement your own business strategy into the medium is what is important.  Social media never has been and never will be one size fits all. 

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