How your business should be using Facebook

How your business should be using FacebookIs your business ignoring one of the biggest markets on the planet? That is the question confronting Australian businesses who have failed to establish a strong presence on the world’s most dominant social networking site, Facebook.

While SMEs have poured thousands of dollars and hours into establishing their Google presence, and dedicated large amounts of resources to Twitter, too many have dismissed Facebook as a place for friends to chat and share photos.

But the numbers tell a different story.

According to data from Hitwise, Facebook’s share of internet traffic recently surpassed even search engine giant Google.

If Facebook was a country, its user base of 400 million people would make it the third most populous nation in the world.

While its biggest user base is in the US, Australians are also Facebook-crazy. There are eight million of us using the site, equating to about 36% of the country’s population. On average, we spend 8.32 hours a month on the site. And it’s not just young people – according to a recent Nielsen survey, more Australian over 50 are using Facebook than are not, with 2.1 million older Australians now registered members.

But it isn’t just individuals who are using the site. Businesses have recognised Facebook’s importance and are jumping on, creating fan pages and are inviting more users to become advocates for their brand.

Businesses are also realising they cannot afford to ignore the Facebook masses.

A survey from StollzNow Research last year revealed 75% of respondents believe companies should listen to what people say on social networks about their products, and follow up with individual conversations. The same survey indicated customers will abandon a company if they read negative reviews about them on a social network or blog.

When you consider that the average user has 130 “friends” and writes 25 comments per month, it is clear businesses have a massive marketing base to tap into.

If you want to sell more and get more customers, you need to take Facebook seriously.

The research phase

Creating a Facebook profile takes a few seconds and essentially no thought, but experts say that isn’t good enough. Taking some time out to really hash out your plans and getting your page working as well as it can be first off will save you hassles in the long run.

Facebook regional vice president Paul Borrud says businesses have moved on from asking “why?” to asking “how?” with regards to setting up a campaign on the site.

“I think last year was a really interesting year. We saw a lot of businesses get into this experimental phase with social media, and are now seeing the results. A lot of people questioned it all last year, but this year’s it’s about moving on and getting involved.”

“There are businesses now, small businesses, who are finding really creative ways to leverage the platform. You can take it to the extreme with a brand like Coca-Cola, but there are heaps of smaller businesses doing the same sorts of things.”

James Griffin, chief executive of reputation management company SR7, says businesses really need to plan out exactly what they hope to use social media for and what they hope to post on their individual site.

He says businesses need to consider whether the site will emulate the official site in offering ecommerce solutions, links, contact information and so on.

If this direction is taken, Griffin says businesses must be prepared to handle the jump in enquiries, and consider whether they actually have the resources available to devote someone to answering questions and handle online activity.

“I think planning is critical. It’s not just about rushing in and filling the need to do it as quickly as possible, but really about having each department and business unit giving input into what they think the page would look like.”

Con Frantzeskos, digital strategist at media consultancy DDB says businesses must plan out what type of content will go on the page, who will design that content, and whether the business can actually devote its resources to the project at all.

“You also have to ask yourself what type of content you’re putting up there. Is it specific? Why or why not? How will you create the content that goes on there? Think about every single thing you put on the Facebook page and how it relates to the overall business.”

“Think about whether you want specific content like video, or whether you’ll refer back to the original website. Be careful about the content that’s going up there.”

Also keep in mind Facebook users are amazingly different from non-Facebook users when it comes to internet usage. Those on the site are spending an average of 25.8 hours on the internet as a whole each month – 3.26 times the amount of time spent by non-Facebook users.

Australian users with Facebook profiles, according to Nielsen director Mark Higginson, view the internet as another media alternative. “They think, ‘Will I watch television or surf on the internet for a while…’ This doesn’t have consequences just for business, but also publishers and anyone thinking about content creation.”

Griffin says too many businesses underestimate the power of social media, create a Facebook page and forget about it. This is the wrong approach. Instead, he says, businesses must think of a Facebook page as an extension of their marketing budget – even as a physical shopfront – and devote enough resources to update it regularly.

“Businesses should go into it considering that it’s not just going to be handed off to an employee on a part-time basis. Or, if they are doing that, they should have the plans put in place well beforehand.”

“Don’t think of the website and Facebook as separate, think of them as different channels to market that are connected,” Frantzeskos says.

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