If your business is not online, you’re invisible and missing out on significant economic opportunities, says Small Business Minister Bruce Billson.
“We know that four out of five consumers research online before making a purchase,” Billson told a crowd of small business owners in the Melbourne suburb of Frankston this morning.
“We know only half of Australian small business have an online presence. I travel a lot and talk to small businesses and some people say they are frustrated they are not picking up economic growth and opportunity – yet they are invisible.”
“For small business that are not technologically engaged, they are missing four out of five people to engage with.”
Speaking at the Facebook event this morning, Billson said the world’s largest social media platform should be a key strategy for small business owners to engage with new markets through a social experience.
“If we miss that social opportunity to share an experience and we don’t see [these platforms] as a window into your enterprise, we miss an opportunity to energise enterprise in this country,” he said.
The event also included an address by Facebook Australia and New Zealand client partner Philip Bonanno, who shared with the room of small business owners his top tips to engage with customers on Facebook.
1. It all starts with a page
Reiterating Billson’s message, Bonanno said an SME’s first goal with Facebook should simply be to be there.
“Setting up a Facebook page is very easy,” said Bonanno.
“At the least, it should serve as a directory function for your product or service.”
The minimum amount of information required, he said, is your address, contact information, opening hours and a quick overview of what your business does.
2. Make it personal
Referring to Facebook newsfeed as a user’s “personal newspaper”, Bonanno said the idea of Facebook is to make a personal connection and that logically extends to a business’ page too.
Bonanno said many business owners struggled with whether they should personalise their business page.
“This is a reflection of you… Don’t feel that you have to be too corporate.
In fact, a lot of our larger corporate clients are trying to go the other way and attempting to make a personal conversation.”
Bonanno said small businesses are at an advantage because they naturally have a more personal story to tell.
“One of the great things about small businesses is that their stories are pure, which helps them grow especially well on a platform like Facebook. People want to hear good stories,” he said.
Bonanno suggested using photos that don’t look overly produced—“people expect to see what their friends post”—and also recommended engaging with people through empathy, such as post a ‘thank god it’s Friday’ post.
3. Less is more when it comes to text
Bonanno said many small business owners are moved to pen lengthy War & Peace-type posts when first starting out on Facebook, which he said won’t help you get attention.
“Our research shows people look at the key visual, then they look at brand, then they look at the copy,” said Bonanno.
He suggested posting a picture or video that “sets the piece”, followed by a short and sharp copy line.
“Visuals need to be eye-catching and interesting aspects of your business need to be highlighted. Consider how you’re training people visually to recognise your brand.”
4. Consider video as an essential part of your strategy
Bonanno said the amount of video views and people posting video content on Facebook has “skyrocketed” in recent years and shows no signs of slowing down.
“The ice bucket challenge was a watershed moment for us,” he said.
“I urge you to consider video as really the best tool you have to engage people in ‘discovery’ moments.”
5. Have a clear objective
One of the most important questions to ask yourself before posting on Facebook, according to Bonanno, is ‘what’s the outcome you’re looking for?’
“Is it to watch a video? Go to an event? Is it just awareness of your brand? Or is it to get them to shop online? Be very clear before you start a post, what’s the objective you’re trying to achieve?” he said.
6. Learn about your audience
There are several free tools on Facebook to see who is engaging with your page and when, said Bonanno.
“It has been one of the greatest equalisers in business. Years ago, you had to be a business of substantial scale to derive those insights and you’d pay a lot to get it, but now it’s available to everyone, every day, free of change,” he said.
Bonanno suggested opening the ‘insights’ tab on your Facebook page to find out which demographics are engaging with your page the most and when, which should help inform the content you’re posting.
7. Target the right people
Of course there are also plenty of ways to spend money on Facebook advertising, including splashing some cash to target specific audience subsets.
You can target people by demographic or interests, according to Bonanno.
“The advantage of that as a small business is you’re being exceptionally efficient. You’re only going after people who already truly believe,” he adds.