Facebook is more reliant on small businesses than ever before, with 60 million businesses around the world now using the platform every month.
Speaking to CNBC, Facebook’s small business vice president Dan Levy said 10 million of these businesses just joined the social network in the last quarter.
“Business owners start with the organic products, and then they move, when they see value, to invest in the paid products,” said Levy.
“One of the things that’s interesting is more than 80% of our new advertisers start off with just simple page posts that they end up boosting with a little bit of money.”
However, social media expert Catriona Pollard, the chief executive of CPC Communications, says she has found Australian small businesses struggling to make this shift.
“A lot of small businesses are not putting budget to Facebook, they’re still thinking they can get organic reach by having a great company page,” Pollard told SmartCompany.
But with so many businesses actively using the platform, Pollard says the game has changed and spending money on Facebook advertising is now essential for businesses.
“You now have to pay to play,” she says.
With Facebook introducing new types of pages and tools for small business to communicate with customers and promote or sell products, Pollard believes marketing on the platform is getting a little complicated.
“You have to have a bit of an understanding of how it works to get benefit,” she says.
The problem she sees is that small businesses find this too challenging and give up.
“The first thing with any type of social media for small business is to lose the fear around if they’re going to stuff it up by doing it themselves,” she says.
“Don’t put it into the too hard basket.”
Learn what others are doing and test small
Pollard recommends starting by watching what other businesses are doing on Facebook.
By reading case studies and researching strategies this way, she says small businesses can quickly learn and figure out what advertising Facebook tools and features are best to invest in.
“If you educate yourself then you can do Facebook advertising relatively effectively yourself,” she says.
“I taught myself how to do it.”
There are many different ways to advertise on Facebook so it’s a matter of trail and error, making small investments and figuring out what works, Pollard says.
“You can get people to like your page, you can have your ad in the timeline, you can do video ads,” she says.
“The thing for small businesses to understand is they’ve got to test [and] they’ve got to go in and actively manage it and change things.”
This means regularly going back and checking the results of Facebook ad spend.
“The beauty of digital adverting is you can change it every 24 hours if you want,” she says.
Skip the blatant product sell
Facebook is a social network and it’s powered by human connections, so the brands that understand this do well, says Pollard.
“What I found really effective is to use Facebook as a way to drive leads to my website,” she says.
“I create a lead magnet, it’s a free product but it adds value.
“It’s a really valuable piece of content which I pay to advertise on Facebook.”
By offering up a free content like tips on marketing, Pollard says she attracts people to her website where they are then asked to provide an email to download the material.
This lead magnet then becomes a powerful way for her to build her database of customers who she can reach out to later for product promotion.
“Think about it in ways to build your database and leads,” she says.
Pollard says small business on social media also have an advantage over larger competitors.
“Put your face and your name on it so people are buying from you personally,” she says.
This helps build rapport and trust and lays the groundwork for loyal customers.
“People buy from people and small businesses have an added advantage compared to large businesses because they can actually be the face of their business.”