A local small-business owner recently asked me, "Do I need to be on Facebook?”
Well, it depends.
Nearly one out of five small business owners are actively using social media in their business. That’s according to the most recent wave of the Small Business Success Index (SBSI) sponsored by Network Solutions and the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.
A lot of small businesses are already investing in social media applications, including blogs, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. In fact, according to SBSI, social media adoption by small businesses doubled from 12% to 24% in the last year. Other key social media usage highlights from the study:
The reason to consider social media is not because other business owners have. It’s because your customers and potential customers are already there. It’s a great place to connect with them, communicate with them, and figure out what they really want from your business.
In the month of September 2009, according to online competitive intelligence service compete.com, the top three social networks – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – collectively received more than 2.5 billion visits. And social media continues to grow.
So, back to the original question – "Do I need to be on Facebook?”
It depends on how you plan to use social media. Don’t jump in without a social media strategy. If you do, you’ll find social media can suck your time resources without a good return on your investment.
Some objectives where new media tactics can make a difference:
If you decide you do need to be on Facebook, understand that it’s an ongoing effort. You need to stay involved if you want your Facebook fans to stay engaged. Post content they care about. Encourage them to interact. Ask them what they think. Reward your fans with inside information and great deals.
Your Facebook fan page is a great way to communicate the personality of your brand and connect with your customers and potential customers. It’s also a great opportunity to listen to what they have to say. What do they love about doing business with you? What brings them back to your products and services over and over again? How can you use what you hear from your customers to make the overall experience even better? And how can you use this insight to attract more customers?
If your social media strategy is working, people are talking about your products and services – what they like about them, and how they think those offerings could be even better. They have ideas, suggestions, and perhaps complaints and criticisms, too. Because inevitably, there’s going to be a less-than-positive interaction. A customer who is not happy. Or perhaps it’s a customer who thinks his idea would make your product easier to use. And those criticisms are right there for everyone to see on your company’s Facebook fan page. Now what?
You can’t really stop it. Even if you shut down your Facebook page, those conversations still take place. They just move to a different environment. The good news is you now have a better idea of what people are talking about regarding your company, products or services. And now that you know, you can address it.
Your company’s brand is built on the experiences and perceptions of your customers and potential customers. You brand isn’t what you say it is – it’s what they say it is. To effectively manage your brand, you have to know what that customer experience is like, and how they perceive your company. Your Facebook fan page has the potential to provide you with great insight into the minds of your customers and potential customers.
So, do you need to be on Facebook? There are a lot of potential benefits for most small business owners, but those benefits exist only if you’re willing to focus on targeted objectives and take the time to really engage and listen to the fans who connect with you via Facebook.
This article originally appeared in the Corridor Business Journal.