Will opening a Facebook account help my business?

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The one thing I really can’t emphasize enough is that Facebook is great at reinforcing the loyalty of existing communities but is not so hot or as easy to define when operating as a customer acquisition channel.

Naturally, there are always going to be exceptions to this. A recent study showed that 77% of B2C companies and 43% of B2B companies have acquired customers from Facebook, so there is evidence that you can successfully turn fans into real-life customers but in my own experience, Business-to-Business can be a thorny undertaking at best. So first up, it depends on what kind of business you have.

Those who perform best are generally those businesses or products that have a natural community bent or those with a strong regional appeal. I’ve seen a local cake-maker do exceptionally well since she ‘went social’. The cake-maker does special celebration cakes. It’s a completely ‘made-to-order’ service. She’ll make a cake that looks like a piano, a brass instrument or do it in the style of your favourite Disney or Pixar character. Because of that people are happy just to share the pictures. The pictures exist ,  entertain and satisfy  in their own right. They look quirky, they look good.

So your first question might be: do I have something that lends itself  naturally to the kind of material favoured by Facebook and Twitter? Does it adapt easily?

Another problem for companies is that the actual conversion process is difficult to quantify and to report.

There’s an oft repeated line in marketing: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, the trouble is I don’t know which half.” And in the case of Facebook, the saying has never been more relevant.

There’s another challenge; whether you spend 20 minutes or two hours every day thinking up posts and adding comments, you are often preaching to the converted.  Unless your post gets ‘shared’, your efforts are only being seen by your existing subscribers.  And because of this, ‘shares’ are appreciably more vital than ‘likes’.

‘Likes’ should rarely be an objective in themselves. A recent study by the BBC found that not only did badly targeted Facebook ads fail to make any kind of impression on users, they also found  that ‘likes’ were even being attributed to companies (and to users) that didn’t actually exist. A non-existent company called ‘Virtual Bagel’ was able to garner more than 1500 ‘likes’ in under 24-hours. Explain that one.

There will be some optimistic marketers out there who’ll be saying that building a solid community from your loyal customer base is the best way to attract quality prospects that can be converted. And they’d be right; the people who already love your services or products are the ones most likely to have friends and family who’ll love your products also. Without knowing it, these people are your most valued sales agents and distributors. But none of this comes without engagement. And for this route to be truly successful you must provide them with content they can engage with; the most successful ads and promotions on Facebook are those that don’t look like ads and promotions.

In this instance, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck you should really consider shooting the duck.

coming up in Part II – reduce, reuse, recycle.

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