When discussing social media for small businesses, people often tell me “a Facebook page is fine for big companies and major brands who have an army of people and something to say, but I’m a small business. What on earth do I have to say that would make my customers want to connect with me while they’re chatting with their friends?”
They’re correct that Facebook is an effective investment for brands like Coke (22 million fans – NB, their page was started by fans, not the company), Starbucks (20 million), Oreo (17 million), or Red Bull (16 million).
But smaller, localized brands can have great success, as well. eMarketer reports that local businesses make up 17.6% of Facebook pages, making it the largest category. Large companies come in 6.3%, behind general interest pages and pages for musicians. Products, meanwhile, lag behind at 3 percent.
I was at a digital marketing conference in the US recently where they mentioned the Facebook success of Wawa, a chain of service stations based in Pennsylvania with branches across five states on the US eastern seaboard. While they’re not strictly a small business, Wawa is a bricks-and-mortar business (you can’t buy petrol online) with a specific local market, a potential customer base that would number only several million people. Their Facebook page, meanwhile, has 600,000 fans – a staggering percentage of their entire target market. How do they do it?
One thing to consider is that they’ve been doing social media for a long time. They were using social media tools like Livejournal back when Facebook was only a gleam in Mark Zuckerberg’s (or was it the Winklevoss twins’?) eye.
As a result, they have nailed the raison d’etre for Facebook pages, which applies whether you’re multinational or hyperlocal. As eMarketer says, “Engagement, interest and constant connection keep fans coming back to a company’s Facebook fan page.”
Engagement: Create content that inspires people to interact with you, whether it’s downloading a coupon for a Philly Cheesesteak (for the uninitiated, it’s a cholesterol-laden sandwich native to Philadelphia) or answering hypothetical questions about what past US presidents would eat if they rocked up to Wawa.
Interest: Give your fans something fun to do, like uploading their photo to see what they’d look like if they had an Afro hairstyle like the Hoagiemeister (Ronald McDonald has a lot to answer for!). Whimsical humor works better on Facebook than on most other marketing channels.
Constant connection: Update your site constantly, but not too often. Weekly is fine for a small business; several times a day and people feel like they’re being spammed (or worse, stalked).
Does a coupon or Facebook-only offer sound lame? A recent study by social media marketing agency Cone revealed that more than 75% of new media users want brands to offer them incentives online. Meanwhile, 28% say they would like to be entertained so that corny idea that your intern has for a contest could have legs.
It’s not hard to do, and you don’t need an army. You just need to get started. Google “Facebook marketing tips” or surf through the books available on this topic on Amazon and take the first steps.
Dr. Ray Welling is Director of Digital Strategy & Communications for healthcare communications consultancy Vivacity Health. He also manages a small digital content agency and strategic consultancy, and lectures in marketing at Macquarie University.