Is Facebook Right For Your Small Business?

Part I in a two-part series on using Facebook to promote small business.

Does the farm belong on Facebook?

Over the weekend, I spent some time putting together a rudimentary Facebook plan for a friend. She is admittedly not into social media, but she does understand web marketing, and is grudgingly considering establishing a Facebook presence for her organization.

Like many small business owners, she is busy, busy, busy, and she doesn’t have staff devoted marketing activities.  If she wants to do some marketing, she has to stop her “real work,” plop down in front of the computer, and get busy.

Now, some background.  My friend is in the equestrian business – she runs a nice facility for boarding and training horses that caters to people who actively compete at horse shows.  I’ve long thought that Facebook would be useful for her business – she has a good regional footprint, the local associations that run area horse shows are active on social networks, and so are many riders and trainers in the area. So, for my friend, the answer to that first essential question one must ask before planning a social media foray – “Is my audience present on this particular social network?” – is an unequivocal “Yes.”

However, as I mentioned, my friend is busy, and not terribly inclined toward social media generally, and Facebook in particular.  So, as I prepared my recommendations for her, I kept the fact that she’s not a dyed-in-the-wool online networker in mind.  This puts her at a disadvantage, because I do believe that in order to get the most out of a social network for a brand, the people behind that brand’s presence do need to have a good understanding of how the network works, what sort of content plays well, and what kind of postings and interactions people appreciate from brands.  And a good way to achieve all of that is to use the social network in question yourself.

Business benefits of Facebook
Because my friend can’t afford to waste her time, I wanted to give her a very realistic view of what sort of outcomes she could reasonably expect and what sort of commitment she’d be looking at if she decided to engage on Facebook for her business. First and foremost, I framed the benefits of using Facebook for a business like hers, which I described as follows:

  • A means to build awareness among a specific community (in this case, equestrians in the region)
  • Staying ‘top of mind’ with your audience through an ongoing stream of messages
  • The ability to rapidly communicate with audiences (once you’ve established a good following)
  • A way to subtly and unobtrusively communicate with potential customers, and spark word-of-mouth recommendations.

Committing to a Facebook presence

However, Facebook isn’t a one-way street, and it’s not simply a conduit for marketing messages.  You can’t simply post sales pitches and expect to gather any sort of audience. Interaction is required. So, right off the bat, I leveled with my friend, and outlined as realistically as I could the level of commitment she’d need to devote to the care and feeding of a Facebook presence for her brand:

  • Commit to posting content – a mix of text, pictures and video – daily.   For my friend, this means keeping her iPhone in her pocket, and remembering to whip it out and grab a picture or video when something interesting is happening on the farm.
  • Keep an eye on your wall, to ensure content others post is relevant to your business and not spam, and to keep an eye out for comments.
  • Interact with anyone who comments. You don’t need to be a slave to Facebook and constantly obsess over comments. But you would want to check them nightly and respond to anyone who took the time to post a comment. You don’t need to spend a ton of time on it, but you do need to pay attention.
  • Over time, build connections with related brands in the area that are also active on Facebook.  My friend is well established and knows a number of area trainers, vets and retailers catering to the equestrian crowd.  Connecting with these people on Facebook builds connections, and increases visibility.

Lots of brands get hung up on social media, establishing presences that either simply don’t work, or that they can’t maintain.  In my friend’s case, Facebook does make sense – but only if it’s something she can (and will!) maintain.

Tomorrow we go into Part 2 of the plan I outlined for her, delving deeper into how Facebook works, and how to make Facebook work for a brand.

Coming tomorrow:  Part 2, Making Facebook Work for a Small Business

Small Business PR & Marketing:  PR Newswire offers a variety of tools and tips for small businesses seeking to increase their visibility.  Resources include white papers, press release templates and access to ProfNet Connect, a free expert network.  See the details at: http://www.smallbusinesspr.com/

Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media, and is the author of the free ebook Unlocking Social Media for PR, which we’ve updated for 2012.

8 responses to “Is Facebook Right For Your Small Business?

  1. Sarah-

    Nice post. You are spot on recommending Facebook as a marketing channel for small businesses. According to Heardable.com, the social networks utilized most often by the companies worldwide are: Facebook (35.00%), Twitter (29.27%), YouTube (15.72%), LinkedIn (5.67%), and Flickr (3.68%).

    I think one challenge for small businesses is trying to figure out if they can offer anything of value to their Facebook fans (or new prospects). Photos, videos and text updates are critical to-do’s, but special offers, sneak peeks, discounts, infographics, contests, and the like are just as important.

    Even everyday text updates can be improved by being a bit more compelling, such as: 1) Saying something controversial, 2) Being the first to break a news story in an industry, 3) Mentioning other people or brands by name in posts.

    I am looking forward to part 2 of your article. Well done!

    -Jon

  2. Pingback: Developing a Facebook Plan for a Busy Small Business Owner | Beyond PR

  3. Pingback: Small Businesses and Social Media: Is Facebook Right for Your Brand? - UAUF.ORG

  4. Thanks for posting such a great article Sarah.

  5. Unfortunately the social media aspect of marketing does require a constant hands on approach but doesn’t all marketing?

  6. Reblogged this on Collecting Thoroughbreds and commented:

    Does the farm – or other equestrian businesses – belong on Facebook? I wrote this article a while ago for my company’s blog, and decided to share it here, with my equestrian friends, after a conversation I had this weekend with a fellow horsewoman. For those of you with small business, I hope this is helpful. We’ll return to our regularly-scheduled programming tonight! – Sarah

  7. Pingback: Dave Bernard Online » Blog Archive » Is Facebook Right For Your Small Business?

  8. Pingback: Hidden Gems for Social Marketing on a Shoestring from Stella & Dot | Beyond PR

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