By: Emily Bennington, Monster Contributing Writer
The beauty of developing a social media marketing strategy is that any size company, including your small business, can jump in and apply marketing tactics that build your audience, and communicate with them directly.
Since the small business social media playing field has been leveled, you no longer need the resources of a large company to reach your customers via your small business marketing -- although you do need a bit of savvy know-how to do it well.
Facebook for Business
Facebook for business in particular has made going direct-to-the-consumer very easy; it’s no wonder millions of businesses have flocked to the site looking to grow sales and influence.
If you’re wondering how you can stand out in such a crowded field, here are four tips on what to do -- and not do -- as you develop your own winning Facebook marketing tactics for this year and beyond.
Marketing Tactic #1: Build a Community First.
If you really want to see your fan numbers jump, build your page around a core idea that people can rally behind -- not just your business.
“Traditional selling is dead,” says Melinda Emerson, author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months. “You have to add value to the conversation, not just push your product.”
Rather than pump out non-stop promotional material about your clothing store, for example, focus on marketing tactics that allow you to spend more time facilitating a discussion on trends, styles, and other information that would be of interest to your audience.
The more you can become a go-to source for the latest consumer trends, the higher your fan numbers will go. “The most egregious misstep people make in my opinion is to go for the sale before the relationship,” says Emerson.
“The whole notion of using Facebook to say, ‘buy my stuff, buy my stuff, and, oh by the way, buy my stuff’ is to misuse the site.”
Emerson recalls a shoe company whose marketing tactics were designed to “get noticed” over providing value recently. “This company just started posting pictures of shoes they thought I’d like right on my page,” she says. “Now that’s a good way to get unfollowed.”
Marketing Tactic #2: Think Twice Before Doing a Profile-to-Page Migration.
In Facebook-speak, people have “profiles” and companies have “pages,” but if you’re like many small business owners, it’s probably a very blurry line.
While Facebook does give you an option to merge the two, Cindy Morrison, online strategist and founder of the social media consulting firm SOCIALVENTION, recommends against it.
“A lot of business owners have built up a following on their personal profile, but are now struggling to get friends to ‘like’ their fan page,” says Morrison.
Even so, she thinks it's much better to start from zero than to convert your existing profile into fan page. “You'll not only lose all of your information and pictures, but all the ‘rights’ that only profiles have.”
If you’re using Facebook to keep up with friends and family and promote your business, the profile-to-page migration isn’t for you.
Marketing Tactic #3: Have a Marketing Strategy.
In other words, don’t just post randomly as the mood strikes -- know what you’re aiming for on Facebook.
Set success metrics (e.g., how many times a day do you plan to post, what topics will you cover, what discounts will you run and when, etc.)
Also, pay attention to the “Insights” link on the left side of your page and deep-dive into your fan demographics. If you’ve got a product aimed at men, for example, and your fans are 86% female and 14% male, something isn’t working.
Likewise, if you’ve got 1,000 fans, but only 15 are “talking about” you (Facebook’s way of tracking the number of people engaging with your page), you know the content isn’t resonating enough.
Both Emerson and Morrison agree that the Insights tab is like having a built-in Facebook marketing director, but you have to know what you’re aiming for to know if you’re succeeding.
Marketing Tactic #4: Learn (and Revise) as You Go.
When Wendy Krepak founded Card Cubby, a line of stylish card and coupon organizers, she initially focused her marketing strategy on selling to retailers. It didn’t take long, however, to realize her strategy was costly and full of roadblocks.
“Retailers are slower to take on products now and it’s expensive to attend the shows to sign them up.”
Recognizing that Facebook could help her reach customers directly, Krepak started a Facebook page and “got serious” about targeting her audience.
The new approach has not only resulted in an online sales boost, but Krepak notes that some customers have even taken the product into stores -- on their own -- to ask retailers to carry it. “The consumer has become my best sales rep!” she says.
Krepak was smart to shift gears when her original plan didn’t work.
So if you’re getting the sense that your Facebook marketing strategy needs a face lift, don’t be afraid to occasionally go straight to your fans and ask what THEY want. Is it discounts? Networking? Advice?
“People want to do business with people they know, like and trust,” says Morrison, “and building that kind of loyal fan base takes constant engagement.”
Emily Bennington is co-author of the very first business book every new grad should own, Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job. She is a frequent speaker on the topic of career success and the founder of Professional Studio 365, which provides organizational savvy training to new grads and their employers. Emily has been featured on Fox Business, CNN, and ABC and is a featured writer for The Huffington Post, Forbes Woman, and US News and World Report. She can be reached online at Emily Bennington, on Facebook or on Twitter @EmilyBennington.