Five Facebook Tips for Small Businesses

Most small businesses are terrible at marketing in general and online marketing in particular. That’s understandable: The founders are usually more passionate about what they do than about promoting themselves.

But with Facebook becoming the place you just have to be for businesses of all sizes, a little marketing know-how comes in handy. I recently spoke to Mark Schmulen, general manager of social media at the small-business-focused e-mail service provider Constant Contact about how to go beyond the Facebook wall and make the social network a practical and measurable small business marketing platform.

“When we look at what platforms our small business customers are using for social media marketing, 94% of them are on Facebook,” Schmulen said. However, “Most small businesses are doing Facebook without knowing why they’re doing it.”

That’s the herd mentality at work. While it’s pretty easy to create a Facebook page, the task of convincing visitors to create persistent relationships through the “Like” button and to engage in conversation requires different skills. Forrester Research has estimated fewer than 15% of people who click a Like button ever visit the page again. Getting that repeat traffic is the special sauce of Facebook success.

Here are five tips that Schmulen recommends:

Tip #1: Know what your goals are. Sounds simple but it ain’t necessarily so. Depending on the business, goals might range from generating orders to attracting subscribers to building thought leadership. Whatever your goal, you need an offer to match.

Fancy Fortune CookiesArchway Cookies and Fortune Cookies are both focused on trials, the first through coupons and the second via a contest. Vindale Research isn’t in the food business, though; it wants to recruit people who are interested in getting paid to take surveys.

Each company matches its offer to its goal, whether it’s a free trial, information or downloadable assets like ringtones. Offers should always include a clear call to action, and you can use rotating FBML (Facebook Markup Language) pages to test different offers. If you lead with your wall, you’re missing an opportunity.

Tip #2: Make your offer shareable. There’s a Facebook phenomenon called the “power of 130.” The average Facebook member has 130 friends and the fastest way to spread a message is through social sharing. Facebook automatically offers members the opportunity to share a Like, but the real creativity comes when you can convince people to share some kind of unique content or offer you provide.

Intrepid TravelFor example, Intrepid Travel invites visitors to play a trivia game and share results with friends. Players can also sign up to visit the exotic places highlighted in the game. Each answer to the quiz is shareable, as is the final score.

Tip #3: Keep it simple. Intel’s Facebook welcome page features product promotions, a gateway to its international pages, jobs, discounts and even a Twitter feed. Intel can get away with all that because it’s Intel, but for most small businesses, less is more, Schmulen recommends. He favors an approach like that of Fitness magazine, which rewards new fans with “our all-time favorite abs workout!” Fitness has a variety of other offers on its Facebook presence, but it leads with the simplest one.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have multiple offers, but give each one its own page and rotate them through different promotions. It’s easier to test results that way, too.

Tip #4: Promote everywhere. “’Field of Dreams’ was a horrible move for people who are learning about marketing,” Schmulen says. “Just because you build it doesn’t mean people will come. When you create a campaign, share it across all your social networks and e-mails. Use every channel you have.” I couldn’t have said it better.

Tip #5: Measure. Surveys, A/B tests, website analytics and marketing automation are essential tools for professional marketers, but you don’t have to be a statistician to understand whether or not your campaigns are working. Facebook’s built-in analytics give you a pretty good idea of what’s sparking conversation on your page. Take the 10-minute tour and learn what they mean. PageLever is one of the first independent Facebook measurement tools, and I expect there will be more. You can also use free and simple utilities like and Google URL Builder to track the popularity of links you post on Facebook. Most commercial e-mail services also offer pretty good metrics to show which messages are resonating.

Schmulen ticks off some factors to consider: “How many people visit the landing page? How many participate in the offer? How many share the offer? If people visit the page but don’t take the offer, it isn’t compelling enough. If they accept the offer but don’t share it, it isn’t distinctive enough. A great campaign gets people to connect, accept your offer and share it with their friends.”

Getting people to Like you is just the beginning, of course. A really effective Facebook presence is an ongoing conversation with lots of questions, challenges and responses. For inspiration, you could do worse than look at Constant Contact’s Facebook wall, where the company constantly seeks input on everything from new product ideas to the choice of band at a celebration party.

This is one in a series of posts sponsored by IBM Midsize Business that explore people and technologies that enable midsize companies to innovate. In some cases, the topics are requested by IBM; however, the words and opinions are entirely my own.


Awareness E-Book Raises the Bar on Social Measurement

The question of how to measure social media performance, particularly in a marketing context, continues to be one of the industry’s hottest topics. Although many people are aware that traditional metrics like page views, visitors, followers and likes are poor indicators of success, the vast majority of marketers I speak to still focus on these overly simplistic criteria. These numbers may be of little value, but at least they’re understandable.

The more sophisticated practitioners are turning toward metrics that indicate engagement. Examples include comments, retweets, shares and subscriptions. Now Awareness Networks has contributed some important new thinking to this topic with a free e-book entitled “The Social Marketing Funnel: Driving Business Value with Social Marketing.” (Full disclosure: I am quoted in the book but did not contribute meaningfully to the methodology and received no compensation.)

Awareness outlines five priorities that companies should define in becoming a best-in-class social marketer:

  • Measure and Grow Social Reach
  • Monitor Social Conversations
  • Manage Social Content
  • Practice SEO
  • Measure and Analyze Social Activity

Not surprisingly, the company has tools that help in many of these areas, but that’s one reason its research is so useful: The recommendations are based upon the experiences of more than 100 customers.

The most successful of those are reporting direct correlations between social media marketing and sales, and they have certain practices in common. Most use at least three major social media channels, compared to less than two for the average company. They also have multiple presences within each channel, such as product-specific pages on Facebook. And they measure like crazy.

Nearly 80% of the companies Awareness surveyed use social media channels to identify and respond to customer service issues and two-thirds use them for prospecting. Remarkably, only 18% said they have “formal tracking process in place to manage processes and better understand success criteria.” In other words, a lot of social media is still being done with seat-of-the-pants justification.

That’s going to change as more sophisticated metrics emerge, however, and here’s where this report has particular value. It describes four measures of content effectiveness that take into account multi-channel activity: Content-to-Contact Ratio, Comments-to-Content Ratio, Comments-to-Profile Ratio and Content-to-Share Ratio. I won’t describe these metrics in detail – you can find that in the e-book – but each speaks directly to the value of engagement.

As businesses spread their wings across increasing numbers of social communities, they need to get a better handle on what’s working and what isn’t. The cost of maintaining an effective presence is only going to go up as the market gets crowded, and it won’t be acceptable for only one in five companies to have meaningful measurements in place.

As I have noted elsewhere, our current obsession with counting fans and followers is an artifact of old media thinking. Online marketing provides much richer options for understanding how people interact with our content. Awareness’ e-book is an important attempt to try to nudge marketers toward realizing the potential of the information they gather.

Awareness Social Funnel


A welcome measure of relief in endless metrics debate

It has become almost cliché for media professionals to complain about the lack of measurement tools for new media campaigns. The Internet is the most measurable medium ever invented, yet marketers continue to squabble about which metrics are most meaningful.

So it was a pleasure to read Katie Paine’s newly released book, Measuring Public Relationships. Paine is one of the acknowledged gurus in this area, and her opinions command widespread respect. The reports and tools that her team produces on the Measures of Success website make it a must-bookmark for PR pros. In this compact (204 pages), readable book, Paine gives us her best stuff. After reading it, you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.

Paine boils down the issues to a few key factors. Outputs are the results of publicity efforts, such as clips and blog mentions. Outtakes are how people think as a result of experiencing outputs. Outcomes are how their behavior changes. All are measurable, she argues, so once you decide what tools you’ll use to measure them, the rest is just execution.

As Paine works through the various audiences that PR people must satisfy – journalists, bloggers, event audiences, local constituents and even internal employees – she uses repetition to drive home the point that measurement is all about sweating a few basics. Decide who’s important, figure out how you want to measure the results of your actions, set baselines and benchmarks and choose measurement tools. Although there’s good advice on the pros and cons of various online metrics, this book isn’t about page views vs. unique visitors. It’s about choosing the right metrics for your situation and then applying them in a disciplined manner.

Measuring Public Relationships brings welcome clarity to a debate that has become bogged down in complexity and minutiae. Read it and then pass it along to your boss.

Cool stuff for marketers

Several services of interest to marketers are debuting here at Demo in San Diego.

The MuseStorm Content Engagement Platform is a service that simplifies the creation of widgets, those ubiquitous branded medallions that show up on blogs and social networking sites and deliver video, images and text streams. The founders claim that businesses typically spend $30,000 to create a widget (not an unrealistic figure, from what I’ve seen) and that they can reduce that process to a few minutes.

Drag and drop the content container and the relevant content into a workspace, add logos and messages/instructions and generate the final product without coding. MuseStorm provides components to e-mail a friend, download a brochure, request a follow-up, vote, comment, etc. and delivers final code that can be dropped into any html page. More importantly for marketers, the company has back-end tracking and reporting to tell marketers what’s resonating with the audience and what’s falling flat. Pricing is correlated to traffic.

UK-based Real Time Content Ltd. has one of those “why didn’t I think of that?” services. Adaptive Media Version 1.0 delivers targeted video to visitors based upon interests they specify. It’s a simple concept that must be devilishly difficult to implement.

Consider the range of videos that a car company might want to show a visitor. A 25-year-old single male might want to see the fastest sports car while a 35-year-old mom could prefer a demonstration of safety features. On most websites today, every viewer gets the same video, no matter what their interest.

Real Time Content stores a menu of videos, text messages, images and calls-to-action that can be dynamically assembled and delivered to visitors depending on information they provide. So that 35-year-old mom gets a video and text overlay talking about safety features along with an invitation to request a brochure while the single young male might get an invitation to sign up for a test drive. The company has reporting and analytics to show marketers what’s working.

Shoutlet is a tool for monitoring Web 2.0 campaigns. The service includes a platform for distributing content like video and RSS feeds to dozens of sites, a widget-building function, RSS feed creator and e-mail campaign manager. The reporting is supposed to be where to Shoutlet shines. The developer, Sway, is a marketing services agency specializing in social and viral media. It should know what kind of reports marketers want.

Sway intends to price under $10,000 a month, which would make it cheaper than the influence-tracking services offered by most of its competitors.