The phrase “”Social Media”" is everywhere these days, and if you are like me, you may be a bit unclear about what it actually is… the infamous phrase “”I’ll know it when I see it”" comes immediately to my mind!
I went looking online for a short, easy to understand definition and found this analogy:
Think of regular media as a one-way street where you can read a newspaper or listen to a report on television, however, you have very a limited ability to share your thoughts on the matter.
Social media, on the other hand, is an active two-way street that gives you the ability to communicate and respond.
As the internet develops and evolves, the various Social Media websites are also growing and changing. Several years ago, MySpace was the place to be but it is now, generally, considered to be on the wane. Likewise, on MySpace, 33% of its users are aged 17 or less.
Ravalry is a relatively new, large community based around knitting with over 1,200,000 registered users. As you would expect, its membership is primarily female and the average member age is not available.
Facebook provides this information about its users:
More than 500 million active users (I recently saw the number 600 million, but it hasn’t been changed yet, on the Facebook site)
50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day
Average user has 130 friends
People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook
As you can see, each Social Media site appeals to and has a different user base than any other site.
One of the powerful considerations about using a Social Media web site is the fact that most of them provide a level playing field when it comes to small business owners vs the big boys. For instance, you can build a Facebook Fan page for your offline business and so can a major automobile manufacturer. Within those Facebook Fan pages, both you and the multi billion dollar car maker have the same tools and resources. On Twitter, as another example, both you and the big companies are limited to 140 characters per tweet. They can’t buy more characters and blast you out of the competition.
When considering which Social Media site to use with Social Media Marketing, you should consider the site’s membership but you should also evaluate its culture and how the members interact. It is important that any Social Media site have a population whose interests are in line with your goals and, also, that it have a structure and pattern of interaction that is compatible with your objectives.
In addition, you must keep in mind that things change on the Internet, sometimes at breakneck speed. As an example, between March 2011 and May 2011, Facebook implemented some major changes which changed the whole landscape of using it for business. Suddenly, controlling the content on a business Fan Page and using product images to build a brand became game changers… for those who knew how to do it!
While a particular Social Media site may be a good fit now, be aware that it may not always be a successful marketing vehicle for you! Monitor the efficacy of any Social Media site you are using AND also keep an eye out for the next big thing!
With all of that in mind, at the current time, I consider Facebook and Twitter to be the Social Media sites most likely to be compatible with the majority of offline businesses and their needs.
In this article I am going to briefly cover Facebook, its structure as it pertains to Social Media Marketing, discuss some of the pitfalls, and propose some strategies appropriate to it.
Facebook Marketing for Small Business
Facebook’s membership has exploded and is currently greater than 500 million, according to its own website.
It originally began as a way for college students to keep in touch with fellow students. As a result of that, the basic Facebook community seems to start from an academic basis, joining students and former students with friendship circles widening out from there. If you are like me, you will be shocked at how many members from your high school class seem to appear out of nowhere!
As part of the Facebook mechanism, possible Friends are suggested to you, based on Friends that you and the other person have in common. While you can do searches, it is hard to find and befriend a person that Facebook doesn’t think you should know. On the other hand, Facebook makes suggestions that will extend your network, based simply on friends you may have in common with someone.
Another important mechanism is the Facebook Like option, which has now been extended beyond Facebook Profile pages and Facebook Fan Pages and out into the web at large.
A third and exceedingly important Facebook mechanism is the ability to link between websites, Facebook Fan Pages, and Twitter accounts. This can be done with a variety of website creation software options. At the moment, I am encouraging my clients to use the blogging software, WordPress, for non blog websites.
With WordPress as your website management system, once you have signed up for the Networked Blogs Facebook App(lication), you can set your website to show any changes on your Facebook Fan Page and your Twitter account. Your Twitter Account can be set to show Facebook Fan Page Comments along with Posts from your WordPress website. In addition, your Tweets will be displayed on your Facebook Fan Page and your website.
Now, I know that the previous paragraph was confusing so let me give you the abridged edition! In my example, you have three web presences for your business – A Facebook Fan Page, a website built with WordPress, and a Twitter account. Any Post made on one of those three sites will automatically appear on the other two sites.
This is VERY powerful and is a REAL time and energy saver IF you take the time to plan your web marketing strategies with this capacity in mind!
With the potential of getting a three to one benefit from any of your Social Networking posts, as described above, let me go a bit deeper into the opportunities afforded to an offline business by having a Facebook Fan Page.
NOTE – It is important to understand that while a Facebook Fan Page can be considered a potential web site substitute, it offers long term hazards that, in my opinion, are not worth the risk.
Building your business’s primary web presence on a third party web site is taking the time, effort, and money to build a nice new house on land that you DO NOT OWN! You might be OK in the short term, but later down the road, you may lose you house, simply because you do not own the land.
While you may decide that it is efficient to start with a Facebook Fan Page, you should also plan to build your own website ASAP! As a business owner, you should be careful to own and control as many of your business assets as possible.
With that warning out of the way, before utilizing any Social Media site for your Social Media Marketing, take the time to read the site’s ToS or Terms of Service. Do NOT assume that you know what is allowed and what is not.
As an example, you may have multiple Twitter accounts, but each account must be tied to a different email address. Any email address can have only ONE Twitter account.
With Facebook, any human is allowed ONLY ONE ACCOUNT! This means that any Facebook Fan Pages built for any businesses will be offshoots of your primary, personal Facebook account.
If for some reason, you do not want a Facebook Fan Page to be obviously tied to your personal account, you can set the Privacy setting to obscure the connection. In the case of most offline businesses, this would not be a concern. However, I have a number of online businesses, some of which I am open about and others that I have chosen to run from behind the scenes. There is nothing questionable about doing this, I just prefer to keep the connection quiet to minimize others copying my business model. However, ALL of my business Facebook Fan Pages are offshoots of my SINGLE personal Facebook account.
Part of the evolution of the Facebook Culture is that, in most instances, it is considered appropriate to ask other members to share with their Friends about your Facebook Fan Page or your new post or any of a number of other Facebook interactions. This is markedly different from other websites and their culture, and as a business owner, it is a powerful tool.
It is perfectly OK to ask others to LIKE your Facebook Fan Page. In fact, this can be an important traffic builder for your Facebook Fan Page!
Google AdWords vs Facebook Ads
Another online marketing benefit offered by Facebook is the option to use their Pay Per Click advertising. In the Facebook universe these are known as Facebook Ads – which seems obvious, but online, things are not always obvious!
Last night, I was on a call with one of my consulting clients and she mentioned that she had just gotten a $100 voucher for Google AdWords. She wanted to know if this would be worthwhile. I said that I thought that using Facebook, creating a Facebook Fan Page for her business, and spending her limited budget on Facebook ads would be a better use of her resources, even considering her $100 AdWords voucher.
I explained it to her this way:
Google AdWords and Facebooks Ads are Pay Per Click… each ad is shown (this is called an impression) and you pay when someone actually click on the ad.
While the mechanism for figuring ad payments is the same (PPC or Pay Per Click) the basis for showing an ad differs drastically between Google AdWords and Facebook.
On the surface, the ads themselves are similar. While they may or may not have a picture included, the text or content of the ad is short and presented in plain and simple text. Ads are displayed off the side in vertical stacks or within the body of the page’s content. For the most part, these ads are subtle and unobtrusive.
However, the Ad Display Criteria is where the biggest differences lie.
In Google, AdWords are shown on the pages generated with Search Results as well as on website pages related to the Ad’s specified search term. This means that Google AdWords are displayed using a mechanism of which terms are being used in online searches. As AdWords have developed, in some instances they are also displayed according to the geographical location of the person doing the Search.
Facebook actually takes an entirely different approach – Facebook Ads are displayed in front of PEOPLE who meet the demographic requirements that you have chosen.
To simplify further, Google AdWords are displayed based on the content of the page where they are shown and Facebook Ads are shown based on the interests, and even the physical location, of the person doing the looking!
As you can see, there is a radical difference between Google AdWords and Facebook Ads.
This is one of the reasons that I feel that Facebook Ads may be far more beneficial for offline businesses.
It is also important to note that when creating a Facebook Ad, you have the choice of sending people who click either to an offsite web page or to a specific Facebook Fan Page.
Buying Facebook Likes
All in all, I consider Facebook a strong option for offline businesses, since you have the ability to target both demographically and geographically. The potentially viral effect that is inherent in the Facebook culture is another good reason for adding Facebook in to your online advertising mix.
WordPress works well for integrating Social Media options
Finally, if you are using WordPress to build your website to blog, it is relatively easy to integrate WordPress Posts, Facebook Fan Page Posts, Twitter Tweets, and possibly even, your Autoresponder Service messages, so that each one appears on the others… AUTOMATICALLY!