Is Facebook Marketing Right For Your Business?

By September 17, 2012Social Marketing
Is Facebook Marketing Right For Your Business?
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Just recently we discussed setting up a Facebook business page starting from Square One. And mine is not the only post out there about how to get started on Facebook. Nor am I the only one giving out Facebook marketing advice like Halloween candy. A quick Google search should get you just about any advice you could want.

Except for one thing.

There’s quite a lack of information about whether or not Facebook marketing is a good idea at all! All the how-to posts start with the assumption that you’re going to do some Facebook marketing.

But have you asked yourself whether you should be doing some Facebook marketing?

The answer is: Maybe not.

I know, Facebook is big. Facebook is huge. “Everyone” is on Facebook. You can’t be left behind.

But Facebook is not a universal panacea. Just as you wouldn’t run out and print catalogs if you don’t have a retail audience and you wouldn’t put up a billboard in Oklahoma if you only do business in Maine, you don’t necessarily need a Facebook page, either.

So how’s one to know? With companies jumping on the bandwagon every day and “experts” everywhere telling you not to miss the boat, there’s little time to hit the stop button and wonder out loud if this is something you should be doing.

If you want a bit of a reality check, you can visit this post with 5 questions you should ask before starting any social marketing.

And you can ask yourself these questions.

Why Am I Doing This?

Do you have “because everyone else is doing it-itis”?

If everyone is doing it, there must be something to it, right?

Well, maybe not. Everyone is doing it because they heard that everyone is doing it.

Before you do it too, figure out what need it will fill for your business and customers, what you hope to achieve and whether it’s the most efficient and effective way to reach your goals.

Start with the “why”.

Do you want to build a customer service platform? Raise brand awareness? Share special deals for your best customers to reward their loyalty? Make sales?

Some or all of these are legitimate reasons for engaging in Facebook marketing. Maybe you have another reason. Think about it now.

Can you tell me why you want to do it?

If you don’t have a strong “why” then maybe you’re better served with another marketing channel. After all, setting up a Facebook page may be free but your time isn’t. And to be successful you’ll need to invest plenty of it.

Assuming you’re confident in your “why”, then how about answering the next question: is Facebook really the most effective way to reach this goal? If your goal is to make sales, I’ll tell you right now that Facebook has not proven to be at the top of the list of places people go to buy stuff. They may share their purchases with friends on Facebook. They may even Like a product or brand. But when it comes to buying, they’re doing it on brand websites or other sites like amazon.com.

Your Facebook page may facilitate sales by creating awareness and providing other incentives like coupons, but that’s different than selling and tying revenue directly to Facebook.

If you’re a service business you’re going to have an extra-challenging time tying revenue to your Facebook presence.

Now, I’m not suggesting there’s no value in using Facebook to facilitate sales. But given your limited time and budget, is it the best way to invest? Maybe putting some extra effort into your website storefront and your email marketing campaigns would drive more revenue.

It’s a decision only you (or with the help of your business partner or a trusted consultant or coach) can make. Facebook marketing – like all marketing – comes at a cost of your time, or, if you’ve hired someone to help you, your money. Before you jump, choose your path wisely.

Are My Customers There?

You may want to build brand awareness and hand out coupons, but will anyone be listening? Contrary to popular belief, not everyone is actually on Facebook! In fact I can think of any number of personal friends, family members and acquaintances who have never even seen a Facebook page.

Hard to believe, but when something is so familiar to us it’s difficult to step outside our bubbles and consider a world that does things differently.

Before spending a second or a cent on Facebook marketing, figure out whether the audience you want to reach is actually on there.

First, you need to define your audience and know them well. You can’t make this decision based on some vague wishy-washy feeling about who you think your customers might be. We’ve written here about defining your audience before.

Once you know who they are you’ll be better able to determine whether they spend time on Facebook. Mashable has a great infogaphic breakdown of Facebook’s demographics. If you’re targeting highly educated tech geeks, well, Facebook doesn’t appear to be their social site of choice. If you’re looking for a mature 30+ crowd, this is your place.

Here’s another way to determine whether your audience is on Facebook: ask.

Survey your customers to find out where they are (and why they’re there… keep in mind that nobody will tell you they log into Facebook to be marketed to!)

A client of mine asked if I would set up and manage their Facebook and Twitter marketing. I told them I could but before I would, we surveyed several hundred of their customers to find out where they hung out. Of the handful on Facebook, the majority said that they only logged on occasionally to check in with family members. The vast majority didn’t use Facebook at all.

Does that mean that none of their potential customers were on Facebook? No, but with a lack of any compelling evidence, we opted for another type of marketing that we could show had the potential to hit a lot more people.

You could also check to see which of your competitors are on Facebook to get an idea of the potential. If a bunch of competitors are there and they’ve got a bunch of fans and you can see a good amount of engagement on their pages, then there’s a good chance you could do the same.

In the case of my client, some of their biggest competitors did, in fact, have Facebook pages. But they only had about a dozen fans each (I suspect they were employees anyway), the posts were uninspiring to say the least and there was oh, about zero engagement.

Will There Be A Reason For People To Like My Page?

Remember that you can’t really do any Facebook marketing until you’ve done some marketing to get people to your page in the first place. A marketer’s job is never done!

Much like you need to coax people onto your email list with perks and benefits, you need to do the same with Facebook.

Businesses lately have become like desperate kids on a playground. Someone put together a kickball game and the kids are all jumping up and down saying, “Pick me! Pick me!” Do you know who gets picked? The fast kid. And the good kicker. And the one who’s not afraid to dive face first into home base to avoid an out. In other words, the kids who have something to offer.

Lucky for us, people are a lot more generous with their Likes than they were as captains of the kickball team. How many times have you Liked a page just because someone asked?

On the other hand, there’s this little thing called “Unlike” and worse! “Hide”. What good will 500 fans be when 400 of them hide your updates because they’re not interested?

Let’s face it: none of us are Walmart. Or the Jets. If you ever want more fans than your high school buddies and the six people from your networking group, it’s going to be work! You’ve got to get people to Like your page and for that you’ve got to get people to want to Like your page.

So what are you offering?

It could be monetary, like discounts, coupons and special offers not available anywhere else.

It could be information – sharing tips, ideas and insights.

It could be entertainment. Maybe you’ve got the funniest/coolest/most jaw-dropping posts planned that are sure to get people talking.

The point is that you need to be prepared to share something that will appeal to your audience. Don’t start with the assumption that you’re going to hook up the RSS feed from your blog, announce your products and services and wait for the Likes to start adding up.

Just like any other marketing, it’s all about the “what’s in it for me” – for your customer.

Do I Have The Time For This?

Let’s say that your audience is on Facebook and they’re just dying to hear from you. Maybe a few of them have even asked you when you’re going to start your Facebook page! You’ve got plenty of ideas for things you can share with them that you know they’re going to love. And you have every reason to believe that this will translate directly into sales.

The stars have aligned! The trumpets are sounding from marketing heaven.

So you definitely need a Facebook page, right?

Well, no. Not if you’re six weeks behind on your email marketing, up to your eyeballs in webinars, working on a new ebook, doing pretty well building up your Pinterest audience and already putting in 26 hours in a 24 hour day.

Simply saying, “I don’t have the time to try Facebook marketing” isn’t making excuses if you really don’t have the time. Some of us are maxed out on work and as tempting as it is to jump on a promising opportunity, we have to recognize when we’ve hit our limit.

If you can’t do a good job on Facebook, then back burner it for another time. There’s no sense in tarnishing your reputation and online image with a bland, neglected Facebook page.

Yes, you can outsource your Facebook marketing. I handle it for a number of my clients who don’t have the time. But they’re not off the hook! I don’t go away into a hole and start posting updates. I ask them questions. We brainstorm ideas. I get inside their business and find out what’s happening. I talk to their employees. When there are sales or events or announcements, they need to let me know.

None of this happens in a vacuum. Whether you’re doing 100% of the content creation and management yourself or you outsource it to someone else, you still need to be part of the process.

And if you don’t have the time to do it, it’s worth focusing your energies on what you can do well.

And…. Go!

Not to Facebook, but to the drawing board… where you’re going to ask yourself all the tough, probing “why, how and when” questions. Where you’re going to put together those customer surveys and do your homework. Where you’re going to wonder out loud whether or not Facebook marketing is a wise way to invest your time and money.

The answer may be yes, so get going!

But if the answer is no, or even “ummm… mayyybeeee…..” then stop and do something else. Facebook doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon. If you come up with a different answer in a week or month or year then give it a shot. (And if Facebook does disappear, well, we’re back to Square One anyway!)

In the meantime, be strong and be prepared to ignore all the naysayers and the experts and gurus who will tell you that you must be on Facebook, that you’re missing out on a huge global audience and that you’re a total Luddite without a clue.

And one final thing… if you jumped into Facebook marketing without thinking it through and you’re stuck with 10 fans and nothing to say? There’s always that little “delete page” button. Don’t be afraid! Calling it quits can be the smartest thing you do, if the alternative is a poor online image or a lot of lost time trying to wedge Facebook into your otherwise busy (and profitable) schedule. Or for a less dramatic exit, try the “unpublish” link. Your page and name will still be intact if you want to revisit it later but it won’t be floating out there untended in the meantime.

Tell me, is Facebook right for your business? Does it seem like a promising tool or a bottomless time-sucking pit? Do you have any other criteria that can help you make the decision?

Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn Rivera

I'm a business owner, content creator, podcaster and marketer. In 1999 I founded Rahvalor Interactive, a web and creative services production studio, with my husband and business partner Ralph. In 2011 we created Web.Search.Social, a consulting and marketing service line for small businesses. We also cohost the Web.Search.Social Podcast where we challenge the status quo of marketing and the Carbon Based Business Units podcast where we talk about the human side of being an entrepreneur. On any given day I wear the hat of project manager, consultant, social media manager and content marketer. My true passion is writing and in my spare time I'm busy planning my early retirement to Barcelona as a famous and wealthy novelist.
Carol Lynn Rivera
Carol Lynn Rivera