So, let’s assume you can live with the fact that Facebook does not currently enable you to transfer ownership of your Facebook fan page once you set it up. (A seemingly trivial issue that can have significant consequences.) What does it take to get actual business results out of setting up a fan page? You know, things like converting visitors into new customers, engaging and retaining current customers, and increasing net revenue.
I half-heartedly set up a Facebook page for my Mission to Learn blog a while back just to go ahead and stake my claim, but I haven’t really done anything to promote it or try to get value out of it. I’d like to change that over the coming months, but so far I am finding relatively few examples of success stories that amount to anything more than a lot of fans with little if any real business impact.
So, without a lot of great specific examples to reference, here are my thoughts on the general ways in which a small business or organization might get a return off of Facebook:
1. Offer Economic Incentives
I’ve already pointed out Sprinkles bakery as one of the success stories I have come across. Go to the Sprinkles Facebook page and get the phrase for today. Go to the Sprinkles bakery and get a free cupcake. It’s a straightforward proposition, and even if you don’t get the free cupcake, the opportunity cost of dropping by a Sprinkle’s is likely very low. Chance are good you will go ahead and spring for a cupcake or cup of coffee just to satisfy that little craving you have had since Monday or to spend some time catching up with a friend or colleague. It’s a logical fit for Facebook. And given the growing popularity of Facebook for mobile users – e.g., people who might find themselves in the vicinity of a Sprinkle’s store – it’s becoming an even better fit.
2. Entertain and/or Educate Them
Sprinkles manages to provide a potential economic benefit in an entertaining way. This combination, in my opinion, is one of the most powerful ways to use Facebook because it provides for a clear way to translate a game or other activity into into a business result. Entertainment on its own, however, seems like a somewhat dicier proposition. Do you gain anything simply by having people come to your page to play a game, take a quiz, or “interact” in some other way? Well, maybe. A recent study by Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies, for example, found that:
60% of Facebook fans and 79% of Twitter followers are more likely to recommend those brands since becoming a fan or follower. And an impressive 51% of Facebook fans and 67% of Twitter followers are more likely to buy the brands they follow or are a fan of.
Dangling prepositions aside, these numbers suggest that anything you can do that gets people to your page and turns them into fans could be in your favor. Games and other interactive applications are a great way to do this. (Check out http://www.facebook.com/apps/directory.php as a starting point.) Another way to do it is to make sure you are providing great content – and in my book, that almost always means being educational in some way, shape, or form.
Currently, I used Networked Blogs to pull blog content into the Mission to Learn Facebook page, and I have also pulled in the M2L Twitter feed using the Twitter Facebook application, but I’ll need to add in an app or two and begin posting some content original to Facebook if I really hope attract and engage more fans.
3. Serve a Community Need
I’ve put this one last, but I think it is very often an important contributor to the success of the first two – particularly if you don’t represent a huge brand that has massive numbers on its side. I borrow the term “Community Need” from Web strategist colleague David Gammel, who discusses it as frequent driver for nonprofit Web site strategy. The idea is that you may be in a position to serve particular needs that your audience has – for education, for networking, for collaboration, just to borrow a few of David’s examples – and your Web strategy thus becomes all about doing this effectively.
Even if your audience has particular needs that you can clearly serve, however, you have to be sure to ask yourself whether Facebook is really the place to do it. I have to admit, I am leery of cultivating deep engagement – to which serving a need tends to lead – on a platform I don’t control. But if that’s where a significant portion of your audience is, you may have little choice. I think this is a reality that may ultimately trip up a lot of businesses and organizations: they will try to serve community needs on their own Web site, perhaps within private communities, while the real action with their audience moves to Facebook.
The bottom line with all three of these approaches is that you have to know your audience and be aware of whether, how, and in what volume members of it are using Facebook. I’ll do a follow up post on how to figure this out, but in the meantime, I’m still eager to find more bona fide examples of small business success on Facebook, whether using the approaches above or otherwise. If you’ve got any, please comment and share.
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