If you’ve chatted with a consultant or been to a business seminar lately, I am willing to bet that you have heard something like this…
Social media. FaceBook, FaceBook, FaceBook. Twitter. Social media. Blah, blah, blah.
And so on.
Sure, there will be a few, more traditional promotional methods tossed into the mix, but the focus is trending away from print and traditional advertising and moving towards social media… BIG time.
In this article, I will focus mostly on FaceBook. The reason? It is by far and away the most popular social media property – nothing else even comes close.
But as you’ll discover as you read this article, while social media is something you definitely need to be invested in, for Canadian / American small businesses that don’t have staff members dedicated to managing their online presence, the laws of diminishing returns apply – very, very quickly.
It’s important to recognize that FaceBook does offer a ton of opportunities to business owners of all shapes and sizes. With its super-targeted advertising options, FaceBook offers the ability to get incredibly granular, and it’s far, far, far more affordable than Google’s Adwords. But for the small business owner who spends 99.9% of her time on the ground working in her business, the 80-20 rules applies. That’s because small business owners, on average, do not have the time or inclination to learn to market effectively on FaceBook and to manage such campaigns effectively. Others may not have the financial resources to experiment until everything’s just right, or hire a staff member to handle it for them.
There are many larger brands that are successfully leveraging their social media presence to engage consumers, build brand awareness, drive sales, and so on. The difference between these businesses and the business owners I know, is one thing; resources. If you have tons of money and a staff dedicated to developing a social media presence, this article is not for you. If you’re running a single owner operator business, or a smaller business with a half dozen employees, or are larger business without the financial wherewithal to have a dedicated social media team, this is for you.
In other words, as long as you cover the basics, you will be obtaining 80% of the benefits with 20% of the work. After that, your time is best utilized elsewhere.
I realize what I am saying runs contrary to what many consultants on the circuit are preaching these days. The difference between them and myself is that consultants don’t make money putting their own recommendations into practice. They make money telling you what to do. I, on the other hand, have been a webmaster earning my living from the Internet for over 10 years. So while your consultant may tell you that FaceBook is the “bomb”, I can tell you from personal experience what you can really expect from FaceBook.
Why You Need to be Invested in Social Media
Let’s start by discussing why your Canadian business needs a social presence…
- It’s where your customers are! Simple enough. We’ve all seen the statistics demonstrating FaceBook’s popularity. As of 2013, it had over 1 billion active users (yes, that’s billion with a “b”), and is the second most highly trafficed site on the Net. Only Google gets more visits. In addition to that, various studies indicate that the average North American spends the largest percentage of their time online on FaceBook. Perhaps more important is the fact that data suggests that of all the time spent on social media sites, the vast majority (83%) is spent on FaceBook.
- Anything posted on FaceBook has the potential to go viral. Yes, because of the way people are networked together, there’s always the potential that your marketing messages can reach far beyond your current fan base and into their networks of friends, family, colleagues and so on – people previously unreachable to you. It’s easy to get carried away when you look at the math; fan A shares your post with her friends. A small percentage of her friends are excited by your promotion, and share the “shared” message with their own networks. And so on. Carry this on to its logical conclusion, and you can see how the numbers explode exponentially.
- It’s free. Sort of. Setting up a basic fan page requires almost zero technological know how. All that’s really required to get started is a professional timeline cover (which you can have made up by your graphics designer. If you don’t have access to one, outsource the job to a provider on Fiverr, where you can have one created for $5).
- Your competitors are on FaceBook. It’s the unwritten rule of advertising; where your competitors are, there must you be also.
- It’s easily managed and doesn’t require a huge time commitment. What’s it take, maybe two minutes to login to your FaceBook account and provide an update or two once a day? Easy.
Why Your Social Media Investment Should Follow the 80-20 Rule
Now, let’s discuss why small businesses without full time staff dedicated to managing their online / social media presence needs to be careful investing a lot of time into Social media…
- Your “free” reach is dropping. Since FaceBook’s IPO in 2012, the “organic reach” (i.e., the number of your business’ fans who see your updates ) has been dwindling. Prior to December 2013, FB was on record as saying that 16% of a page’s fans would see an update. Recent changes (early December ’13) to FaceBook’s algorithm have reduced this number even further (some people are asking if free visibility on FaceBook is a thing of the past). The reason why is simple; now a publicly-traded company, FaceBook answers to its shareholders. As a result, they want you to pay to promote your posts to your audience. Nothing wrong with this, of course – it’s their right to make a profit. The questions you now have to ask are; “should I spend the money to promote my posts to my audience?”, “can I obtain a Return on Investment (ROI) from any advertising money I spend?”, and lastly, “do I have the time needed to track my investment and determine whether or not it is profitable?”
- Your message competes against others. Even if you do decide to pay to have your updates/posts promoted, your business’ updates are in competition with pictures of cousin Jennifer’s new baby daughter, Aunt Rita’s new Cocker Spaniel pup, an endless array of shared videos and “demotivational posters”, funny t-shirts, jokes, rants, other promoted posts, Uncle Edgar’s prized pumpkin and just about anything else under the sun. Wedged between these, does your message really make an impact?
- You’re constantly battling the social media mindset. What do people do on FaceBook? They check in and see what their friends, family, colleagues, kids and co-workers are doing. They don’t go to FaceBook to buy anything. This sounds trivial, but it’s important; selling successfully means connecting with your prospect when they are in the “open to buy” mindset. This is why Google is so successful with its advertising programs; they deliver ads to the very people who have qualified themselves as being interested in what the advertiser is promoting, exactly when they are interested.For example…If I go down to Future Shop to check out a new LED T.V., where will I go to research it when I get home? Google. And when I see ads promoting that same T.V., am I more likely to click on an ad? And if I do, am I more likely to make a purchase? Of course. Now, should I be presented with an ad for a new T.V. on FaceBook, it’s not like I am suddenly not interested. The difference is the ad is delivered when I am busy doing something else. That’s not to say that you cannot make money advertising on FaceBook, or promoting your posts. But for the average Canadian small business owner who invests 99% of his or her time on the ground in her business making it work, there is not enough time in the day. You will need specialized research tools and scrapers, you will need to build a highly targeted custom audience, you will need a way to recoup your costs… and so on, and so on.
- It’s extremely difficult to orchestrate a viral marketing campaign. Earlier I discussed how tapping into people’s personal networks offers the potential to dramatically extend the reach of your promotions. In reality, however, your promotional messages are not likely to spread across the social web like wildfire. That’s not to say you should not take advantage of any potential to reach an exponentially larger audience (you should; your most passionate customers will readily “share” your promotions), or that viral campaigns cannot be orchestrated, they can – if you have the financial resources and some very smart people at your disposal. And you will need plenty of cash; often you will have to advertise to provide your promotion with the exposure necessary for it to gain critical momentum and to snowball on its own. If you haven’t seen it, check out the West Jet Christmas Miracle video here. This is an absolutely brilliant demonstration of an orchestrated viral campaign. At the time of this writing, the video had in excess of 35 million views. The return on their investment has been astronomical. Here’s another great example by Volvo trucks, featuring action star Jean Claude Van-Damme. It’s received in excess of 68 million views. Both of these videos provide some real insight into the sort of content people will actively share.
So what it is the perfect approach to FaceBook / Social media then? The 80 / 20 approach to capitalizing on social media for small business?
- Maintain a professional looking Facebook page, and post updates often – once per day, or even every other day. Remember, unless you are paying to promote your posts, fewer and fewer people will be exposed to them. Time spent doing constant updates provides little return on investment.
- Attempt to engage your fans in your updates. Ask for their opinions. Solicit their feedback. Get them interested and participating. The more passionate they are about your brand, the more they will advocate for your brand, and share and spread your promotions.
- Promote your Facebook page in your place of business and encourage people to “like” your fan page.
- If you feel like it, go ahead and “promote” one of your posts (minimum investment of $6 is required) and see if you notice any increased activity – either in your place of business, or on your fan page itself.
- Always deliver a benefit in your updates. Your fans are only concerned with one thing; “what’s in it for me?” Remember that – and the fact that you are always competing for their attention – when you post.
- Educate your customers; ask them to select to receive notifications when they like your page – this will ensure they receive ALL your updates in their newsfeed. Just “liking” your Canadian business page is not enough; your fans will need to click on the “Like” button to pull up the drop down menu and then actively select “Get Notifications.” See the screenshot directly below to see how this done…
If you do this, you’ll get 80% of the benefits with 20% of the work.
And that’s what it’s all about.
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