By Kevin Gault
By now you’ve heard about Facebook, the ultra-popular social networking site that boasts 150 million members. But did you know it’s also a very powerful business networking site?
You can connect with legions of people in any industry organized by city, workplace, school and region. Facebook users create their own profiles that feature photos and personal background, they exchange public or private messages and they join groups that share their interests. Using the site to spread the word about your business can pay off.
According to a recent study by Aberdeen Group, top companies are using social-networking sites like Facebook to achieve improved interaction with customers. The study revealed that companies that use social-networking websites are 17 times more likely to improve customer satisfaction than companies that don’t use the sites.
Facebook expert Mari Smith, known as “The Pied Piper of Facebook,” teaches courses on using the service for profit. “When you implement the strategies that I teach for Facebook, people in your industry, your peers, your clients and the media start beating a path to your door,” says Mari, a relationship-marketing specialist and social-media business coach based in San Diego. “It’s easy to create that presence and strong visibility on Facebook and to get in front of the right people. It’s what I call ‘radical strategic visibility’—you’re seen in all the right places by all the right people at exactly the right time.”
Create a Strategy
Mari says there’s an essential rule of thumb when using Facebook: “The number-one reason that people flounder in social networking is that they don’t have a strategy. Some Facebook users add anyone and everyone as their friend on the site and they quickly get overwhelmed. To build a strong network, it’s essential that you carefully choose key influencers in your industry and choose your activities strategically.”
According to Mari, a powerful weapon in Facebook is Newsfeed. Using this tool, you can appear in the “feed” of information that reaches your friends in the network by posting photos, videos and comments, and importing your blog posts. This creates a fast-spreading “viral” networking effect and effectively builds your brand.
Buying ads on Facebook is another potent way to spread the word about your business. Facebook ads appear in the margins of other users’ profile pages. The ads work like Google Adwords and they can convey a precisely targeted message. “People click on these ads when they’re on their own profile page and the ads are tremendously effective for raising brand awareness,” says Mari.
If you’ve got a big event coming up that will jumpstart your business, Facebook spreads the word about it lightning-fast. “When someone RSVPs for your event, that person’s friends can see that they responded and the friends become interested in your event too,” explains Mari. “I call that ‘viral visibility.’ There’s also ‘active RSVPing,’ which means when you send your RSVP message, you upload photos and videos, and post links as well. That information accompanying your RSVP creates a viral effect and tells many people who you are and what you do.”
Want to keep your personal and business contacts separate on Facebook? You can only have one account in your name, but you can have an unlimited amount of “pages” on Facebook for your business or group.
For example, Michael Stelzner keeps his Facebook contacts limited to close friends and has set up a fan page for everyone else. See how he set his up here: http://tinyurl.com/98zyue
Mari details how to set up a fan page here: http://whyfacebook.com/2008/09/25/how-to-create-and-promote-your-facebook-fan-page/
No Hard Sell
Before you polish your sales pitch and log into Facebook, take a tip from Mari: “There’s a saying about social networks: ‘When the marketers move in, the members move out.’ The secret is to be a member, not a marketer. For example, putting up too many links to your company’s website can turn people off. That’s ‘push’ marketing. What you want to do is relationship marketing. Talk about what you do, but talk about it in a social, friendly way, not in language that sounds like a sales pitch.”