Using Facebook for Business

So many businesses are now involved in social media. It’s ‘the thing to do’. With the strongest of schoolyard peer pressure, business follows business.

Many businesses decide that they need to participate in social media and I’d say they’re right. But if your start and end point is a collection of staff and store photos and a Like button, hang on, my friend, you’re kind of missing the point. (By the way, the best entree into SM is not hiring a 15 year old to do it for you. That is, unless they understand your brand, your strategy, marketing fundamentals and your target audience as well.)

Authenticity

Social media is about getting up-close and personal. If you’re not comfortable, it’s a problem. If your clothes (e.g. wall, page, description, conversations) are stilted and false, it comes across. It’s social. Be real. Remember: people don’t relate to companies. They relate to People. You’re not ABC Inc. You are Tony from ABC Inc. Only people have emotions, not brands – they’re the sum total of the hard work, vision and insight of the people that made them.

Know your objective

As a Business, what is your objective in setting up a Facebook page?

If it is to increase sales, sorry, social media may not be the channel for you. Run a search ad instead and get qualified leads who you can pull into the sales funnel because they are looking for what you can offer. People don’t tend to use social media to take up offers. People tend not to click.

Most people, particularly young people, like to “discover brands” not have them thrust into their space. There are better ways of nailing a sale; such as banner ads, engaging animation, interactivity and offering free things like information or trials.  But there is always an exception. Use it if you having something out of the ordinary, easy, problem solving, visible, understandable, and ‘word-of-mouth spreadable’. If you believe your widget is different, go for it, my friend. I would too.

Understand that Social Media is Social.

Social media is supposed to be social.

Engage your customers. Hitting a Like button is an empty gesture. There’s not much engagement there. It’s a dialogue, not a monologue about your business or your store layout or your friendly staff or great results or awards.

To engage people, you could run a contest. I prefer the longer-term approach of awarding random prizes for ongoing contributions along a theme or themes. This way you can help build the sense of tribe. It is not just individuals who are connecting with you, they are connecting and sharing information and ideas with each other. I think this is really want you want to achieve.

Create Community

According to Susan Baker’s seminal book, the “new consumer” is cynical, knowledgeable, time-poor, tribal and experience-seeking. Enhance the evidence of your brand tribe through providing a Facebook experience that makes users ‘connect’ with their social selves. Yes, this is me. This is my tribe. These are the other people who are part of My Tribe. They think like me. They look like me (maybe better). They have the same values as me.

To create the community, allow your tribe to share their ideas and thoughts and help each other. After all, a community is not a fiefdom. You are not the Controller, you are the Facilitator.

Here is an example. Say you have a Timber Shop. Give some basic information about your timber, your store, how to get there, the phone number and email address. Show how your timbers can be used for all different things. Give some examples.

Then ask for more ideas. Hand over the power to the group. Ask your tribe to share their novel uses. The deck. The toy aeroplanes. The floating floors. The bookcases. The do-it-yourself biodegradable coffin. Remember to say thank you and answer questions on your lacquers and sanding techniques, and, presto, now you have a community.

Use it to gain insights about your customers.

What a great research vehicle – a free, qualitative, online focus group. The aforementioned DIY biodegradable coffin might be an idea from a single, eccentric member of the community. But hang on. That could be a new product extension that will make you serious money. There might be a market there – for those who have environmental concerns, are creative, unconventional. Sounds like a big market to me.

By getting the ideas of the crowd, you are maximising your strength and opportunities. If GAP had have tested a few logos with its loyal customer base, it may never have caused so many dents to its brand equity.

It’s like a barbecue

Publicity expert, Joan Stewart, talks about social media as like being at a barbecue. Would you go up to complete strangers, hand out your business card and start talking about the great things you do? How do you think they would react? Most Australians don’t like braggers. People will probably think you are a self-obsessed idiot rather than be impressed.

How about if a friend was with you and introduced you by saying “This is Tim. Tim is a GENIUS with real estate. He sold my house in 2 weeks and fetched me a lot more than I expected.”

Different reaction.

Your business is far better off when you can get other people saying how great you are, rather than you saying how great you are. When you say how great you are, nobody believes you. Create a comfortable space that’s fun, serves good stuff, has a whole bunch of likeminded people, and let go…

Start the conversation and make it interactive. It’s about the relationship.

Be a little bit brave

Show some guts. Ask people what they like about your offer and what they don’t like. If they have a negative rave about you – there’s your opportunity to form a more highly bonded customer relationship. Use a down-to-earth and conciliatory voice to answer their claims and take a knock where it’s deserved. Eat the humble pie if that’s what is served. Learn from it. Remember the barbecue. If someone launched out of the blue and started insulting you, do you want to run or do you want to listen to what’s up with this guy so you can understand, calm him down and explain what the reality is. That’s where social media cranks. What a joy if you end up in a virtual hug and back-slap. You, my friend, have earned a loyal customer.

Be humble.

There is so much fear about speaking truthfully these days. People and companies worry that there will be consequences. Reminds me of a fellow named Johnny. Yes, we committed genocide. Yes, we kindnapped descendants. Yes, we took possession of  territory under the claim of terra-nullius, which was not legally applicable in hindsight. But no we won’t apologise. Not even as a symbolic act. Because it might leave us open to a claim for compensation.

You will do more damage by denying a blunder and covering it up than by apologising and fixing your mistake. Why do you think so many people wind up suing others in court? Because they never got an apology. Because they were made to feel that they were not important.

People are happy and pleased to see someone admitting that they were wrong. It creates a bond of empathy and mutual respect. Nobody is perfect. People like others who are willing to admit when they are wrong. If you are, ‘fess up. Say what you will do about it and do it. If you need to clarify something – if someone is claiming something that is wrong – clarify it calmly. Not as a school ma’am or Principal Skinner, but as would the friend next door. Better this than letting it move virally as a damaging meme. Barack Obama was aware of the potential for damaging memes and addressed them head-on with Fight the Smears website during his 2008 election campaign: http://fightthesmears.com/

On the other hand, if your company has too many blackholes to run the risk of public customer feedback, stay away from social media and work on those holes. Really patch them well.  If you’re in this situation, don’t use social media as a promotional platform to enhance a shonky image. It won’t work. Whatever people think of you on the outside, this will be magnified through the social media prism. No-one likes big egos. Ego and insecurity go hand-in-hand. And it’s obvious.

Gratitude

When somebody says something positive about you, or thanks you for your good service or assistance, say “thank you”. There are few things in life more meaningful than sincere words of appreciation. It has taken time for the person to write a thank you. Reward engagement.

A Brand is Like a Child

Kahlil Gibran sagely wrote that “your children don’t come from you, but through you”. Same goes for brands. They are not possessions. They encapsulate a spirit, a  way of thinking, a collection of perceptions and beliefs. They become self-fulfilling and take on lives of their own. Management teams are just the nannies that fuss and bother and can stifle the child.

The job of the brand’s guardian, through all of the brand’s adventures and misadventures, is to guide and allow it to become what it needs to become. Its should not strive to isolate the child for fear of infection. It needs to play in the world and boost immunity by fighting the occasional germ.

In the real world, peers (customers) are a stronger influence here than parents (managers).  But the brand always needs to be protected from corrupting or unhealthy influences. The guardian needs to use great diligence  about who the brand gets into bed with. At the end of the day, its sense of values and integrity is its strongest asset and these should be safeguarded at all costs. And if you do that right, you’ve done a good job.

Recall what happened when GAP decided to change its logo? It demonstrated a distinct lack of understanding of what the child had become. What identity it had taken on in the minds of so many. It was a case of  ‘funky K-Mart jeans’ and a ‘radical sk8boarding T-Shirt’ Christmas, when Joey wanted a blazer and a rocking horse.

The tribe revolted. Much embarrasment, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and after bucketloads of vitriol, management reverted to the old logo.

The lesson is to keep in touch with what is important to your customers. What they like and don’t like. What they are comfortable and uncomfortable with, how they think you need to evolve (grow up) and offer to stay relevant in the future. This is where social media makes a useful tool. Stay connected. You set the course, but the crowd is at the rudder.

Do you have any feedback to improve this article? Am I right or totally wrong? Share your thought. Thank you! And thanks for reading.

By Danielle Spinks (c) 2010