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Last Saturday my girlfriend and I were out for a drive. During our impromptu trip I happened to notice a small, rural gas station which had a sign near the road urging me to "like" them on Facebook. I see this a lot during our trips, actually. Small businesses with social media channels that were poorly planned, don't make sense, or simply aren't looked after. Occasionally I will follow up with these pages, just to see what they're doing on Facebook. Sometimes I see a strong presence with active posting, discounts and offers for fans, and questions and feedback from customers being responded to. However, more often than not I am greeted by something like this pressure washing company that treated their Facebook page like a half-finished website with only a few before and after pictures of their work, or this real estate agent who started out strong with great content, but quickly burned out and never posts anymore.

Image Credit: Tom Fishburne

There's so much hype about how you "have to be on Facebook" in order to be relevant, or how social media will help you reach new customers, but oftentimes businesses don't question why they want to be on Facebook, or how they will use social media to reach new customers. Business owners and decision makers seem to have this assumption that all of this will happen on it's own, but in truth all advertising and media channels can be a great way to reach more customers, but only if you use them correctly. With that in mind, here are a few things that you should consider, whether you're a sole proprietorship or a huge multinational corporation, before you find yourself creating a Facebook Page. If you ask yourself these questions first, you'll avoid wasting your time or burning out.

  • Where are my customers? When deciding why you want to be on Facebook, a great place to start is asking yourself if you should be on Facebook at all. Facebook may be the most talked about social network, but it's not the only social network. As I mentioned in my post about using Pinterest for brands in February (2012), Pinterest is a top traffic referrer for fashion brands, and is a great place to market to women in the US. If you're a B2B brand, or you're trying to do some personal branding and reaching out to new connections, LinkedIn is probably where you need to be focusing your efforts.
  • What are my goals? When you started your business, you had a plan for why you wanted to be in business, what you hoped to accomplish, and how you intended to reach those goals, and your social media presence deserves just as much forethought. Whether you're a small business owner or the VP of social at a larger company, once you know Facebook is where your customers are, you need to understand what you're going to do with that information. Are you trying to attract fans in order to inform them and present soft-sales opportunities like discounts and sales? Do you plan to position yourself as a thought leader with interesting and original content so that you establish yourself as the clear choice over your competitors? Are you trying to drive awareness of your brand and company, more sales, both? Before you find yourself on Facebook, figure out what you hope to accomplish by being on Facebook.
  • How will I accomplish my goals? Now that you know what your goals are, you need a plan for reaching them. Are you going to use Facebook's highly targeted ads to reach out to your target demographic in your area? Once you have a growing community in place, are you going to provide useful information to make sure they're well informed and trust you as an expert in your field before you try to move them down the sales funnel? Are you going to make sure that you balance your self-promotional and marketing activities with conversational posts and other content so you aren't being too pushy with the hard sell and don't lose the interest of your fans?
  • How will I influence my fans? Social media is about more than just advertising. People don't come to Facebook to be advertised to, they come to interact with other people and brands and to share their thoughts and ideas. You need to be ready for the reality of this. You can't go to Facebook (or any social channel) and just talk about "me" and expect to get traction or results. You have to be receptive to feedback from fans, both the positive and negative. This VERY public platform is the place to show off how much you care about your customers and demonstrate that you're listening to their feedback, their concerns, and their thoughts in general. While you certainly want people talking about you, the way to get that attention is through focusing on them, your fans, rather than on yourself.

What social media blunders have you seen in your local community? What would you add to my list of things to consider before joining your brand up for Facebook or any other social property? Be sure to let me know in the comments!

Post by Zachary Chastain
Sep 25, 2012