If you are already a dedicated Facebook user then you understand what the magic is all about. You can connect, converse, and commiserate 24/7 with people all over the world. For individuals, that means you can keep in touch in ways we never even imagined possible five years ago. For business it means uncharted but very fertile territory for improving relationships with customers, getting referrals, and gathering feedback on your products and services. With more than 500 million active users, about half of which log on each and every day, Facebook is the perfect complement to your existing relationship marketing strategy.
By definition, relationship marketing is targeted at establishing profitable, long-term relationships with your customers. Unlike traditional marketing, it does not focus on specific transactions. Instead, the goal is to understand what your customers want and need across the board. In other words, you strengthen your relationships in order to better anticipate what your customers might want to buy while making it more difficult for them to buy what they need from someone else because they have a connection to you.
Of course, implementing any tactical marketing program is easier said than done. That’s why social media such as Facebook have been so readily embraced by companies in search of proactive ways to cement relationships with their customers. And right now Facebook is the biggest of the big. By Facebook’s own count two-third’s of comScore’s U.S. Top 100 websites and half of the Global Top 100 have already integrated their websites with Facebook. If you are going to turn to social media as a marketing tool then you should start with this one. It’s fast, it’s easy, and when done properly, it can be extremely effective.
So you’re sold that you need to be on Facebook. Now what?
Create a Great Fan Page
There are three types of Facebook pages: profile pages, fan pages, and groups. Profile pages are for individual users and are off limits for business. Group pages are still in use but they are considered outdated and don’t allow for the customization that most businesses need. As a business what you need is a fan page. Users will “like” your page and receive updates when you add content.
In truth, it only takes minutes to create a fan page. But to create a really great fan page it takes time and planning. The nuts and bolts of page customization are done with a tool called Facebook Markup Language (FBML). FBML is not difficult to use. You can do it yourself or you can hire a professional to do it for you. But that’s a discussion for another time and place.
Plan your Fan Page
Of course you want your page to complement your overall image and brand but you also need to make it interesting and fun. You can (and probably should) veer away from your brand somewhat, especially if it is already well established. Remember, social networking is supposed to be fun. If you want your fans to keep coming back your page should not be a remix of your web page. Humor can work well if it’s done the right way (take Jack In The Box and Pringles, for example).
Make your Fan Page Interactive
The key to getting fans to spread the word is to keep your page fresh and lively. That means you need to be ready to spend some quality time on your design. You don’t necessarily have to populate the page all on your own though. Coming up with inventive ways to encourage fans to contribute their own content will not only keep them invested in your page but will make sure there is always something new and different. Contest, surveys, polls, and giveaways can all work well to build your fan base and keep it engaged.
Get the Word Out
It doesn’t do much good to have a great page if no one knows it’s there. You need to market your page. If you are starting on a shoestring then get your friends and family to start spreading the word. Make sure you link to your page on your website. Advertise it on your letter head, your business cards, and any other collateral materials you might have. If you have a little money to spend you can advertise with Facebook ads.
Start Small and Work your Way Up
When dealing with technology the temptation is always to jump in with both feet and go big. The trouble is these over sized ventures almost always stall or fall short of expectations. When it comes to setting up your fan page you are better off creating a good long-term growth plan that allows you to start small and work your way up. Experiment to see what works and doesn’t work and above all, have fun with it!
Regardless of the size of your marketing budget, Facebook can be a great resource in your relationship marketing toolbox. You don’t have to be an expert to create an effective page. You just have to be ready to step out of your comfort zone, have a little fun, and be ready to create some great relationships with your fans.