What’s new on Facebook for small businesses
LOS ANGELES — Jeff Glass used to rely on the Yellow Pages to bring customers to his Rider Shack surf shop here.
Now, Facebook has taken over as his primary vehicle for keeping awareness of his shop in front of the public. And there’s a lot more to managing his Facebook business page than what he originally sought to do — ask customers to “like” his establishment. The Facebook “like” is a vote of confidence, online word of mouth.
“You need active involvement,” says Glass, who owns the shop with his wife, Lacey. “You can go out and pay (marketing) companies to get people to ‘like’ you, but unless you keep (customers) actively involved, a ‘like’ doesn’t go very far.”
Facebook, with more than 1 billion members, is by far the largest social network. Because of its size, it has become the most important first step for any small business’ social-media plans.
The social network regularly updates products that small businesses can use to attract customers. Beyond the “like,” here’s some of what’s new on Facebook.
• Graph Search. Introduced in January and currently only available to a small percentage of Facebook users, Graph Search lets you query the social network for Facebook members’ takes on favorite restaurants and local businesses. Facebook says the tool, when fully implemented, can make it easier for people to discover your Facebook page and learn about your business. Dan Levy, Facebook’s director of small business, says it’s imperative that businesses take the time to update their listings to make sure they show up in Graph Search. You should have a current address, phone number and operating hours on your Facebook page. “In the same way that having a Web page really mattered 10 years ago, being part of Graph Search and having your company discoverable is really important today,” says Levy.
• Promoted posts. Businesses can profit from their “likes” by creating ads that appear in the News Feeds of folks who have liked them — and in the News Feeds of their friends, as well. “It’s a simple, easy way to increase your reach,” says Levy of the service launched last year. The budget is based on how many folks an advertiser wants to reach, and can be targeted via location, age and interests. It can start at $5 a day, says Levy.
• Mobile app install ads. For businesses with their own apps, Facebook offers a paid way to get customers to download the app via an ad that redirects consumers to the iPhone App Store or Google Play.
• Check-in. This feature has been around for quite some time, but with the popularity of mobile, it’s starting to see more usage. Customers click a tab to let friends know they’re visiting a business or other spot, and that shows up in their news feeds. “Every time a customer checks in, that’s like a ‘like’ — another connection,” says Levy.
The Facebook executive says he recently checked Graph Search for Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles, and noticed that a bunch of his friends liked Pink Taco in Century City. That was good enough for him — he visited.
“This is just what humans have always been doing, asking their friends for recommendations,” he says. “Instead of calling 20 friends, the information is out there on Facebook.”
An offshoot of Check-in is “Nearby,” a mobile-only feature. It lets smartphone users discover local businesses their friends have been talking about or checking into. Again, to participate — it’s free — businesses need to update their listings and make sure operating hours, addresses and business categories are current.
When surf shop owner Glass isn’t running the cash register, ordering products, taking photographs of surfboards and updating his website, he comes up with several new Facebook posts daily — showing off items for sale, talking about local weather and surf reports, posting fun pictures and sharing surf music videos.
The posts are vital to keeping Rider Shack alive in the minds of his fan base, he says. They “keep the business fresh in people’s minds, so when it comes time to buy that new wet suit or surfboard, you think of us.”
He spends $120 a month on Promoted Posts to build his network. He says the advertising is working for him. Since he started focusing more on Facebook and paying for posts, his fan base has gone from 1,000 to 6,000 fans, and business is up from last year, he says.
He’s stopped using Google pay-per-click advertising in favor of Facebook, because Facebook is much more affordable, he says. Glass was spending as much as $1,000 a month with Google’s AdWords, which auctions key words for ads that appear near search results. For instance, he was bidding on keywords such as surfboards and wet suits.
“Google is more targeted to get people to buy specific products on our website,” he says. “Facebook is all about awareness, to remind people that we’re here.”
Analyst Greg Sterling of Sterling Market Intelligence says that after Google Maps, Facebook is the second-most-used source of local information for businesses, and that it’s vital for businesses to be on it. “It’s a huge footprint, and they need to be present.”
Google AdWords is a more expensive marketing proposition, but Sterling says it’s a more targeted system for shoppers. “When they’re looking specifically for a plumber, they go to Google. It’s a different behavior pattern on Facebook.”
As for Promoted Posts consumer fatigue, Sterling says that “in most cases, people tolerate ads in exchange for free services, so they understand.”
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