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Facebook fan pages as marketing tools 

As if you haven't got enough to do in running an online business, there are all the social networking type services to consider as well. Is it worth the effort to have a presence on these services? Is it awfully time consuming or costly?

Depending on the social network you choose, it can be quite rewarding and doesn't require a huge deal of effort. Twitter as a marketing tool can be quite effective and the other service to seriously consider is setting up a Facebook fan page.

Facebook's popularity is such that in January 2010, USA traffic to the site was 134 million unique visitors - bypassing Yahoo's results.

A study released in February 2010 found Facebook fan pages can be very effective in increase sales, word-of-mouth marketing and customer loyalty. 

Research from Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Business surveyed customers of Dessert Gallery (DG), a popular Houston-based café chain. Prior to the study, the chain didn't have a Facebook presence. 

After launching a Facebook presence, 1,700 DG customers were surveyed over a three-month period. The survey found that compared with a typical non-Facebook fan DG customer, the company's Facebook fans:

  •  Made 36% more visits to DG's stores each month.
  • 45% more of their eating-out dollars were spent at DG.
  • Spent 33% more at DG's stores
  • Demonstrated 14 percent higher emotional attachment to the DG brand.
  • Had 41 percent greater psychological loyalty toward DG.

While DG is a bricks and mortar affair; the same sort of success can apply to online business. It's mainly about keeping your business fresh in people's memory and with Facebook now a daily activity for most folks - it's a great way to do so; and for free.

As with marketing via Twitter, it's my opinion in most cases that Facebook should not be seen as the be all and end all of your marketing - it's just another aspect that you shouldn't have to spend more than an average of a few minutes a day on. If it really takes off, then of course that is a signal to invest more resources into your Facebook fan page.

Facebook fan pages are also a great way to stay in touch with your email newsletter subscriber list in between issues.

Additionally, search engines may start utilizing Facebook data - such as Bing is now doing.

Having a Facebook fan page is totally free and easy to set up - you can sign up for one here:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php

What to put on your Facebook fan page?

Aside from basic contact details, the normal "about" type promotional blurbs and perhaps a few photos, the real power of Facebook Fan Pages is in the status updates. 

While posting specials or posting product highlights regularly and "Facebook-only" offers are a great way to boost sales, do be careful with using a sell, sell, sell approach all the time as that might send some folks packing - mix things up a bit. 

As you go about your day to day business, you'll no doubt come across news stories related to the niche you're in that may be of general interest to your "fans" - these items make for good content; as will some internal news items.

Adding new articles to your web site? Summaries and links are a great way to drive traffic to these pages and generate conversation.

It's all about creating value for your fans - to make your updates something they feel is worthwhile to appear in their own feeds.

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Launching and marketing your Facebook fan page

I've found the best approach is to work on the page, but don't make it live until it's totally ready to go and you already have a few posts up. That way you won't be sending folks to a page where there is really nothing to see. This is also a good opportunity to have a "Facebook only" special as one of the items as a way to kick things off - add this as the latest post just before launch.

With your Facebook fan page now live, it's time to get the word out. I suggest coinciding the timing of unveiling with just before your next email newsletter send if you have one. In that newsletter, flag the new page and the fact there is a very special offer to celebrate your Facebook launch. Even if you don't have special offers at that point, you can still allude to them being included in the future.

Something as simple as this can do the trick, with links to your page from the appropriate anchor text:

----

Great news - we have finally launched our Facebook page! It will be updated regularly with news from our company and the industry, plus some very special Facebook-only offers. To have our news and special offers appear in your Facebook feed, simply click the "become a fan" at the top of our Facebook page.

This is a great way to keep tabs on what's happening at X in between newsletters and we look forward to welcoming you all!

-----

With so many people now using Facebook regularly, using your existing subscriber list a great way to boost your numbers fast among a group who already know and trust you. With good numbers to kick off, it then makes it far more likely future folks visiting your page will "fan" you.

Soon after your newsletter has gone out, also add a "Find us on Facebook" button throughout your site in a reasonably conspicuous place without it overshadowing everything else. If folks are coming to your site to buy something, you don't want to distract them if possible. Here's a simple button image you can use:

find us on facebook icon

Don't forget to encourage your fans to tell others about your Facebook page - this can be done via your newsletter or through a Facebook post. It might sound a bit silly to tell people they something they already know, but you would be surprised how effective a polite reminder can be - it's a call to action; the cornerstone of all forms of marketing. One well connected Facebook fan can send hundreds more your way!

Dealing with Facebook fan page feedback.

Unlike Twitter, user feedback systems on Facebook are a little more "in your face" - when people comment on what you have to say or information you post; it's there for all to see. 

This can be a bit of a double edged sword. While it can provide messages of support for your business or glowing reviews, it can also provide an avenue for people to criticize you. Sometimes the criticism is constructive, sometimes destructive. 

Unfortunately, people tend to be a little more savage in online feedback and have a greater tendency to exaggerate. There is also the element of total nutters that exist in the online world, along with a healthy chunk of people who like to argue purely for the sake of it.

You can of course choose to delete these comments, but if it's a complaint from an angry customer, that could be counterproductive as it may be seen as an attempt to bury a problem rather than deal with it.

In situations where complaints arise and bearing in mind people are watching what unfolds, it's important to post a follow up stating their concerns are important to you and commit to investigate them promptly. There's no need to admit any sort of liability at that point; just that appropriate action is being taken. Perhaps also try to shift the conversation from your Facebook Fan page into a more private communication via email or phone. You may also need to apply strategies in dealing with aggressive online customers

By the way, Facebook also provides some very interesting statistics regarding who your fans are - such as age group and location, the rate of new fans being added and lost. You'll find this information via the "Insights"/view all link on the left hand side of your page while logged in.

Good luck with your Facebook fan page and related marketing efforts!

Related:

Twitter as a marketing tool

Rethinking user comments

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
http://www.tamingthebeast.net 
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