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First and foremost, it’s important to understand that Facebook (and social media in general) is a communication tool. It’s a way for businesses to connect with customers and a safe venue through which customers and potential customers can interact with your business.
With that said, let’s look at the other two primary functions of Facebook: marketing and branding. Both are similar. Both are categories that can mean different things to different people and businesses. While it’s definitely possible to do both well on Facebook at the same time, the safer and less time-intensive strategy would be to pick one or the other as the primary goal (outside of communication, of course).
Here are the two basic options. There will be those who will say that it’s being oversimplified, but this isn’t a tutorial. It’s a way to distinguish between the two so that a business can make an intelligent decision about which mindset to take in their efforts. Once the mindset is established, the strategies can form.
This is becoming the more common practice among businesses because it is more open in form and more singular in goal. More importantly, using Facebook as a marketing tool is considered by many to be harder (depending on your business type, of course). Many, particularly those who are engaged with individual customers on a daily basis such as car dealers and realtors will opt for this approach because it gives them the freedom to simply be entertaining or informative without having to put the time into crafting an appropriate marketing strategy.
It’s the easy road, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any less rewarding.
Using Facebook for branding is all about getting your name, logo, and general message out there. The general message is often abstract – it’s not talking about a sale or a particular product but rather trying to convey a company attitude with the message.
This strategy can use popular images, interesting (and sharable) facts, or funny concepts to will encourage liking and sharing. While some take the road of using ideas that are completely off topic, I’m a firm believer that it’s possible to stay focused on either the local area, the industry, or both with every post. In other words, a car dealer shouldn’t be posting pictures of cats. They should be posting pictures of cars, videos of cars, and images or discussions about the local area.
The branding message is easier to spread because it doesn’t involve marketing. There’s no goal of direct conversions or clicks to the website. It’s all about getting the brand out there as much as possible.
The downside, of course, is in proving ROI. Without direct marketing applied to the messages, it’s a leap of faith that by getting interaction and engagement around content that does not lead directly to a lead or a sale but that keeps the name and logo of the business in mind, that there are intangible benefits that are happening.
Unlike using Facebook for branding, the marketing strategy is trickier. It’s easier to mess up. There’s a risk of actually doing damage to the Facebook account by being too “spammy” with the posts. Those who are not ready to take a little heat on their path to get more conversions should not even go down this road.
However, if your goal is to achieve demonstrable ROI and take what you can today in a concrete manner, this is the right approach. It will rely on Facebook ads. There’s no way around it – unless you’re marketing something that resonates while also being productive such as a funny T-Shirt company, you’re very unlikely to get away with a hardcore marketing message without the use of ads.
Thankfully, Facebook ads are cheap.
Using a marketing strategy on Facebook does not mean that it’s all business. While some I have spoken to on the subject (including a VP at Facebook) have said that businesses can find success by only posting once or twice a week and promoting those marketing posts, I’ve found that a mix of interesting or entertaining content with the marketing messages can be beneficial.
People aren’t going to Facebook to see marketing messages, so yours has to be truly valuable. It’s not about putting up a picture of a car and calling that marketing. It’s about generating messages that they can only get through Facebook. For example, having Facebook-only sales events can be effective with next to zero risk. If people come to the store as a result, awesome! If they do not, then the expenditure was minimal. If they aren’t successful, you shouldn’t give up. You simply need to tweak the message, adjust the advertising, or go through a series of “fun” posts to set up the marketing posts properly.
Regardless of which path you choose, remember the number one rule: Facebook (and social media in general) is about communication. It’s about talking to your customers and having them talk to you. It’s about giving them a venue through which you can be completely open about your business and hold public conversations with unsatisfied customers as well as the happy ones.
Which way fits best with your business? That’s the only real question you need to ask to get started down the right path.