PALO ALTO, Calif. — With more than 500 million members, Facebook is hugely attractive to small businesses as a place to market their wares.
But tips on how small businesses can best work with Facebook tools are buried within the site, leaving many entrepreneurs puzzled about how to use the site to get new clients and strengthen the loyalty of existing customers.
How frequently should a business communicate with its customers? And what is the significance of that "Like" button anyway?
For answers to those questions and more, USA TODAY recently paid a visit to Emily White, Facebook's director of Local, who works with businesses on Facebook tools. White was interviewed in a conference room at Facebook headquarters here, where her shiny Apple MacBook laptop was adorned with a "Like Us on Facebook" sticker that the company gives to businesses.
Q: Let's start off by talking "Likes." There is such an emphasis now by companies on getting customers to "like" them, by clicking the "Like" tab on Facebook. Why are likes such a big deal?
A: A "like" is an endorsement, a lightweight action that allows a user to say "I like what you're doing in this area; I like your product; I like your photo; and I want to put in a vote for you."
It's a way for your customer to say, "I like this business, and I'm going to tell everyone about it."
Q: Competition for "likes" has gotten so heated that many companies are actually offering to sell "likes," by paying folks to hit the "like" button over and over again. How does Facebook feel about that?
A: We're not fans. They're disingenuous and don't mean anything. If that page is publishing to an individual's profile, they'll start marking it as spam. You want a genuine "like." You want someone to "like" your business because they really do.
Q: How often should businesses post to their customers? Hourly? Daily? Weekly?
A: "The general rule is, you're in pretty good shape if you're posting three times a week. That gets you to a pretty sweet spot. Any more would be just too much.
Q: Many businesses offer special discounts for Facebook members, free items if you mention the Facebook post and the "like." What's the best-performing offer?
A: It's all about authentic content. The great thing about Facebook is you can try something and see how it works with your customers. Ask them, and see the response.
Q: Facebook recently introduced "Deals," a Groupon/LivingSocial type offer for Facebook customers. How can local businesses participate? What's the advantage of using Deals instead of, say, just buying ads on Facebook?
A: Local businesses in the five cities we're testing Deals in (Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, San Francisco and San Diego) can sign up at http://Facebook.com/deals/business. Since Deals really focused on things you can share with your friends, Deals is great for local businesses because it can help bring in qualified customers. When businesses run Deals on Facebook, we also help them run ads directing to their Deals. Deals are intended to drive customers specifically into the store. The purpose of Deals and ads is different, but we think they're complementary.
For the rest of the story, click here.