Facebook 101 for Small and Local Businesses

How many times has this happened to you? You’re strolling down a sidewalk in your hometown and you notice a brand new sign on a previously unnoticed storefront with the following call to action: “Join us on Facebook.” You stop and stare, and register the strangeness of the request. Why would I want to be fan of a barbershop?

The point of the above anecdote is not to make fun of the smaller businesses in the social media sphere. I “like” plenty of local businesses on Facebook. Consider the odd juxtaposition in the image of the car wash above. As misguided and out of place as the signage is, that car wash is becoming more and more representative of the mindset of small, local businesses.

It’s easy to for small businesses to get lost among the industry giants, national organizations and pop culture superstars on Facebook.  Yet the long tail of social media marketing would indicate that for every Nike page with 2,400,000+ fans, there are countless small businesses struggling to build small dedicated communities.  How can they make a mark in Facebook?

Here’s a few tips for small and local businesses looking to build their own (mini) Facebook empires:

  1. Turn that advertisement into a call-to-action
    This tip is inspired by the aforementioned car wash in the photo above, but it can be utilized by any business looking to promote its Facebook affiliations terrestrially: Give me a REASON to like you on Facebook. It’s not enough to alert me to your existence, especially if I’m flying by on the road. To put it bluntly, what’s in it for me? Will I learn about special deals? Can I get 15% my next car wash? Enticing a new fan to seek out your Page requires more than a leap of faith.
  2. Translate your offline experience into an online one
    Your business may be 9-5, but your Facebook Page is 24-7.  You need to spend time both building your Page and maintaining it. Plenty of businesses are content to construct a Page and walk away, expecting flocks of new Facebook followers to magically “like” them.  You want to give prospective fans a reason to return to your physical business, so give them a reason to return to your Facebook Page. Engage on a daily basis, offer regular deals, deliver fresh content and provide customer service whenever you can.
  3. Get everyone on board
    Encourage everyone in your business to be involved on the Page. Not only will this immediately increase your sphere of potential fans, but it will ensure that someone is there to monitor your Page and offer new content at any time. This extends to your customers.  Your best customers, the ones who are already providing word-of-mouth offline will be just as inclined to do the same online.
  4. Get your business on Facebook Places
    Facebook Places is a new Facebook application that aims to make the social network a player in the location service wars.  By signing your business up, you allow users to “check” in to your establishment on Facebook, signaling their whereabouts to their friends while giving your business a little recognition boost.
  5. Know thyself
    There’s no problem with ignoring any of the above pieces of advice before going full steam into Facebook, but at least do a little self-reflection first.  Some businesses translate more naturally to the social media sphere. Do you own a local coffee shop with a regular and youthful group of customers? Natural fit for Facebook. Do you run a lamp shade retail shop in the Ozarks? An uphill battle awaits.  Know your client base, know your business interests, and know your ability to build and maintain a community.

What other tips would you recommend to local and/or small businesses looking to enter Facebook?

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