Facebook – does it work for business?

Author -  Labyrinth Solutions

It’s clear that Facebook (FB)  wasn’t invented for business use, at least not according to the recent Hollywood movie ‘The Social Network’. It was developed purely as a social medium, a way for people to interact socially with each other.

However, it wasn’t long before canny marketing people saw the value in the FB platform for increasing their brand recognition, for soliciting market research and even for directly promoting their goods and services.

So, can FB work for you and your business? That’s not a question that can be definitively answered here especially as we’re still in the early days of FB marketing, and strategies and ideas will emerge and evolve as time goes on and indeed as new technologies develop.

Probably a better question to address is ‘What do you want to achieve by using FB?’ Let’s look at some of the possibilities:

  • Brand exposure – getting your brand regularly in front of as large an audience as possible. This particularly suits companies selling directly to the end user, for example retail, but can still be very useful in business to business and other professional services. It’s very hard to measure a precise ROI in these cases, but most marketing people would still attribute a significant value in having your brand immediately thought of for your industry.
  • To advertise or directly promote specific products or services. In some cases it is perfectly feasible to promote something directly; events or limited time promotions are particularly suited to this.
  • Reputation building. This is akin to brand exposure but with an emphasis on portraying ‘thought leadership’ in your industry. Posting useful and interesting information showing your expertise in your industry can add significantly to the confidence someone has in dealing with you. Portraying credibility and integrity in business are hugely important and FB provides a means of doing just that. Having said that however, the reverse is also true and if care is not taken with what is written, both can easily be destroyed, so beware!

The next question to look at then is, ‘Can success be measured?’ Again, this depends on what you want to achieve. Positive brand exposure does tend to help sales, but it is hard to measure by exactly how much. Revenue generated from specific products etc can be measured, especially if ONLY promoted through FB, but in many cases that wouldn’t be practical as they would be promoted in other ways too. Of course, creating printable FB vouchers, or  vouchers/PDF’s on your website, accessible only on specific landing pages that can only be entered through a FB link would be highly measurable.

For many using FB, the aim is to drive traffic directly to the main company website to let it handle the conversion, and therefore measuring traffic entering the site directly from FB is a key metric.  If you have Google Analytics set up on your website, you can directly measure traffic coming in from FB, giving you an accurate view of the effectiveness of what you’re doing there.

Another important yardstick for many, especially those concerned with branding, is increasing the number of people actively keeping tabs on what you’re saying. This  they do by either manually going to your site on a regular basis, or better still becoming fans, or ‘Liking’ you, so that your posts are automatically sent to their own FB pages. The greater the number of ‘likes’ the greater the number of people seeing what you are saying, and the better the chance that your message is then passed onto others.

On a similar vein, gauging the level of interaction from the audience is considered important by some businesses. By encouraging comments, engagement through competitions and ‘sharing’ information and opinions/ideas with others, the business expands its profile and possibly wins itself valuable market research. If you’ve set up your FB pages with a business profile, the people at FB kindly send you a weekly set of stats showing how many people have visited, commented, become new fans (likes) etc., providing a useful tool for testing and tuning your FB activities.

Before deciding whether using FB is for you just beware one thing!  Although FB doesn’t charge for its use (except with paid advertising which hasn’t been discussed here) there is still a cost involved, a factor many people do actually forget about!  It won’t work if you don’t put time into it and that time carries a cost. Could it be used better elsewhere – if so there is an opportunity cost in using FB, and that cost could be quite significant.

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