Lately as I drive around town I see tons of local businesses reminding me to check them out on Facebook. And why not? With more than 900 million users it's the place to be, right? Not to mention it's "free" (watch for upcoming rant on that misconception)! Mark Zuckerberg is practically pushing customers into your door and all you have to do is start up a page, right?
In hopes that they're not reading this, I'm going to call out a couple of local businesses who have a Facebook presence. I'm not mentioning any names or linking to their pages because I'm really not looking to be a jerk here.
- The self storage down the street from my house ran a contest, giving away a TV, an iPad and free storage to Facebook fans. We've all heard that contests are a great way to get people excited right?
- The local wood recyclers advertise their Facebook page on their digital signage along the road. Great! They're getting their digital name out there ready to engage with local landscaping companies and do-it-yourselfers.
But here's the problem. 90% of the posts from the self-storage company are calling out their new fans by name. Yep, each time they get a new fan they post a thank you, and that's nearly all they post. Most likely this tactic will lead to users clicking the hide button as soon as their contest is over. After all, who really wants to see a notification in their stream each time a company gets a new fan? So in the end what did their contest get them? Probably not a whole lot.
And what about the wood recyclers? They mostly post their specials and are lucky if they get two likes per post. Not a lot of socializing happening there.
Now I don't just want to bash the efforts that people are making, especially in light of this recent post on social media critiques, but this approach to Facebook bothers me. Maybe it shouldn't since it's their time and money but I hate that people are jumping on the social media bandwagon just because it's there.
I often hear the question, "Do I need a Facebook page?" I think that if done correctly a Facebook page could help almost any business. However, that doesn't mean that the answer is yes. The question should be, "Where is my time and money best spent?" It might be that a Facebook page is the answer. However, maybe your budget would be better spent on PPC advertising or hiring someone to do SEO for your website. Maybe your time would be better spent networking at local business events. There are a million options and Facebook is not an automatic win.
The main thing to figure out is where you'll get the most bang for your buck and your time. If you're not doing Facebook right then you're probably not really seeing any positive results (ROI, positive sentiment, etc.). In fact there are numerous examples across the web of businesses who have done it wrong and paid the price.
So here's my advice for you small businesses out there (and even the larger ones): Don't just jump into Facebook because it's there. Define your goals, define your target customers and then figure out the best way to reach those goals and those customers. If Facebook is the answer then please make sure you have someone who knows what they're doing. Otherwise you'll be wasting time and money.
As for those businesses that I mentioned before, they still have a chance. I think there's an audience out there for any business. Some audiences will be larger than others but there are always ways to connect.