Should your business be on Facebook?

This is a question we get asked a lot, from businesses in all sectors and of all sizes. What it used to really mean was: should my business be on social media at all? People were trying to work out whether social media would be a valuable part of their marketing toolkit or if it was just something they wanted to do because everyone else was at it.

Nowadays, with the growth of so many social media platforms, it's more a case that businesses are much more strategic about which channel they choose. They want to make absolutely sure it's going to bring them positive, measurable results.  

How to get results from Facebook (what we used to say)

What people tend to want from their Facebook business pages is a high follower count. As well as a nice warm glow, it should hopefully bring more visitors to your website and in turn, lead to sales.

The way to increase numbers - without cheating by buying loads of random followers of course - has always been to create great content which people will comment upon, like and share. That ensures that it shows up the news feeds of all their connections, which will draw more followers to your page. 

Coupled with marketing on other channels and a bit of promotion from allies who already have a large following, this has always been an honest, steady way of building an audience of followers who are genuinely interested in your product or service. 

So what's the problem now?

The problem nowadays is that Facebook has somehow got to make money. It's a simple two-step process (albeit one which has required a heck of a lot of long-term investment).

  • Step one: Get everybody to use the platform as an essential part of their marketing strategy.
  • Step two: Get them to pay for it.

How can they do that? By ensuring that your content is seen by far fewer people than before - unless you stump up the cash. This is what's known as a reduction in organic reach, in an attempt to get you to make up the difference in paid reach through paying for advertising.

The dawning of the age of the Reachpocalypse

Jay Baer, in This Chart Explains the Reachpocalypse and Why Facebook is Laughing All the Way to the Bank talks through the process:

Yes, Facebook encouraged businesses to build and reach audiences for “free” on their platform (until that free ride ended), and that should be no surprise whatsoever.

Clear-eyed business observers have been raising the alarm about building your house on rented land for years, but Facebook has still been able to pull off the greatest Gillette scam ever (you give away the razor, and then sell the blades).
— Jay Baer, Convince and Convert

So for brands who have spent years building up massive Facebook communities which drives the bulk of their website traffic, this is bad news. They are going to need to pay to boost individual posts, or take out ads which they can target by location, gender, interests and keywords relating to their product.

For the newer business, or one which just hasn't taken the social media plunge yet, it's a different question: should we go on Facebook at all if it's going to cost us money? Should we just rely on our website? Focus on Twitter? Start writing a blog? Go back to print advertising?

Questions to ask yourself before starting a Facebook page for your business

The very first thing you should consider is: is it the right platform at all? Facebook is very good for anything involving a community, humour, events, or lifestyle topics such as food, family or fashion.

If you're more of a business-to-business kind of organisation where your target audience is professionals, you might want to think about focusing on LinkedIn instead, for example. If you use Facebook at all, it could be to show your human side, for example pictures of your company charity events.

If your brand offers lots of opportunities for visual content, you might want to do a mix of Twitter for news updates, coupled with an Instagram account for lots of alluring, spontaneous snaps.

The second thing to think about is: how established is your business? If your product or service is already well known and you have a big database of customers, you have a head start. So many of these people will already be on Facebook and it'll just take a nudge to get them to sign up and start following you. 

I would also think about complementary marketing. How active is your marketing already; do you send out email newsletters? Flyers? Do you hold events? Promoting a Facebook page from scratch without any of these things will make it a tricky prospect.

Lastly, do you have an advertising budget? It sounds a bit scary, but Facebook has made it very easy for the small business owner - you can run an advert to target audiences for £3 a day, or boost individual posts for, say, £12. They will give you guidance as to how many people it will reach, and in our experience, it works. New Facebooks whose follower count has trickled upwards has suddenly leapt skywards once a bit of money has been spent on advertising.

The future for Facebook: Ecommerce

One thing to bear in mind when weighing all this up, is that Facebook is shortly going to introduce an ecommerce button. This means you'll be able to sell products through your Facebook page, so if you get the balance right, the advertising spend should pay for itself.

You can already do this to some extent, using an application like Shopify, but when it's introduced by Facebook it will be much more integrated and easier to get to grips with. Currently being tested in the US, people on desktop or mobile will be able can click the 'Buy' call-to-action button on ads and business page posts to buy a product directly, without leaving Facebook.

Is Facebook best for your business?

Does your business use Facebook? If not, what put you off? Or have you had surprising results? Let us know in the comments below, we'd love to hear about your experience.

Picture credits: Facebook for Business