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<firstimage=”//static.makeuseof.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/network1.png” />Most businesses and professionals have gotten the message that Facebook can be a powerful channel to promote their products and services, engage with customers, and strengthen their brand.
Given its community of over 400 million users and climbing, it’s no wonder why most major businesses and brands now have a presence on Facebook (including MakeUseOf).
However, many self-marketers are a little uncertain about how to begin. Here are some practical, first steps to help you get started promoting your business on Facebook.
1. Create a Facebook Page
The Facebook “page” (not to be confused with a “profile” or “group”) was specifically designed by Facebook as a way for businesses, organizations, and Ashton Kutcher to communicate with the public in an official manner. Before creating any pages, you must first have a personal profile. Chances are that you already have one, but if not simply go to facebook.com to sign up.
Your personal profile, however, is generally not what you want to use to interact with your audience and promote your business on Facebook. You will hopefully connect with hundreds, or even thousands, of customers and potential customers on Facebook, but you probably don’t want them all to see your family reunion photos or your comments about last night’s American Idol (Facebook’s evolving privacy settings not withstanding).
Whether it’s for a company or solo freelancer, a fan page is better suited for business purposes. It is customizable, provides usage statistics, and people can become “fans” of your page without worrying about whether they are sharing any of their personal information with you. You can also add applications to your page such as a discussion board, shopping cart, and more.
Create your page
When creating your first Facebook page, I recommend going to the Facebook’s Advertising section, then clicking on “Pages” at the top. The tabs on this page (“Overview”, “Prepare”, and “Step-by-Step”) will provide you with some guidance on how to build and use your page. When you are ready to go for it, click on the “Create a Page” button on the top right, and Facebook will walk you through the process.
Choose your business type
First, you will be asked to select your type of business (local business or professional, national store or brand, musical artist or band, etc.). This business type will appear below your page listing in searches, and it may affect the customization options for your page. For instance, if you are a local business, you’ll have a special section to list your hours of operation.
Select a page name
Then you’ll need to enter a name for your page. You have 75 characters to work with, so you could include some terms that will help people find you when they perform a search on Facebook. Or you may choose to simply use the name of your company or website for consistency. Keep in mind that an overly wordy name might become visually overwhelming since it’s placed next to every post and comment you make.
- Before you click “Create Page”, make sure you are happy with your choices because they cannot be modified. If you change your mind about your business type or name, you’ll have to start over with a new page and convince all of your fans to “re-fan” you at your new location.
- Your personal account is now the “admin” for the page, with the ability to manage its settings and content. However, you can also assign additional admins or even remove yourself if you eventually part from the business.
Find your page
Some people have difficulty finding their page because there is no link on the Facebook home page to take you to your fan pages. To find your page just go to facebook.com/pages and click on “Pages I Admin” on the top left. Alternatively, you can type the first 3 letters of the page’s name in the Facebook search box, and it will appear in the selection drop-down.
2. Customize Your Page
Now that you have created your page you will want to customize it for your business.
Add your company information
The first thing to do is add a profile image to your page. If you are a professional such as a consultant or photographer, you may choose to use a photo of yourself. If your page is for a company or product, you might want to use your company logo.
Then add a brief description of your business in the information box below your profile image, and also provide additional details under the “Info” tab such as a company overview, website addresses, products, etc.
Create a custom URL
In order to more easily direct people to your facebook page, you’ll want to create a custom website address like “http://facebook.com/bartswidgets”. To do this you’ll need to select a “username” for your page by going to facebook.com/username. You will have the option to select a username for your personal profile as well as usernames for your Facebook pages. For branding purposes, you will probably want to use the same name as your website. Or you might select something else simple and memorable.
- The username is another item that cannot be changed once it is set, so choose carefully!
- Facebook’s currently policy is to only allow a username for pages that have 25 fans or more, so you’ll need to get a few people signed up before you can do this step.
When you’re ready to step-up your customization, and potentially your page’s popularity, add the Static FBML application to create a nice looking landing page. Look out for an upcoming MakeUseOf article to guide you through it.
3. Publicize Your Page
When Facebook users become “fans” and interact with your page, all of their friends will see their activity and may decide to become fans as well. This builds awareness of your page and your business through “word of mouse”. Here a few ways to help accelerate your exposure on Facebook:
Suggest to friends
Kickstart your fanbase by inviting your friends to join. First become a fan yourself by clicking “Become a Fan” at the top of the page. Your friends might notice and start becoming fans right away. For the more direct approach, click on the “Suggest to Friends” link below the profile image. Facebook will send an email invitation to all the friends you select.
Display on your website
Include links to your Facebook page on your website and blogs. Go to Facebook’s widget page to grab a “Page Badge” or “Fan Box” to display on your site. You can customize them to show your page activity, list of fans, and even a “Become a Fan” button to allow people to join without leaving your website. Also be sure to include a link to your Facebook page in any emails and electronic newsletters.
Consider printing your new custom facebook address anywhere that you list your website: appointment cards, flyers, holiday cards, and even promotional items. These days, companies are even announcing their Facebook pages on signage and in television commercials.
Create a Facebook ad (this is a paid service)
If you’d like to pay Facebook to help you promote your page, you can create an ad that will display on the Facebook website. Click on the “Promote with an ad” link below your profile picture, and customize the details for your advertisment.
The beauty of Facebook is that you can target your ads based on demographics such as geography, gender, age, relationship status, and even employer. You have the option to pay for clicks (CPC – cost per click) or pay for impressions (CPM – cost per 1,000 times the ad is displayed).
Most advertising folks agree that one of the most effective ways to generate buzz is to give away free stuff. For example, you can offer a prize when you reach a certain number of fans or on a pre-announced date.
Note: Facebook’s policies continue to evolve regarding giveways and contests. Be sure to check their Terms of Service.
4. Be Interesting
To take full advantage of your page, you should post interesting content regularly. You certainly want to include updates about your products and services, but also consider customer stories, photos, and videos. If you have a blog, you can configure your page to display an RSS feed of your posts. Try to especially include articles or links that may be useful to your fans, and encourage them to participate through comments and discussion.
Your fan page is your home on Facebook, but you hope your messages will spread to all corners of the social network. Anything your fans find interesting they can share with their friends with one click. Plus any interactions they have with your page are automatically visible to their friends — that’s the promotional power of facebook.
What techniques do you use to promote your business on facebook?