Small local businesses and many nonprofit organizations have unique challenges in online marketing, largely due to their restricted budgets. Facebook is a marketing platform many believe, at first, to be “free.”
As they inevitably learn, nothing in life or business is free. Facebook, especially, can be a time-suck and a business owner’s time is money. Without the budget for Facebook ads or a professional social media manager, it’s challenging to build a base of engaged local fans.
A lot of small business owners know they should be in the space but are unsure of the potential ROI. Some have tried to run a Facebook Page and become either frustrated or demotivated enough to stop posting regularly, if at all. A return on your investment in local Facebook marketing, as with any other platform, isn’t guaranteed.
However, there are a few things that make a huge difference in the amount of fans drawn to the Page and how they engage and interact with local businesses. These activities literally take minutes and working them into your routine makes a difference. (We won't get into more advanced strategies or integrating Facebook with other channels to avoid scaring you if you’re just getting started.)
Make Friends in the Community
Time Required: 5 minutes
Befriending community organizations, media, and non-competing local businesses is one of the smartest moves you can make as a local business on Facebook.
A few times a week, preferably each day, spend 5 minutes signed in as the Page scanning the newsfeed, Liking and Sharing (where appropriate) community events and non-advertising posts from other pages. For example, your local Big Brothers are having a fundraising tobogganing day - Like their post and Share it to your Page. This serves a number of purposes:
- Others are more likely to Share your content.
- You become more than a marketing vessel, but a source of local information.
- The fans of the Page you interacted with see your name, know you’re there, and might just Like you, too.
- You can foster business relationships that help each of you gain exposure to the other’s fan base by offering joint specials or trading prizes for contests to switch things up.
- You save time by having more content to post without having to create it.
Taking 5 minutes a day to be social with others in your area is a win-win. It’s the whole point of social media, yet the majority of local Pages miss this one very important concept.
Get Your Current Customers on Board
Time Required: How fast can you order a menu insert, print a sign, or change an email signature?
Every person who walks out of your store without having been made aware somehow that there is a benefit to joining you on Facebook is a wasted opportunity. What did it take to get them into your store, a radio ad? A newspaper ad, billboard, or even your external signage? Now that you have their attention, get them onto the one platform that will help you tokeep that attention on an ongoing basis, wherever and whenever they’re on Facebook.
Any type of business can promote their Facebook page in-store. One business bought a TV to put at the front of his store to play a rolling clip that included an ad about their Facebook page, but it doesn’t have to be that elaborate.
You put your store’s physical address and phone number out there... make the effort to get your Facebook URL and/or a QR code out there, too. Put it on:
- Printed receipts, sales orders, or whatever else you hand the customer when they pay.
- Bags and other packaging
- Email signatures of all employees and your other web properties
- In-store signage, whether that means updating existing material or getting new ones
- Your print, TV, and/or radio ads
The possibilities depend on the type of business, but consider the space you have and how you could get the word out among your current and potential customers.
For example, restaurants might add the URL on their table talkers or menu inserts. A hotel can add a clip to the in-room TV default channel with hotel information, on elevator signage, and on room service menus. Hardware stores have ample shelving space for signage. A local RV store can have table talkers in the RVs. A movie theater can print the URL on ticket stubs.
Critical: make sure your employees know what you’re doing on Facebook. Nothing looks worse than an employee with a blank stare when asked about a promotion seen on Facebook.
Run More Contests with Small Prizes
Time Required: A few minutes to set up, a few minutes to draw a winner, a few minutes to play up the win.
Don’t give away big prizes on Facebook. Does that run counter to everything you’ve heard about Facebook marketing?
Here’s the truth: occasional contests with big prizes like trips, iPads, and TVs are a waste of your money. You’re going to attract people who don’t care at all about your product or service and just want something for free. They’ll like your Page, enter your contest, and you’ll never hear from them again.
I like Wildfire for most contests, but I really don’t like that client contests are advertised on their homepage – not for local businesses. Even if you turn that setting off, who on Facebook wouldn’t Like a page to win a 50" TV?
One of Wildfire's best features is that it helps the contest spread by posting entries to the entrants profile for their friends to see. But local businesses don’t want to attract entrants from 150 miles away who are never going to enter their store.
Wildfire is also great for making the legalities of running contests on Facebook simple, but even at the lowest price point, it’s going to cost you $30-$40 to run the average contest. Then there’s the cost of your prize. Is it worth it to attract a bunch of fans who just want free stuff?
Facebook doesn’t permit you to run “Like our page to enter,” or technically even “Like this post/picture to enter,” contests (even though you see them all the time). A better strategy for businesses looking to increase their presence in one geographical area is to use contests for customer retention and loyalty.
Give away smaller prizes more often. Why not give something away in-store and post a picture of the winner with their prize to Facebook? Give customers a secret word on your Facebook Page and handle entries in-store.
You don't have to run contests. For example, you could regularly give away tickets to events or merchandise from sponsors to people who interact with the page.
Rewarding those who already interact with you, online or off, helps make them advocates for your brand and gives you positive content to post. And it helps you stay out of the “I have 5,000 fans and 2 interactions a week” hole.
Bring Your Real World Online
Time Required: 5 minutes
Coming up with new content for Facebook is one of the biggest struggles for local business owners and the number one reason they tell me they stopped trying. You’re busy, do you really need something else to do?
I bet there are a thousand things happening in your store every day that could translate to Facebook content. Consider these:
- Create testimonials. Do you have comment cards or receive compliments from your customers? Keep a blank 300 x 250 white JPEG or PNG with just your logo on your computer. Once a week, use a free photo editor to add text to your template and turn your customers’ praises into pictures. Make an album called Testimonials. Use a first name and last initial as the signature. It pops back up to the top of your Page every week when you add new photo testimonials, so it’s always in easy scrolling distance for new customers. You don’t want it to show up every other post, so if you don’t post as often, add photo testimonials every other week. This also shows the people who left the comments that you cared.
- Tell your fans what you’re up to. Sounds simple, but it’s baffling when local businesses sponsor soccer teams, hold open houses, or participate in community fundraisers and don’t post about it. Post the week before: this is coming up. Post the day of: this is where we are today, come check it out. Post pictures afterwards. Simple.
- Use Facebook to enhance your offline business. You’re choosing new products to carry; ask your fans what they think of them. You’re considering offering a new service; ask your Facebook followers what they think of it. Ask what they thought the last time they visited your store and don’t worry if you get constructive criticism; it’s an opportunity to come back and make more posts about the changes you made and how you addressed customer wants and needs.
- Celebrate events and invite your fans to participate. If your employees wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, offer Facebook fans who come in dressed in green a discount. I had an insurance broker client who was known in the area for her baking skills; before stat holidays, she invited Facebook fans to come to the office for her homemade cookies. The objective is to get people off your computer screen and into your store.
These are just a few ideas on how you can increase your Facebook reach. Time and money shouldn’t stop even the smallest physical business from succeeding on Facebook. Be creative, be real, and be consistent.
Getting your local business on Facebook is about taking the things that are already contributing to your offline success and converting them to a digital format. That’s it, that’s all. You’re already part of a community; you just need to connect in a meaningful way on a new platform.
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