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.
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.