Why Facebook's a great place to start for a small business social media strategy

Whether you’re just starting out in business, or have been in business for a while and are just starting out on your social media marketing journey, Facebook is a great place to start.

From a social media perspective, Facebook is still the big daddy of social media - almost everyone you know and do business with has an account, and if not, then they’re at least going to be aware of Facebook. Not only does that mean it’s an easy place to start in terms of a platform you’re already somewhat familiar with, but you’re also likely to have a list of friends who can support you instantly. That coupled with Facebook’s massive user reach, means you have an incredible opportunity to achieve greater exposure for your business and reach more of your target market.

When you’re starting out in business, or wanting to grow your existing business, then your main objectives are going to be increasing your brand exposure, your brand awareness and, naturally, increasing your sales as a result.

Increasing your overall business exposure means that more people are seeing your brand and being exposed to your business. It’s why big brands advertise and use mass media tools like billboards - they want eyes on their brands. The more eyes on their brand, the more they can increase awareness and the more likely they are to reach their target.

Increasing your brand awareness means that your brand is being recognised by potential customers and clients AND that they make the correct associations about what it is you do and what you stand for. You need exposure to build awareness, but exposure alone is useless if there’s no awareness. No good having all that exposure if people think you’re a pet shop, when actually you’re a vet.

Facebook is a tool for achieving these goals by capitalising on their enormous audience, reach and utility in a way that’s in alignment with your brand and business vision, without an enormous advertising budget. And because Facebook is interactive, instead of just broadcasting a message, you can engage and interact with your audience - something billboards have never quite got the hang of. In every day terms, Facebook is a smarter billboard that lets you not only get your message out to a huge audience, but enables you to build a community as well. It’s been said that content is the new advertising and certainly in terms of social media, the interactive component is key. Now you can promote your business, look after your clients and customers, build your community, and increase your revenue, in a more efficient, scalable and wider-reaching way.

Engagement is key because that’s what’s going to build your community and building a community around your brand is where the exposure and awareness gets real and when people actually want to interact and be a part of what you do. Building a thriving community has always been important in business because it’s how we achieve loyalty (repeat customers) and brand advocates (our word-of-mouth brand evangelists). People expect more from the people and brands they give their loyalty to and in return, their advocacy of those brands will be greatly amplified due to our social media connectivity. That means that just as your brand is able to achieve greater exposure through social media, so can the word-of-mouth of the people who love what you do.

***I really need an info graphic right about here to illustrate the amplification effect that social media has on brand exposure, brand awareness and word-of-mouth advocates … I’ll get onto that and post it separately in the next couple of days***

A solid Facebook marketing plan is a great place to start, but don’t be fooled - it’s a long-term investment that requires a decent commitment of time and energy to reap sustainable results in the future. If you’re expecting thousands of likes and follows in a matter of weeks with little more effort than what’s required to set up the page itself, you’ve been mislead. Building a loyal and thriving community takes time and there are very few shortcuts that deliver any meaningful outcomes.

Black hat tactics such as buying likes and followers are not sustainable, they don’t deliver good business outcomes and can be extremely damaging to your brand in the long run. It’s human nature, or rather, our collective social media training reflects our human nature to view the number of likes and followers a page, business or person as an indication of popularity, authority and success. Of course likes and followers are one form of social proof, but what does it really mean? The truth is that having thousands of likes and follows probably will influence people’s perception of your brand or business online, but does that justify paying for fake ones? Maybe it does, maybe not. That’s your call, but just remember that at the end of the day it’s your real relationships with real people that make your business a success or not. You can’t engage fake likes, you can’t have a relationship with them, they won’t tell their friends about you and they certainly won’t buy your products or services.

Building a genuine, thriving community that will increase the exposure, brand awareness and loyalty around your business is only made possible by leading with generosity, nurturing your community and delivering outstanding value to your existing and potential clients and customers. The tools have changed and a greater reach may be easier to achieve, but people haven’t changed. The reason a successful Facebook presence takes time to cultivate and to see real results that convert to revenue is because it’s about people and relationships - those things, the real deal, take time, just like as they do in *real* life. Facebook is an amazing tool that can give you access to many people, but how you treat them and cultivate your relationships with them is up to you and that’s always been the same.