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Facebook is a popular online social networking site that adds a quarter million new users every day and currently has over 120 million active users. If you think your target audience isn’t on Facebook, you might be surprised to learn the fastest growing demographic is the 25 and older group.

If you’re not comfortable or familiar with social media, you should think of it as a new take on the networking event, except with less pressure to make small talk and no shrimp cocktail boat.

By investing some time and energy into Facebook you can build brand loyalty, establish your expertise, engage your customers on a deeper level, and drive qualified leads back to your Web site.

Step 1: Create Your Profile

Facebook is about personal relationships; the coin of the realm is “friends.” While people may want to be friends with you, chances are they aren’t looking to be friends with your company. Did you ever have a heart-to-heart with Nike, or go to the movies with General Motors?

In fact, creating a profile for your business breaks Facebook’s terms and conditions. Therefore, you need to start by creating a personal profile using your real name.

To build your profile upload a photo, enter your education, business and contact info, and join your local network (i.e., Portland, ME).

The more complete your profile, the more easily you can connect with other people. If you’re concerned about privacy, Facebook offers highly customizable privacy settings that control who can see different elements of your profile. This way you can share photos of your kids with friends and family, but not with your boss or customers.

Next you can upload your contact database to see which of your contacts are already on Facebook, and ask to “friend” any of them you wish. This gives you a good starting point on Facebook, rather than starting cold.

Step 2: Create Your Company Page

Once you have a personal profile, you can create a page for your business. Pages can be populated with company information, photos, video, upcoming events, discussion forums and links back to your Web site.

You can also add additional applications to increase the functionality of your page, such as an RSS feed from your blog or embedded videos from YouTube. Pages are made publicly available so search engines can find and index them, which is an added benefit.

People on Facebook can become “fans” of your company, which is a great way for you to stay in touch with them and share information and advice. Think of gaining Facebook “friends” or business “fans” in the same way you think of increasing your email subscriber base: they build your network.

You can promote your company page via email, your blog, and through the Facebook network to drive more traffic and build up your fan base.

If you’re wondering why you need a Facebook page since you already have a Web site (and maybe a blog,) it’s about being where your customers are…location, location, location.

Step 3: Join and Create Groups

Another way to network on Facebook is through the use of groups. Groups, unlike pages, are only visible to Facebook members. Groups can be formed around anything from sustainable business practices to political affiliations to love of a particular video game or breed of dog.

Chances are your prospects already participate in these groups; if not, create a new group and invite some friends and fans to get the ball rolling. An assisted living resident might create a “sandwich generation” group; a business coach might create a personal power group.

Once nice benefit of groups is that you can “bulk invite” people to join (who are connected to you on Facebook), and they can then “bulk invite” their friends as well. This means your group can go viral quickly, and so groups are great ways of promoting a movement.

Words of Caution (or Don’t Be “That Guy”)

You know those people who go to networking events and try to sell you long before they learn anything about your needs? Who are pushing their product or service as they give you their never-let-go-G.I.-Joe-with-the-Kung-Fu-grip handshake? It’s easy in real life to see how obnoxious that behavior is, right?

Well, then don’t behave that way on Facebook. (Or on any social media site, for that matter.) Anyone jumping into social media as a way to make a quick sale will be sorely disappointed, and may irrevocably damage their reputation.

Social media is about building relationships; you build your network and your reputation over time by providing value to other people. The best book ever written on social media marketing could well be How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

As Facebook expert Mari Smith says, “You need to focus on building rapport, reaching out to connect with others, adding value, sharing information relative to your niche and marketplace.”

In Conclusion

Facebook is a powerful networking tool that connects you with your prospects and customers in new and engaging ways. There are conversations, events, and networking opportunities that are only happening there; if you’re not on Facebook, you’re missing these opportunities.

Every small business owner and entrepreneur should invest some time to determine how Facebook fits in with the rest of his or her marketing efforts.

Once you sign up for Facebook, feel free to friend me there, and visit the flyte new media page and become a fan.

For more good reading on Facebook for business check out Mari Smith’s 3-in-1 Facebook Tips Report and Hubspot’s Facebook for Business Webinar, both of which helped frame this article.

–Rich Brooks
President, flyte new media

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