Get started with Facebook

facebookWhat is Facebook?

Facebook is a free networking website which enables friends to keep in touch with each other by acting as a hub for a range of online social activities. ‘Friends’ - ie people who opt into each other’s networks — can post short ‘status updates’ about what they are doing or feeling, share photos and videos, recommend other websites, leave messages on message boards, have ‘real time’ online conversations, and much more besides

It began life as a US-based collegiate networking system, but Facebook has evolved into the preferred social networking website for almost 1 billion people worldwide. The emphasis is strongly on ‘personal’ rather than ‘business’ use, so it is better suited to businesses targeting consumers rather than B2B businesses.

In particular, through the use of ‘fan pages’ and targeted advertising, Facebook offers businesses opportunities to:

  • strengthen their brand identity and profile
  • build customer relationships
  • generate word-of-mouth advertising
  • steer customers towards their website and other marketing activities
  • establish their expertise
  • be found by people looking for their product or service.

Through the conversation stream on your profile wall and those of your connections it is possible to build up a presence in no time at all. If you use Facebook well, you can raise the profile of your business and your brand by having people stick their hand up to say they approve of you and want to connect online. Businesses can also buy advertising space on Facebook that is carefully targeted at prospective customers.

Setting up your account

Step 1: Go to www.facebook.com and register your free account. You will need to provide a name and an email address. It is best to use your own name, rather than your business name - you can create a fan page for your business later.

Step 2: Create your personal profile. This is an opportunity to let people who connect with you know who you are, what you can offer them and to direct them towards your business website or other online media. Because Facebook is primarily a social resource, the information categories are geared towards personal tastes and experiences and you may feel you are blurring the boundaries between your personal and professional lives. You may have to adjust to this informal way of building relationships around your business.

Step 3: Join a network. Go to ‘Settings’ and ‘Networks’ and type your location, school, university or other large organisation into the search box. If a network exists, join it.

Step 4: Add existing friends. There are a number of tools built into Facebook that help you to connect with acquaintances quickly. You can automatically import email addresses of people who are on your existing email contact list, for example. You can also trace people via mobile phone numbers if they have posted their number in their profile. Use the search bar to find individuals, organisations, businesses or educational institutes you want to connect with.

Befriending someone will send them a notification message that you wish to connect. If someone wants to connect with you through your invitation they will accept your link up.

Step 5: Alter your privacy settings. Click on the ‘Settings’ link at the top of your account page to alter your personal details and determine who can and cannot see your posts, select which new information will be automatically emailed to you, and so on.

Step 6: Start posting. You can share ‘status updates’, photos, web links, video and much more with your network. Think carefully about how you want to present yourself and your business to your contacts.

Setting up a fan page

A ‘fan page’ is a page exclusively dedicated to a business, celebrity or organisation. People who join the page become ‘fans’, who can leave messages on the messageboard and receive updates when new information is added to the page.

Your fan page should be the hub of your business-related activities on Facebook; it will also be picked up search engines, so will reach interested people outside of Facebook, too.

Step 1: Go to www.facebook.com and click the ‘Create a Page’ link directly beneath the bright green ‘Sign Up’ button on the right-hand side of the page. 

Step 2: Fill out the required information fields. You can identify youself by sector or by brand, product or business name. Enter your full name at the bottom of the page and click ‘Create Page’.

Step 3: Fill out your profile. Your business profile follows a similar format to your personal profile, except that you will be asked for a link to your website, an overview of your company and a description of your product or service. Be concise, but be sure to include essential detail.

Step 4: Publish. Hit the publish button and connect with people or promote your page through Twitter and other social media platforms.

Using Facebook in your business

1. Before you start

Before you jump in and become a part of the Facebook community, think about what you want from it and how much time you can give to it:

  • Are you looking to be discovered by people who are searching for your products or services?
  • Are you looking to promote yourself or your brand, or both?

Being focused on a particular marketing goal (or set of goals) will help you build a community of relevant Facebook members who are happy to publicly declare themselves fans of your business.

2. Make the most of your fan page

  • Word-of-mouth recommendation is the most powerful currency on Facebook. Your fan page is the place to generate it. If your fans are talking about you on your fan page wall, every one of their friends who follows their comments will also see what they’ve had to say.
  • Make your fan page a hub of engaging information. Use it to share the latest news about your sector, your products or your business and direct fans to your blog for industry insight and analysis. You can set your blog’s RSS feed so that you automatically publish snippets to your wall.
  • Link to interesting or relevant videos, websites, podcasts and blogs - anything that might build your reputation as a hub for useful and engaging information. Your fans might comment on your recommendations and pass them on.
  • Respond to questions and encourage discussion on your fan page wall, and send regular updates to your fans to let them know about new information on your fan page. Listening to your fans, as well as broadcasting, will build relationships and give them a reason to keep coming back.

3. Reward your fans

Some of the best fan pages simply facilitate regular discussion or go for bursts of activity by running competitions or making special offers as a reward for fan loyalty.

4. Promote your fan page

  • Search engines such as Google will put your fan page in front of large numbers of people outside of Facebook. Think what someone would type into a search engine if they were looking for your product or service and use these key words and phrases often in your headings and content.
  • You can also engage with Facebook users on the fan pages of related businesses and organisations. Join others’ communities and comment on their walls. If you can establish your credibility, people will trace you back to your own fan page.
  • If you are willing to invest money as well as time, Facebook also enables you to place an advertisement on the site that will be put in front of a highly-targeted audience.

5. Measure your results

Using the Facebook Grader application, you can measure the success of your page in terms of its reach and how highly rated it is.

If you only do one thing…

Set up a detailed and accurate fan page which features relevant keywords prominently, then reap the rewards of being discovered by search engines.

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