Facebook has come a long way from cute cat videos (though, admittedly, there will probably always be a place for that sort of thing) and friends keeping in touch
Ever since the big brands realised the value of engaging with an audience via social media, Facebook has honed what it has to offer businesses, and it is now a key marketing tool. For the small business owner it's also a very cost-effective - or even no-cost - marketing tool.
If you haven't yet taken the plunge, or even if you have but are yet to reap the benefits, here are my top 20 tips for making Facebook work for your business.
1. Create a business page
It's absolutely crucial that you set up a business page as opposed to a personal profile. The pages may look similar but business pages feature unique tools that you'll want to use, plus promoting a business from a personal profile is against Facebook's rules.
All that said, you'll need a personal account first in order to create your business page.
2. Choose the right category or type of business
When you start setting up your business page, you'll be able to choose a category for your business, whether you want to promote yourself as a local business, a public figure, charitable organisation or a brand selling a specific type of product.
3. Go public
Make sure you set your business page privacy settings as Public. Whilst your personal page privacy setting is likely to be Friends, you need to ensure that your business can be discovered by anyone.
4. Claim your Page's vanity URL
Once you've created your page, Facebook will generate a random number and URL - it's anonymous and far from memorable. So you need to create a vanity URL that relates to your business, most likely your company name.
5. Add a cover image that will provide visual impact
The image at the top of your business page acts like a magazine front cover, so you want it to add punch. Make sure you optimize your cover photo for the right dimensions - 851x315 pixels for desktop, 640x360px for mobile.
If your uploaded image is smaller than these dimensions, Facebook will stretch it to fit - it's not a good look!
6. Add a profile icon
Make sure it reflects your brand and is easily recognisable. It makes sense to use your logo, or if your business is very much about what you offer as a service you might want to use a decent headshot.
Again, prepare the image to the correct size. It will display as 160x160 pixels, but should be at least 180x180px to upload.
7. Complete the About section
So many people forget to do this, yet it's one of the first things people will look at when visiting a business page for the first time. Write a succinct description of your business, and don't forget to add a link to your website!
8. Use the Call to Action button
People are visiting your page. They need to be encouraged to interact further with you. Facebook knows this, and wants to help you achieve your business objectives - hence the very useful call to action button.
You can choose from seven options - 'book now', 'contact us', 'use app', 'play game', 'shop now', 'sign up' or 'watch video'. Simply choose the most relevant for your purposes.
9. Get to know your audience
Facebook Insights is a really handy analytical tool that will help you understand who is visiting your page and what content is of most interest (or not!). Over time, it will help you develop your social media strategy for greater engagement with your audience.
10. Watch your competitors
Still in Facebook Insights, you can add your competitors under Pages to Watch. This is such a valuable thing to be able to do - you can analyse what they are up to, how people react to their posts and, most importantly, learn important lessons for your own Facebook activity.
11. Invite Likers to Like your page
Someone has liked one of your posts - great! But don't just give yourself a pat on the back. Take it one step further and invite that person to Like your business page - it will boost your Facebook community numbers, and that person will see every post you add in the future.
12. Harness the power of visual content
Images and video content are far more engaging - attracting up to ten times as much interest as a post that is purely text. But please don't ever compromise on quality because you feel you need to post a picture - blurred or shaky pics are not a good thing!
13. Optimize your images
Get your image sizes right for the feed or ads to get maximum impact, and to provide the very best user experience.
It's easy to forget how many pixels you should be working to, so use Hubspot's cheat sheet - it has guidance on optimising images for Facebook, as well as any other social media platform you might use.
14. Post on a regular basis
A business page that has tumbleweed floating through it (you get my drift!) is not a good advert. If you're going to use Facebook, use it proactively. You should be aiming to post two to three times a week - the inbuilt Facebook Scheduling Tool makes life easy.
15. The golden rule is quality, not quantity
How Facebook's algorithms actually work are, like Google's, something of a mystery to us lesser mortals. However, it's clear that Facebook rewards quality posts by making them more visible in people's news feeds, whilst the dross gets shoved well down the feed. So concentrate on relevant and interesting content.
16. Have a chat!
Show your appreciation when someone comments on your posts. It could be as simple as liking that comment or responding to a question. Those simple actions provide a ‘feel good' factor, and will encourage greater loyalty amongst your Facebook followers.
17. Comments beat Likes
Engaging with your audience earns a reward. Facebook now responds more positively to Comments than to Likes or Shares (it's those algorithm changes again!), so you'll boost your visibility the more you actively engage with people on your page.
18. Get your advertising right
Know when to boost a post or run an ad. You can boost a post to make sure it reaches more news feed and you'll pay a fee determined by how many people engage with that post.
With Facebook ads, you can make them work towards different objectives such as video views, website visits or conversions. Think about what you want to achieve before going down either route.
19. Bring your business to life with Facebook Live
The gulping is almost audible! Yes, it may sound a daunting prospect, it probably will take a bit of practice, but you may come to really enjoy it - Facebook Live is a fantastic feature to use and ideal for giving people a behind-the-scenes glimpse of your business, Q&A sessions, unveiling a new product or service and so on. Try it!
20. Integrate your social media accounts
Link your Instagram account to feed to Facebook to amplify your social efforts. It will also be a more efficient use of the time you spend dedicated to social media activity.
Sarah Orchard has more than 15 years' top level marketing experience on leading UK and global service sector brands.