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Do Not Copycat the Big Cats

Facebook has developed a clear strategy for businesses looking to promote themselves through social media.  The site gives away space in the form of “Pages” and encourages those companies to pick up followers through targeted advertising.

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It is the strategy followed by firms like Coca Cola and event organizers like Search Marketing Expo.  It is an easy option for ad companies and campaign managers who can track results in the form of new “likes” and comments on posts.  They can show clients exactly what their budgets are buying.

But there are a couple of problems with that strategy: it costs money; and it does not work.

Oops!

While Facebook has been pushing out more innovative advertising options, like the phone number-based Custom Audience ads, that is partly because response rates on the site have not been shown to offer much advantage over other advertising channels.  And it was the failure to turn any engagement from the ads into purchases that led General Motors to pull out of Facebook altogether.

For small businesses in particular, it is not Facebook’s range of ad placements and sponsored stories that that bring in customers.

It is the content the companies post on those “Pages.”

Slow Growth but Targeted Leads

The number of “likes” and “follows” those pages generate might be relatively low.  The businesses might struggle to reach new leads quickly, but the followers they do have are loyal and interested.  They represent people who have bought in the past and who are likely to buy again in the future.  As those people like posts and add comments, they spread the word to their friends a little at a time.

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The Little Canoe,for example, is a small, art studio in Portland, Oregon, that produces unique greeting cards and illustrations.  Run by Brooke Weeber, who sells her work through craft site Etsy, the business’s Facebook page has picked up over 1,300 “likes.”  That is small compared to… say, Walmart’s 26 million, but it is plenty for a one-woman business.  And when Weeber adds new content to her Facebook page, which she does regularly, those posts pick up comments and “likes.”

That is because Weeber mostly posts three different kinds of content:

  • she writes news posts, such as the sale of a major artwork or the completion of a commission, that let her fans share the pleasure of her success;
  • she posts product pictures that give her followers a first glimpse of new art they admire and might just want to buy;
  • and she gives away discounts that reward her followers, give them a reason to continue reading her posts and, of course, encourage them to make purchases.

It is a strategy that is also followed by Porter Gulch, another Etsy-based business that sells jewelry.  As an approach to Facebook-based marketing, it is more complex than buying ads and tracking the figures.  It requires a small amount of creativity and the ability to spot news and events in a business that others would find interesting.  Mostly though, it requires a passion for what the business is doing and a real sense of engagement with the company’s customers.

It is that passion and commitment that makes a successful Facebook campaign from a small business different to one pushed by a large firm — and it is what makes those campaigns successful.

I hate to repeat myself, so just read my December 6th post.

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