Everyone knows Facebook is now the go-to place for businesses to meet, attract and interact with potential customers. Since 2011, Facebook has been a huge source of click-through traffic for business websites, so much so that the majority of users learn about companies first through their Facebook presence. While having a Facebook presence alone gives businesses potential access to nearly 1 billion users globally, many businesses overlook the importance of allowing users, customers and employees to interact with the company directly and publicly. Facebook pages are great, but only people who “like” your page will see what you post. How do you get around this roadblock?
A popular trend among companies involves monetizing their presence through the use of Facebook groups. Instead of pages, where users have to like the page directly in order to see the content, groups allow people to interact privately or publicly amongst themselves, allowing another layer of targeting that helps businesses make sure their message gets to the people who need to see it. Groups offer some advantages to businesses, including:
- Interaction between people who might not otherwise cross paths
- Brand recognition and common interests/causes
- Obtain real-time market research and feedback on what your business is doing right and what
- Improvements ought to be considered
- Support among the community and to and from the brand or company
- Obtaining qualified sales leads from the membership pool
- Locating opportunities that may not otherwise exist, such as interactions between members of a community or common interest page
While all these benefits are readily apparent, what aren’t quite so self-evident are the potential pitfalls. Facebook is aware of the marketing potential of groups, and because of the public nature of posting on the site, members can and do report companies who only engage in various forms of advertising. Another possible problem is that because Facebook only allows pages to be created from personal user accounts and not business profiles, employees of a company have to start the pages. This can lead to some tricky issues for managers and business owners, including training employees in how to interact appropriately and professionally as a member of a business when working in these groups. The pictures of the after-party from the company Christmas bash may be okay on a user’s personal profile, but you don’t want your employees, or your business typecast as a college frat in their off hours either. For this reason, it’s crucial to understand just how much reach a single post, comment or picture may have and to consider carefully how you want your business to be portrayed.
With all this in mind, there are some rules that you should follow if you want your Facebook group interactions to be successful. These apply just as much to your own business and customer groups as to others, especially those that explicitly state there is to be no self-promotion within the confines of the group. If you follow these rules, you’re generally golden just about anywhere.
If you’re answering questions or queries as an expert or professional in your field, don’t just throw out a link and say, “This will answer your question.” While there’s nothing inherently wrong with saying, “For more information, check out (link),” the answer you give in a group should always confer a legitimate value to the user as standalone data. For example, the question “What colours go best with a metallic copper miniskirt?” could be answered a number of different ways depending on the asker’s body type, skin tone, age and other factors. Some people can pull off color combinations that others cannot. You might say, “For your skin tone, you’d want to go with (colors)” and then explain WHY. Simply saying, “You want to click here to see our color palette!” isn’t going to win you many friends in the long term.
Ask questions that provoke though and seek real answers
While this seems pretty self-explanatory, this is a major pitfall that many people step into without even realizing it. Throwing up a post and saying, “Here’s what I think. What about you?” isn’t the same as saying, “I’m thinking about XYZ. What’s your opinion?” This gives the other party(ies) more input and makes them feel like they’re contributing something of real value, instead of just rubber-stamping what you’ve already said or arguing for the sake of contrariness. For example, a blog post about “Why 50 Shades of Grey Is the Best Book Ever!” doesn’t invite commentary, because you’ve already made an assertion. You’re not seeking honest feedback; you’re just trolling for click bait. “I want to do a blog post about 50 Shades of Grey. What did you think about it?” offers a legitimate chance for people to put their two cents in, and will give you a deeper and more nuanced analysis of why people think what they think about it.
Don’t ever private-message someone with a link
This is bad practice all the way around and isn’t likely to get someone to want to click. Like any other form of social media, you should wait for the other person to express interest. You might answer their question in the comments and then say, “By the way, I did a (post, article, white paper) about this on (site). If you’re interested, PM me and I’ll send you the link.” This gives the other person the option and makes you appear helpful instead of pushy, always a win where business communications are concerned.
Good intentions don’t equal good results
It doesn’t matter how cute or inspirational your graphic quote is, or how much you genuinely want to connect with this or that person or business. When you’re communicating in a group as part of a business, you have to be hyperaware of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Your intentions may be pure, but look shady when you see the results in action. Similarly, your actions may appear altruistic but have an ulterior motive. (And let’s be real here, EVERYONE has an ulterior motive when it comes to business. How that motive is presented counts for a lot more than what the motive is. Perception is everything when it comes to business.) Make sure your intentions line up with the results you expect, and if all else fails, ask yourself, “Would I (click this link/message this person/read this article) on its own merits, or would this make me feel like I’m being manipulated?” No one likes to be manipulated, so treat others like you’d expect them to treat you.
Don’t stand on someone else’s soapbox
If you want a platform, make your own group, page or website. Don’t use someone else’s, unless you’re specifically invited to do so. Getting up and telling the world all about how great your business is will provoke a lot more eye-rolling and muting of your posts than clicks. You can gently invite people to connect with you in other ways as above, but using someone else’s platform as your personal megaphone is a bad move all the way around. Consider how you’d want a guest in your virtual “house” to behave, and accord them the same courtesy.
If you follow these steps and are diligent about being an active, helpful member of the community, you’ll get a lot further than if you’re constantly trolling for business. One will net you respect, page views, and profit. The other will only get you scorn.