October 5, 2011
Once-Abandoned Facebook Positioning Strategy For Small Business Gets Re-TreadedBy Jonathan Poston, Director of Social Media Communications, FastPivot
Like a lone road tire left to rot, small businesses deserted a Facebook growth strategy considered outdated with the advent of the Fan page.
Small business merchants were convinced that Fan pages would take them to where they were going faster and safer than rolling promotions like they used to do on a basic Facebook user account — after all, Fan pages have no speed limits and can handle just as well with a million riders as they can with 20.
If fans are ready to take a ride on the Fan page express, then you pump up the pressure with a little Facebook advertising to get more customers on board. Unlike basic user accounts, Fan Pages come with a free "gauge," which provides merchants with all sorts of nifty metrics to chart performance and demographics. Fan pages also make it easy for merchants to mass-promote new offerings.
On top of these Fan page benefits, there are many others a Fan page offers that we don't have space to mention here — but does any of that really matter if small businesses aren't attracting fans?
The reality is that many small businesses simply aren't paying for Facebook advertising to grow their fan base, nor are many able to get significant fan traction from social media blasts and email newsletter asking people to "like" their page. The exceptions here are strong-brand small businesses that already have a huge following, those that hold popular events or sell highly sought-after products, and those that offer high quality or stylish products at heavy discount. Small businesses selling everyday goods and custom niche products alike are experiencing great disappointments with Facebook Fan pages. And newly launched small businesses barely have a chance in the increasingly competitive world of Facebook marketing.
Fans are simply overwhelmed and have become desensitized to ordinary Facebook marketing ploys. No longer can they be tractor-beamed in with catch lines and good copy, which leaves many small business Fan pages stalled out with double-digit scores. Social media gurus have even on occasion swooped in to give advice on how to network better, but often these low-budget consulting fees would have been better off used in placing Facebook advertisements.
Frustrated small business merchants usually just abandon their marketing efforts, chalking the whole Facebook phenomenon up as a loss. A few will continue posting at half effort, hoping against the odds that someone will notice.
However, a new wave of small business merchants are reaching back to the days when merchants, both small and large, were ignorant about which Facebook pages should have been used for marketing. This uncertainly led many merchants to mistakenly start their "pages" as basic user accounts. Now, ironically, a different type of uncertainty (online information overload), is leading merchants to deliberately abandon their fan pages in favor of using a basic user account again…but why?
Basic user accounts allow small business merchants the ability to actively invite potential customers to be their friends. It's this more intimate approach that is making it possible for merchants who once boasted only 100 fans (after 6 months to a year of marketing) to rapidly grow their pages many-fold. Of course, there are downfalls: Facebook may penalize pages for not being set up as a commercial account, merchants may be reported for soliciting invitations to strangers, and there's a 5,000 friend limit. More often than not though, the obvious risks haven't hindered highly adaptive merchants determined to gain a foothold in the social media space.