Facebook. You see or hear the name dozens of times a day. Whether you’re watching a Hollywood blockbuster, reading tech n ews or just looking at your buddies’ vacation photos, you can’t escape the all-encompassing reach of the Silicon Valley giant.
Facebook is the largest social networking tool in the world, connecting people from all but three countries in one easy platform. With more than 1 billion users and counting, odds are that your customers are already on Facebook.
And while the network was once known for catering to teens, the demographics are skewing older. In fact, more than 45 percent of users are over age 35. With your customers already using the site on a regular basis, it’s the perfect platform to deliver information on new items, upcoming sales and industry news to your customers without spending a dime on marketing materials—and maybe you’ll pick up a few more fans in the process.
Odds are you’re already connected in some capacity, but are you making the most of Facebook for your brand? While this may seem like a daunting task, Facebook should still be considered a mandatory site for your business to be a part of. Don’t worry, it’s really not all that difficult; Facebook is actually rather straightforward once you’ve got the basics down.
STEP 1 Set up an account for your store
The first thing you’ll need to do is set up a personal profile. From there, create a page for your business. Facebook will guide you through easy prompts to set up your page. You’ll have to choose a category for your business, and Facebook offers several options to best classify your shop.
Once it’s set up, you’ll need to fill it out. When people click on your Facebook page they should see who you are and what you’re about within seconds. Keep the information short and clear, yet personable. Any images uploaded should be high quality. If you want to try your hand at designing, sites like Canva allow you to create your own images and marketing pieces. When setting up a page, your mandatory to-do list should include:
• Upload a profile picture, preferably of your logo. Profile pictures will look best if uploaded at 180x180 pixels.
• Upload a cover photo. Here is where you can decide between a static image like one of your storefront or a display inside; or an image that you change regularly, like a picture of the monthly bestseller or merchandise on seasonal sale. If you do choose to change your image—which keeps things fresh—keep in mind that your page should still be recognizable. For these reasons, I recommend changing it at least twice a year and at most once a month. Make sure the image is high quality and preferably 851x315 pixels.
• Make it as easy as possible for your customers to get in touch with you. Go to ‘Page Info’ under the ‘About’ tab and add your phone number, address and hours of business. Remember to update these with every change, especially if you have modified holiday hours. This is also where you can give more details about your store. What do you sell, specialize in and repair? Why did you start this business? Who works for you?
• Add a link to your website.
Step 2 Create content for your page
Getting Facebook set up is only the first step to having a strong online presence—you now need to generate content. Keeping your page populated with relevant posts is an evergreen assignment, but don’t be afraid to have some fun with it. Try to serve a healthy mix of information about your store as well as news from your industry and from other businesses (see the sidebar below). Put yourself in the mind-set of a potential customer and post about what you would want to see on your news feed.
While this may seem counterintuitive, it’s important to share and create content about other topics beside your products. Customers have become increasingly sensitive to ads, and a constant flow of promotional material can leave them with a bad impression of your business. That’s why you’ll want to share industry news, videos and images your customers might enjoy—even other businesses’ posts. Try to see this as a positive thing: The more you share, the less time you need to spend generating content yourself. Another reason to share other businesses’ posts is that they will often return the favor. Everybody wins!
You can use sites like Feedly and Google News as well as the Facebook news stream to search for relevant content. If you think your customers would be interested and it’s related to your business, then you should share it.
Here are a few tips for crafting the perfect Facebook post that links to another site:
• Copy and paste the URL you want to share in the text box. Facebook will automatically pull an image and text from the site you’re linking to and stick it in the post. Once it does, delete the URL. The clickable image and boxed text will remain and you’ll make your post look cleaner.
• Write a brief description—one or two sentences. This can be the gist of the post, why you find it interesting, or a question. Feel free to include hashtags to make your post searchable. Only insert hash-tags when absolutely relevant or helpful, as too many make the post look like spam. What exactly is a #hashtag? It’s the pound sign followed by a word or phrase that identifies a certain topic. Example: Here is a new shipment of #drones.
• If you want to tag someone in the post, like a manufacturer, another business or a customer, type “@” and then the name of the person or business.
• You have the chance to change the image pulled by Facebook, if you want to. Click on the plus button below the image and add the one or ones you want, deleting the original afterward. Try to choose a horizontal image so the top and bottom is not cut off by Facebook’s specifications. This image should be big, bold, clean and colorful—something that jumps out at people while they are scrolling through their feed. Facebook suggests a size of 1200x630 pixels.
• You can also change the text below the image if you want. Make sure nothing is repeated and that everything is relevant.
• Keep the tone professional yet friendly and lighthearted—like the tone in your store.
While there is much debate on how often to post, a safe number is once a day. That way, your store seems lively and healthy while not coming across as annoying.
Step 3 Socialize
Think of Facebook as an electronic conversation. Just as it’s important to talk when having a conversation with someone, it’s equally, or perhaps more, important to listen and respond to what’s said.
• Respond to any questions your customers have on a daily basis, both those posted on your public Facebook wall and those sent in private messages.
• Respond and react to people and businesses’ posts, staying away from controversial subjects the way you would in your store. Congratulate people on successes, offer kind words to those who need them, and thank those who do you favors publicly.
• If you see a post you think another person or business would be interested in, tag them in the comments section or share it with them.
These basics are a starting point, but there are many more sources out there that go into detail on making the most of your time online. I recommend HubSpot, whose tips are often shared on Model Retailer’s Facebook and Twitter. Another way to do research is to simply go on Facebook and look around at what other businesses are doing. Pay attention to what posts and images catch your eye, as well as those that get the best reactions from others.
Also, experiment with what you post. Upload a few images or videos to see if they get a good response. If they do, great, keep them up—and if not, it’s unlikely they drove customers away, so simply revise your strategy.
Whether you’re already online or about to set up an account, you’ll appreciate how easy it is to connect with others on Facebook while reminding them of your business and the service you provide.
Elizabeth Nash is associate editor of Model Retailer.
Facebook in 10 minutes a day
• Using the Messages and Activity tabs, look for comments or posts you need to respond to.
• Check the metrics on yesterday’s post. How did it do?
• Using the insights tab, see how many likes you’re at.
• Post something (or spend some time scheduling weeks’ worth of posts using Facebook, Buffer or Hootsuite).
• Scroll through your homepage, liking and commenting for as much time as you have.
Cultivate a healthy Facebook with these tips
IDEAS ON WHAT TO POST
• Images or a video of a new shipment of products
• Upcoming and ongoing sales
• Images and videos of in-store demonstrations or workshops
• Pictures of customers trying out products or shopping in your store (used with their permission)
• Pictures of your staff and yourself
• Video on how to use certain products (more on videos when we discuss YouTube in an upcoming issue)
Sites that make it easy
• Canva for creating images
• Dreamstime or iStock for paid images
• Pixabay for free images
• Buffer or Hootsuite for scheduling tools
• Feedly for content ideas
• Pocket for storing ideas
• HubSpot for additional tips and ideas