There are close to 30 million small businesses in the U.S. (let alone the rest of the world) that could benefit from the Facebook advice I’m about to give here.
Many of these outfits are local businesses, focused on serving customers only in their geographic area.
That includes dentists, doctors, chiropractors, dry cleaners, health food stores, auto mechanics and lawyers, among others.
Local Internet-based marketing is big business. Experts estimate the 2012 local online advertising market to be $16 billion, and mobile marketing may hit $18 billion annually by 2016.
But many local businesses operate with low margins and need the most affordable marketing solutions. Facebook is a one-stop shop for much of this. If you can’t afford AdWords or search engine marketing services, the steps below are a great alternative. And even those who can afford serious cash outlays should also complete these seven steps.
If you’re a dentist in St. Louis or a dry cleaner in Peoria, what should you do to get more business through Facebook? Local marketing is different, and there are Facebook features that only work with local businesses, so local Facebook marketing has to be different as well.
To that end, I’ll give you some ideas for how each local business can get the biggest bang for the buck with Facebook marketing.
1. Create A Facebook Business Page
A huge amount has been written about Facebook pages, so I won’t review all that here. But yes, you need one, and no, it should not be your Facebook profile.
Click here to go create a Facebook page. Then click on Local Business or Place, choose a category and enter your business address and phone.
Then Facebook will walk you through the process of building out your page a bit and getting an initial fanbase. You can use your personal or a business email list to notify people to come and like your page.
When you get to the first view of your new page, you’ll see step five in their list is to add a like box to your website. I highly recommend you follow that advice if you or your web designer can pull it off. If not, don’t worry about it.
2. Claim Places That Are The Same As Your Business
Facebook has millions of places in its database, and they come from different sources, including Bing and Yelp. Because of that, there are duplicates, which can confuse people searching Facebook for your business.
Once your business has a page, you can merge it with places and let Facebook know about duplicate listings. Then you’ll have a page that is also a place, meaning people can check-into it via mobile devices.
Search Facebook for your business name. As you can see in the example below, there is a page that is also a place, and then two duplicate places.
But once you’re on the place page, you can claim it by clicking on “Is this your business?” and following the instructions.
3. Create A Check-In Deal
Although Facebook ended their daily deals product, they still are committed to providing check-in deals. What that means is that you’ll offer a discount of some sort to incentivize customers to come to your store and check-in with their mobile phone.
There are four types of check-in deals, and together they can help you get new customers, get groups to check in all at once, reward people for loyalty, and even donate to charity.
For more information and how to get started, click here.
4. Incentivize Customers To Become Fans
Many businesses new to Facebook quickly realize they need more fans. And most think initially that they’ll get most of their customers to become fans. Then they discover this is harder than they’d expected.
Let’s say you have 1,000 customers. How will you notify them all? Can you email them all? If so, what if only 30 percent read all of the email in their inboxes? If you tell them about the Facebook page while they’re visiting your business, what percentage will remember to go to your Facebook page when they get home?
In short, if you get 50 percent of your customers to like your page, you’re doing incredibly well.
The best way to solve this problem is to have a computer or iPad at your place of business that’s specifically for customers to log into Facebook and like your page. You may need to give them a cookie to do it (literally or figuratively).
If this isn’t enough, look at step six below.
5. Post For EdgeRank Exposure
Another topic that has been blogged to death, but is of critical importance: People don’t go back to Facebook pages much at all. They might see your posts in their newsfeed, but they won’t likely click through to your page.
And if your fans aren’t liking and commenting on your page’s posts, they’ll stop seeing them in their news feeds.
EdgeRank — make that GraphRank — is an affinity score that Facebook gives to each person and their relationship to every person or page’s posts. It even keeps track of who likes your photos vs. who likes your status updates, videos, and links.
So the only way to win is to get people to like and comment. How? Ask them to, and post things they care about.
If you only post things about you, they won’t care. If you only post discounts, they’ll get bored and ignore you. If you post cute puppies, they’ll click like. If puppies are irrelevant to your business, find something else that your customers love.
Pictures get a lot more response, so if your business is easy to generate photos from, this will be much easier for you. If you have trouble generating new post ideas, or don’t have internal resources, consider an affordable Facebook posting service like Upward Wave.
How do you know if you’re getting enough impressions and likes and comments? If your number of impressions per post is less than half the number of your fans, you have an exposure problem. If you aren’t getting at least one percent of your fans to like and comment, you could do a lot better!
In the example below, the Peoria Push Derby Dames got about 25 responses to their post, and they have 3,450 fans, so that’s not too far off what one percent would be (34). The page would have done even better by saying, “Click like if you love this team!”
And here’s a case study on how Facebook saved a local restaurant.
6. Facebook Ads For Fans
The best way to get the right fans is with Facebook ads.
Create an ad with your Facebook page as its destination, and tell people to “Click like if you love…” whatever it is you offer.
Keep it simple, test multiple ads, and your costs will be lower. You don’t have to target interests, but you can test that.
Also try targeting just your geographic area. Watch for ads burning out (the clickthrough rate and impressions drop suddenly when people are tired of the ad) and make new ones.
Is anyone doing this? Yes, 22 percent of local businesses are using Facebook ads, and two-thirds of them were happy with it and plan to do it again.
Facebook’s revenues from ads doubled from $2 billion to $4 billion in 2011, and about 60 percent of Facebook advertisers are small businesses.
Numbers aside, you can do this in an affordable way if you get some Facebook advertising training.
7. Facebook Ads For Awareness
Create the simplest ad possible (meaning the smallest amount of text and no request for the viewer to click like or comment) using the option to pay on a per-click basis, and 1,000 views of the ad cost as little as 25 cents!
A couple ads like the one below scored 71,000 ad views for just 36 cents per thousand views. Could you use that kind of exposure?
Throw in a phone number and you may get some calls at no extra cost.
And finally, after you’ve been working on your local Facebook marketing for a while, want to see how you’re doing? Check out the Roost Local Scorecard.
Brian Carter is the author of The Like Economy: How Businesses Make Money On Facebook and co-author of the third edition of the best-selling Facebook Marketing.