While many small, mid-sized and large institutions are figuring out if Facebook can be used to market and brand their businesses – one can use Facebook to promote their services without shelling out any cash directly to Facebook. The tricks and techniques are perfectly legal and won’t get you banned from Facebook. Before I begin – I’d like to point out that if you do not want to associate your personal identity with the product or service you are trying to promote, then this post and Facebook Marketing is not for you.
For those who have heard little about Facebook, i’m only going to say that you need to be on it (even if you’re already on MySpace or Orkut). Its an additional channel that you can use, and with its current community base of 70 million users and being the 6th most trafficked social media site in the world – you definitely cannot pass this opportunity by. Before, I get on to the specifics here are some Facebook stats for you to digest…
Now, having seen the community size and potential of the social network, lets get on to the meat of the article!
The Various Facebook Marketing Channels
There are several different channels and tools on Facebook that one may use to promote their services or product. Use each one of them in moderation and carefully providing some benefit to the people you are connected with (your friends network) and don’t go overboard. Study each channel’s features carefully and start slowly and gradually build up momentum. Keep the number of friends you have to a reasonable limit… try to have at least more than 50 friends, but not as many as 300+ unless you are a real celebrity of some sorts in your circle.
Remember, the trick is to use the News Feed & Mini Feed along with other specific Facebook marketing channels. So, you need to learn about these too, and not just about the News Feed and Mini Feed.
The main channel that one should use , which has the best reach, is the News and Mini Feeds. Use them cleverly along with the other channels and you can be assured that your product or service gets seen by your direct friends and their friends … potentially spreading your reach magnanimously far. Getting your message out to your friend’s friends (with a possibility of going even further), in basic mathematical terms means if you have 100 friends and on an average each of them have 50 friends – one single post on your news feed can reach out to 5000 people within seconds. That can multiply by a factor of 3 if you gradually grow your network on Facebook and by a factor of 100 if you network and connect with popular people on Facebook who have a large friend network.
This is why you must network with other prominent people in your industry – specially the ones on the top… do it discretely and just connect with them… without asking for anything first. In fact, if you can provide “value” to them – without hard selling your group initially, do that first. Engage in intelligent and relevant conversation with them and on their “wall” and perhaps ask them for advice or opinion on a relevant point. You can find these people on a relevant group or forum on Facebook itself. You should know who these people in your niche are. These people are important, and I will show you exactly why in the “News Feed” section below… where I talk about what it is and how it can be used to spread a message. Now, lets get on to the various features on Facebook.
Your Profile Page
This is your starting point of your presence. Its where others land to learn more about you. Although the full detailed page is not visible to unknowns, once people connect with you – they come here first to learn more about you and what you’ve been up to. Make sure you do this up well by installing relevant applications (example: “Books I am Reading” application), joining relevant industry groups, inserting relevant personal photos, displaying Work Info and showing off your blog feed and links amongst other things. Your profile page is where you can express your passion for a brand, company or business that you are engaged in. A very common habit of Facebook users is lurking and browsing their friend’s pages.
Groups on Facebook have been around since the beginning of the site. Like in all Social Networks, Groups give people with a common interest a place to come together to discuss pertinent issues. The Groups on Facebook come with the ability to post text discussions, photos, videos, and links. It allows you (the owner) to send out messages to your members, as often as you like. You can also create as many Groups on Facebook as you like. This makes Groups one of the simplest ways to do viral marketing. Members of your group can invite their friends to join the group with an inbuilt feature within the group interface. If you get your members excited about your group – you can potentially grow your audience to over hundred thousand within a couple of weeks… but, then again this depends on your group topic and its appeal. What is great is that its open to all the users on Facebook and generally if their friends invite them – they will come check it out of curiosity and interest. A downside of a large group is that it will attract spammers – so be prepared to spend some time cleaning spam from the message boards, if you have a large group with many members. Also, Facebook has put a limit on the number of messages you as the group owner can send out to members.
Tip: Create a good logo or image for your group because it shows up in the News Feed making the related news item stand out amongst the other news feed items.
Facebook Pages allow you to setup customized pages with embedded applications within them… something groups cannot do. They were primarily introduced into Facebook in latter part of 2007 to allow businesses to establish a stronger brand presence. Unlike groups, on Facebook Pages one can add HTML, Flash, Facebook Applications, send messages out to unlimited fans and Facebook Page fans can share the page with their friends (they cannot invite friends to join directly). Facebook also closely monitors Facebook Pages to make sure they are being used by legitimate people. Facebook Pages are also a great way for smaller or local businesses to engage in viral marketing, like with Groups.
Events on Facebook is an interface through which you can promote and create awareness for any event that you are hosting… parties, product launches etc. While creating an event you will get a full page in which you can include photos, videos and links. You can then invite your friends to the event and they will get an email requesting them to the page and their RSVP. You may also enable some of your friends to become admins – allowing them in turn to invite their friends to the event directly – just as you did. This is a great feature and makes the person feel important. If you have a friend who is a powerful influencer in your industry, you should definitely get them interested and make them an admin. Why? because they are a few clicks away from inviting a huge audience to your event (if that is what you want). Thus Facebook Events can be used to get the word out to hundreds of people, and allow you to manage your guest list and to build a community around your upcoming event.
Notes and Photos
This feature and functionality allows you to share photos and blog posts with your friends. You need to be very careful while doing this by sharing relevant content to interested friends only. Don’t be spammy and share crap and irrelevant stuff at a high frequency with all friends. This will only get them to channel your noise out and possibly break your link with them or put you in “ignore” mode. Facebook photos allow you to “tag” the photos. This means if you put up photos of your event on this area, and tag it with your friend’s names – it will show up in their news feed – thus drawing their attention to the page. You can also post news items related to your niche here.
Marketplace and Networks
The Facebook Marketplace is not yet a very hot area that you can use. Its a free place like other areas where you can post a for-sale or wanted ad. But if you want to post to multiple networks you are charged $1 per network per listing. I wouldn’t yet recommend this. Facebook Networks are basically like group pages for people who are members of an Educational, Work or Geographical Netowrk (defined and controlled by Facebook). These are places that are very frequently spammed and so I suggest you stay away from them.
The News Feed and Mini Feed
This is where the action happens. Basically, The News Feed is what shows up in your login page (and everyone’s login page), right on top when users login to their account. Its basically all your friend’s actions “activity stream”. It tells you what is happening on your network of friends. What each of your friends are doing, what applications they are installing, what groups they are joining, how they are interacting with their friends, etc… all put together sequentially. When every Facebook user logs in to their Facebook account, the News Feed is the first thing they see right on top. Everyone sees what all their friend’s are doing and how they are interacting with Facebook. Even if a friend of yours changes their profile image – it shows up on your News Feed. Here’s how a Facebook News Feed looks like (i’ve removed last names to maintain privacy of my friends) …
The Mini Feed is what shows up on top when you or someone else views your profile on Facebook. It depicts your activity stream on Facebook and what you have been doing on it… connecting to friends, groups, events etc. Currently Facebook limits this to the last 10 actions performed, and it is not possible to turn the Feed off.
So, why is the News Feed and Mini Feed so important? Because, if you do an action – it shows up on all your friend’s feeds. They all get to see it. Further, if they interact with YOUR brand or say, join your group or event – then that action shows up on all their friend’s feeds (and their own feeds as well). Which is why, if you are connected to someone who is a influencer with many friends and a big reach – and he/she interacts with your brand or joins your group – that single move / action gets shown to ALL their friends … thereby expanding your reach and spreading the word about your group to ALL of them. Now, when these friends come to the group page and interact with it and join it – then again, that action gets seen on their friends feeds!!
This chain of successive actions of joining your group snowballs and spreads across countless News Feeds across Facebook almost within a few days… and, this is the very highly viral trick that you can use.
Lastly, to Summarize
- Make many friends and be sure to Network with the “influencers”
- Network with them discretely without asking for things initially
- Join relevant groups and find more people in your niche and befriend them
- Participate intelligently in the relevant groups, so people also want to connect with you
- Create your own (brand) groups and events. Then interact with them regularly but not excessively
- Also continually interact with friends on Facebook
- Use the power of the News Feed to spread your brand by interacting with Groups and Events related to the brand on a regular basis