5 innovative ways that entrepreneurs use Facebook

I use Facebook both as a way to connect with friends and to grow my business. I have observed how entrepreneurs and small businesses/ sole proprietorship firms use Facebook, which is very different from the way corporates do. Perhaps there are some interesting nuggets here that are applicable to larger companies and brands. 

Small businesses tend to be single minded and focussed in the way they use Facebook. It is either to get orders and new business or to build relationships with prospects. Seldom do they simply keep a Facebook page because it's required. And this repays them with active dividends in terms of creating awareness, revenue streams and broadening of customer base. Which also explains why they tend to be extremely active on Facebook. This research on SocialMediaToday indicates the growing importance of social media for small businesses

1. Pictures work as eye candy to attract genuine prospects to like and share

Pinterest has demonstrated the success of eye candy! If you have eye catching products, or launch new ranges regularly (think fashion, travel, home decor, kitchen accessories, gadgets), then keep a habit of posting pictures or videos. They are more likely to be shared and commented on. In our Bright Angles blog we had posted on how Facebook believes that they influence 'mid funnel' decision making when people are not yet ready to buy, but are actively considering options. Pictures are a great way to get people to file  away your products in their mind and buy when they are ready or recommend to others who are looking.

2. Demonstrate expertise

Not all businesses need to build relationships or get immediate orders. Service businesses like consultancies, hospitals and diagnostic centres, or specialised news sites can maintain a Facebook page simply to demonstrate their expertise in their chosen field. The posts may or may not relate to the products and services they offer - they can share interesting news items, research reports, facts and figures that people would like to read and know about. This works as an image building exercise - people build a perception about your expertise and see you as a credible source of information and knowledge. This would work really well for a financial services or health care brand.

3. Become a rallying point for a community

Do you operate in a category which is not well understood, or where numerous and divergent view points exist? (Think of weight loss, herbal remedies/ health supplements, instant foods and more). You may benefit by creating a Facebook group/ community rather than a brand page. Instead of preaching to converts, let the interested and expert members of the community share the benefit of their experience  with others - which is not only more credible than the voice of a brand but also works in your favor by creating customer education over a long term. It will require moderation and maybe in the initial stages, you need to recruit some experts to get it going - or better still, you can hand over this task to an expert in your team. If you are willing to not let your brand be the center piece, this can be a great way to build knowledge about your category.

4. Recruit and mobilise the community

If you are a brand/ company with a strong social agenda, or your brand offering can genuinely transform people's lives (NGOs, mass media brands, hair dressing salons, beauty clinics and more) then Facebook gives you  a strong platform to motivate and involve people in what you do. Invite users to sign up and volunteer for offline events, programs and activities that they would themselves want to share with their friends. It's a great way to tap into user's circles of influence and spread your message rather than sitting on a Facebook page and hoping that people land up.

5. Create a platform for face to face interactions with customers

I have always found it to be a massive contradiction that while I am on Facebook to meet my friends, brand expect me to 'like' and 'add them' as friends. A brand or company page is not a person, and as such, my involvement with an entity is much less than that with a person. You can make it interesting by being bold - use Facebook as a platform for your employees to interact with customers. Not by role (customer service rep.) but by name. For a spa, it could be the masseur interacting with customers on the benefits of a certain massage. For a tech company, it could be the techies answering customer questions. Companies like Dell and Microsoft already do this through company blogs. I believe it can be equally done through Faceook. Of course, this may be more appropriate for companies that encourage a culture of consumer friendliness and transparency. And it may not be at all appropriate, say for finance companies, where you need to be more accountable about what is said to customers. And it will require some or all of your employees to get training. But the beauty of this, is that it is natural and real - people can be themselves and interact with other people, and in the process, your company can come across as caring, authentic and multi-dimensional. 



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