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>Part 3: Facebook Used Like CRM Tool, But Is Free

>Part Three

Leverage Your Facebook Membership
Use Facebook as an Advantage

There are a number of ways to do this. Being on Facebook is not an end in itself; it is only a means to an end. You should start looking at Facebook as a tool that you can use, and if you change your mind to think this way, you will start thinking of different and unique ways to use Facebook to your advantage.
For example, many top CRM tools can be quite expensive, but it is money that will have to be spent if you want to give your customers a good customer service experience. Yet, Facebook offers you the advantage it being used much like a CRM tool but is totally free to use. It is also not as resource heavy in the sense that you do not need as much labor because of the way in which Facebook is designed.
While this is only an example, it shows how Facebook can be used in unique ways. There are several other ways in which Facebook can be used to maximize your business potential.
Starting from the basic things that every SMB owner needs to do, we will discuss all these techniques in detail.
Create a Personal Profile
While your company needs to have a company page, it is imperative that you as the owner should have their own profile that you can link with the company. This is important because of the way Facebook users behave.
One of the most common behavior patterns of most Facebook users is to check out the profile page of all their friends, and those that they are interested in. While your company may have its own profile page on Facebook, most people are aware that the company is just as good as its management is and so will be interested in finding out about the owner.
Facebook operates on a platform of total transparency and trust. This is why except for any portion of your profile that you purposefully keep hidden under different privacy settings, everything about you is open to public view. Most people do not have any problem with this, and most only make sure that they keep private information like home address, or telephone numbers hidden. If your company’s is a stand alone page and does not link back to its owner, or top management, it sends out the wrong signals.
Facebook users want personal information. They would like to know if you are married; have kids, what your interests are, general information that however makes them feel that they understand you better, rather than just a one-liner saying that you are the owner/proprietor of a small business.
Not only that, but people that you link with on a personal level will be connected to your company as well, and those who come across your personal profile will be prompted to check out your company’s home page too.
Even if this does not net you any business and there is no reason why this should not, it will at least increase the page views on your company’s profile. Since Facebook is public, Google will rank your company’s page based on how many clicks it gets internally on Facebook, meaning that you have another way of increasing your company’s exposure on the net.15
Facebook News Feed
This is one of the most useful things about Facebook for most SMB owners. Facebook has two different kinds of news feeds, one is a mini feed that is free to use and another that is the main news feed. You need to pay to use the main news feed or be willing to build an application for it, but the mini feed is free and works just as well if used properly.
The mini feed is supposed to be a place where friends can find out what has happened with others in their network. When a Facebook user networks with you on any level, Facebook adds a mini feed to their profile that feeds back to you. When you publish anything, it is sent via this mini feed to your entire network, and if what you have to say is exciting, you can crawl across various networks getting exposure in the hundreds of thousands in a matter of days. All feeds from a user’s network is amalgamated into one home page that is the first page that comes up when they log in.
The kind of exposure that this gives is enormous because most people are interested in knowing what is happening within their network. Of course, with Facebook’s preoccupation with spammers, it would not be a good idea to use this feature as a marketing ploy. Even if it is not stopped now, you will actually be shooting your foot in two ways. You will be causing people to leave your network in droves because they find that all you have to say is promoting some product or the other. All they have to do is to unsubscribe to your feed, and you have effectively lost your network even if they remain connected to you through other channels.
You will also be bringing yourself to the notice of Facebook administrators, and if they shut down your account for spamming, you have lost months and maybe years of hard work for nothing.
However, it is still a good venue to pass along information. For example, if you sell software, and want to do a pre-launch beta testing for a new iPhone app, sending out a feed that Facebook users can use their logins to download the app is a great idea. Not only will people in your immediate network connect to try out the software, this news is sure to spread across other networks giving you huge numbers. In fact, you will have reached millions of iPhone users within a matter of days, and every Facebook user who has an iPhone is a potential candidate.
Many people actually use this beta testing for two purposes:
One, to get feedback about bugs in their software, and
second is that many out of these numbers who download the software to try it out do so to find out if it is useful to them. They are not doing it to give reviews, although there are a few who do that. Thus, if your software is good enough, most of these numbers will pay the conversion fee when you go online with it.
You may have to give a discount, but considering that you already have a specific number of users, you can afford to do this. Of course, if you do not give any discount, chances are that the next time you do any beta testing, the numbers will fall drastically.
This strategy will work for any sector you are in as long as the feed is designed in a unique way. The unfortunate thing is that you cannot afford to have deals like this often. Once or twice a year is about the maximum. Yet, it is deals like this that gives you the maximum exposure. Using a like strategy to bring your company to the notice of a large number of people is the idea.
This is the baseline of all marketing, and using Facebook to do this is not only inexpensive, it takes only a couple of minutes to set up. As long as you have taken precautions to ensure that the increased traffic does not cause your site to crash, setting up the feed should take less than 10 minutes.
Facebook Groups
Having your own groups section on Facebook has a number of advantages. You can have as many members as you like, and if people interested in what you have to say or are excited about your group in any way, your group can grow quickly.
Stephen Colbert’s group went from zero to one million in just under nine days. This shows the power of having groups, and while you may not be able to get so many people excited about your organization, it is still a place where you can connect to your network and send out bits of information as many times during the day as you want.
Creating such a large group is not always easy, and unless you have something really compelling to say, you may not be able to create such a large network. This however does not preclude this option from the list of possibilities.
Facebook Pages
Facebook pages are a lot like Facebook Groups, but you get some extra advantages. This function was mostly created for small business owners who want to use Facebook to increase their company’s profile on Facebook.
You get more screen space where you can include what you want, and you are able to customize it better using standard HTML or even flash. Although, some people feel that having a page on both Groups and Pages is not really necessary.  Yet, this is another avenue, and you never know if one page will do better than another until you try and evaluate it.
Notes and Photos
Everyone knows that Facebook is primarily a place where you can share what is happening with your life through photos. Few people use Facebook without uploading photos into their profile. Starting from one on their profile page, and going up to creating different albums for different events, Facebook is much better than any other application because it offers the ability to upload unlimited photos.
There are many people who use Facebook as a place where they store their photos. It is online and therefore available at any time, and there is no way that you are going to lose your information because it is all maintained by Facebook.
When it comes to business, photos are an even more powerful medium than the written word. You can have pictures of events that you had in your company, like a Christmas party, a day out with all the employees, or other function you want to show.
You can even include pictures of your office building, but it is better to get everything with a casual setting than a professional one. The reason for this is that all said and done Facebook is a networking medium that you are using for your own business reasons. If you have only staid pictures, as is usually found on company brochures you will not get much mileage out of it.
The idea behind putting pictures in Facebook is to show what a fun place to work your organization is. It is to show how your whole company is like one big family, and while you earn money, you do not forget to enjoy life in the process. People appreciate the personal touch and more so in Facebook because they expect it.
Using the picture gallery as a place where you can upload photos of your products is really not a good idea. There are two reasons for this. The first is that it really does not say anything personal about you or your company apart from making you out to be a sort of person who is just using Facebook to market his products.
The second reason is that you can tag these photos. While photos of employees is not going to net you much gain because you will already be connected with them, there may be other photos with people outside your immediate network, like when you go to a business meeting or outside function. When you “tag” these photos, that person will be notified, prompting them to come visit you, and if you are lucky join your network. If he or she is a businessperson both of you will profit by being part of the other person’s network.
This presupposes the notion that people you want to connect with are already in Facebook, but with Facebook showing the kind of rapid increase in new registrations that it is, they are either already there, or are planning to be.
Messages are a way for you to contact people who are outside your network. In other networking sites, generally you need to be connected before you can start sending and receiving messages, but Facebook offers you the alternative of actually sending messages to people who are totally outside your network.
This has a number of uses. For example, you can use it like an email to get in touch with people with whom you may other wise find it difficult to get in touch with. You can increase your network by getting in touch with people who have a large network of their own, but are totally unconnected to you to find out if you can connect with them. Just sending a friend request may not net you an answer, but if you message them directly, you may receive a positive response. You can even contact people and approach them directly about the service you are offering.
Facebook has done a lot of work to weed out spammers because this messaging facility was being used to send out spam messages. If you do so, Facebook will shut down your account, so you need to be careful about the number of messages that you send out to unconnected people from your account.
Yet, this is a powerful tool if you use it in the right manner. As long as you have a marketing strategy in place, you can find ways to use Facebook that will give you the same results, but with much lower costs.
Facebook Marketplace
The Facebook marketplace is a place where you can put up your advertisements. This is free, but if you overdo it, Facebook will once again penalize you because they have taken spammers seriously. Having your account shut down for spamming is not good for your company, especially if you have gone to a lot of trouble in building up your network.
The marketplace does not give you too much of a response, but if you are serious about something, coupling it with other applications that Facebook provides may give you a lot of dividends. The advantage of Facebook over other places like Craigslist is that everything ties into your Facebook account. Thus, if you want to hire more people, this may be a good option because people who come to you through your marketplace ad will already have checked out your company profile and will apply because they think that it is a good fit for them.
In the same way if you are offering a limited time offer on your products, although you will use other Facebook apps to let this information out, having it posted in the marketplace ensures that even people who are not connected with your network can come and take a look.
If your offer is good, it is sure to make its way into other networks, giving you that much more exposure for your business while at the same time, not having cost you anything to set up the entire campaign.

Paid Services

All the above techniques are ways to use Facebook’s service for free and get the maximum exposure. Facebook also offers advertisers and others who are willing to spend a little money a lot more options and these are discussed next.
The amount of money you spend depends on the size of your target audience, and the length of your ad run. While short run ads can cost you only a few dollars, there are options for you to take advantage of sponsored ads that can cost in the hundreds of thousands.
Social Ads
This feature was brought out in 2007 by Facebook specifically for businesses because it allowed targeting of certain demographic groups within Facebook. You could target your ad based on age, sex, location, keywords, relationship, education, workplaces and basically any other field that you enter into Facebook.
This gives it a huge advantage over other tools that rely mostly on keywords. When you compare them to Facebook, you can see how narrowly you can target your audience. Not only this you can target your audience on other parameters like for paying for newsfeeds.
These ads generally have a much higher return than sponsored ads.Yet, another way is to target people who have approached you, or have browsed through your profile or your companies profile in the recent past. This gives the maximum click through ratio and is one of the best ways to get a response to your advertising.
On the other hand, sponsored ads are probably the best when it comes to brand building. Depending on the kind of marketing strategy you have, you can choose the kind of applications to use. While initially this kind of focused targeting may not have given many returns simply because the number of users were not too high, with over 600 million users and climbing, it makes good sense not only because you can configure your marketing strategy much better, but it is also good experience for the future when Facebook will play a much bigger role in advertising strategies.
If you are a large player, or have a marketing budget greater than $50,000, you can contact Facebook directly to configure your strategy even more. All you have to do is to contact them and tell them what you are looking for, and you will receive a call back from Facebook with various solutions to your problem.
Market Research
With Facebook offering the kind of specific information about its users that it does to advertisers, it is easy to focus market research within your target audience, and have results within hours, if not days. Polls are conducted all the time and many times frivolous questions will garner huge responses. This is because Facebook is looked upon as a place where you can be yourself, so the more natural sounding the questions are, the better the feedback.
Although, this may mean that getting through an entire market research campaign may take some time, it also means that the chances of you getting accurate useful information is even higher. While market research companies have not started using Facebook extensively because of the problem with getting users to answer a list of questions, as long as you plan it ahead of time and schedule one or two polls a day, you are sure to get a good response.
Facebook Platform
While this may not be of great use to all organizations those companies who are in the field of developing applications may find this useful. This is because Facebook promised all application developers that any application developed on the “Facebook Platform” would receive as much exposure as the app deserved, and that they could monetize these applications without any interference from Facebook.
This has given birth to a whole lot of companies that develop applications that you can use in Facebook. A simple example would be the “Family Tree” app that you can use to get in touch with family that you may not even know you had.
The quality of these apps may not always be consistent as they are not developed by Facebook but by third parties, but then it is the good ones that get the most use. If you are not into application development, you could still use these apps to advertise as you can focus your ads even more if you feel you need to. You can even approach organizations that develop these applications to sponsor them directly. Examples of this happening are “Drink sharing” apps developed with the sponsorship of beverage companies, and “Winking” apps developed with contact lens manufacturers.
There are other ways to use these applications. Companies that have large marketing budgets can create their own applications. These applications need to be installed into each user’s profile by them, so the apps need to be good at what they are meant to do and also be eye catchy enough for users to want to use it.
This happens quite a bit in open source browsers. Both Mozilla’s Firefox and Google’s Chrome have the add-ons section. These applications are not created by Mozilla or Google, but by third party vendors. When you install these applications into your browser, you agree that these third party vendors can access a certain amount of information about you and your online habits. The apps on Facebook work pretty much the same way. Even if you are not collaborating with anyone to create these applications you can approach them for targeted marketing purposes.
Other Ways to Use Facebook
Until now, we have been discussing how companies can use Facebook directly for their purposes. Apart from these, there are other ways in which companies can use Facebook, and that is by linking their site with Facebook. There are a number of ways to do this, and each of them have a different purpose.
Social Plug-ins
If you have visited sites where you have seen a “Thumbs up” button, you know what this is. This is the most common way to integrate your site with Facebook. This option may not sound like much to people who are not too “connected”, but for those who are, it makes a big difference.
The reason is that simply by logging into Facebook and remaining logged in, all Facebook users can integrate their browsing experience into their Facebook profiles. If they have visited a site where you feel that you get great bargains, all that the user has to do is to click on the “I like” button. This will connect with their profile on Facebook and let their network also know where this “deal” could be found.
As a company that is offering this deal this has a huge impact. While you can expect a certain amount of traffic generated by word-of-mouth when your website offers a deal, it in no way compares to the exposure that your site will get if you include the Facebook Social Plug-in in your page. Just one Facebook user clicking on the button is sufficient to make this known instantly to his network. With the number of people who are online these days, the chances of you getting a number of Facebook users is high. This means that you can get much higher levels of activity in your site than if you did not include this button.
This feature is when you use the Facebook login as yours. Many sites give you the option of creating an account with them, which will make your browsing experience that much better. This is not only for forums and blogs where you can actively follow someone, but also for sites that sell products.
Having a Facebook integrated login means that you are making their logging in into your site that much simpler for them. Just as in any other plug-in from Facebook, all you need to do is to copy a few lines of code into your site and you are good to go.
What this does is that you have a button offering users to log into your account using their Facebook account. When they click on that button, their log in or registration screen is prepopulated with their details. When they click on the register button, they will be prompted as to the amount of information that they wish to share with you. Even assuming that they wish to share only the basic of information, you are still ahead because you get more information about your users than you would get if they registered without Facebook.
What Facebook does is provides you information that is in the public domain about their users; even general information like age and sex matter a lot when you are analyzing your site’s performance. Having more information simply means that you can focus your service that much better.
For example, if you are just an affiliate site who markets different products, there are a number of things that you have to keep in mind when choosing the kind of product to sell. Even after doing all this work you will still have to ensure that your site is responding in the way that you wish it to. For example, if you are selling washing machines, you would definitely appreciate knowing what percentage of your visitors were women, and what age group they fall under.
Even if it does not make you change your mind about the product, it will at least tell you what kind of content you have to focus on to pull in your target audience. When you are used to working only with keywords, having specific demographic information about your visiting public is something that nobody will say no to.
In fact, you can even personalize your user’s experience by pulling in information from Facebook regarding particular users. You can bring their news feeds into your site, so that they are still in touch with their network, and you can even use information about your users to individually tailor make user home pages to reflect their preferences. For example, if you know that your user is a 55+ aged person you can create a different “Welcome” page than if you know that your user was an under the age of .
In the real world, all businesses make use of information like this to make the customer’s shopping experience better, and it is only a matter of time before it happens in the virtual world as well.