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Internet marketer Nikki Pilkington advises how businesses can promote their services and attract new clients using Facebook.
A Facebook presence can be set up in minutes, but it can take much longer to get it working effectively for your business.
Many businesses use Facebook purely as an opportunity to post link upon link but in fact, to work as a business tool, activity needs to take place as part of a dialogue, not a one-way broadcast.
Here are 10 tips business owners can use to turn a basic Facebook presence into something that potential clients and customers will value and return to.
1. Create a fan page
Whilst you could feasibly run a personal Facebook profile for your business, a fan page allows you to create a public business persona that is separate from you as a private individual. Furthermore, it provides a hub for the community you'll be looking to create around your brand.
2. Link and comment
Once you're up and running, just as with Twitter, one of your regular tasks will be to post links to stories you believe will interest your fan base. The biggest difference between Twitter and Facebook in this regard is that with the latter, you have much more room to comment – and it's a space worth using. Adding your take when posting material personalises your page, adds value and encourages interaction as users are more likely to add their thoughts if you have already kicked off the debate.
3. Integrate your blog
While you might receive client or customers enquiries direct from your Facebook fan page, your main aim will probably be to direct interested fans to your own website where they can view more information about your products and services. Posting links to your blog posts will help draw fans through to your site and again, you can use the comment function to add a little context and extra value to the post.
4. Encourage discussion
Now you've started thinking of your fan page less as a publishing space and more as a forum where fans can post, comment and respond, you can start putting the 'Discussion' tab into action. Here you can create threads relevant to your business, invite questions and interact in more detail with fans and potential clients.
5. Put a face to your name
While your fan page might represent a business entity rather than an individual, this doesn't mean it should be virtually anonymous. Fans engaging on your wall will generally want to know who they're speaking to. Consider posting an image and bio in your 'Photos' tab, and if you have several admins, consider using initials (e.g. Thanks for your input ^NP) to indicate who is posting.
6. Offer freebies
Small, exclusive rewards can help show that you value your fans and appreciate their interactions. For example, you could offer exclusive downloads, a discount voucher code or e-book excerpts. Such items cost you little, but could be extremely valuable to your fans.
7. Run competitions
In the beginning, getting people talking can be tough, so it can sometimes pay to run a competition to encourage comments. For example, you could post a photograph and invite your fans to post a caption in the comments. The best caption could be rewarded with a prize.
8. Promote your events
Facebook has an 'Events' tab that will allow you to create virtual invites for any events which you're running. This means that you can keep your fans updated on the very latest events that you are offering, as well as reminding them about the events as they draw near. If you're exhibiting or speaking at someone else's event you can also use this section to promote it.
9. Promote your page every day
You probably send dozens of emails a day, so why not include a link to your Facebook fan page in your email signature? This could prove an effective way to build interest in your page and in the early stages, could be a useful way to make sure current clients know it's there. You can also add your link on your marketing materials, and anywhere else you think it will attract the attention of potential fans.
10. Commit to the long-haul
Just like any form of online marketing, you'll only get out what you put in. Making a success of your fan page takes commitment and sustained effort. Think of your fan page as a virtual extension of your business. You should expect to come in and interact every day to keep fans happy, to make it work as a client retention tool and to maximise your chances of winning new and repeat business.
Nikki Pilkington is the owner/founder of NikkiPilkington.com, an internet marketing company based in the UK and France.