Business Buzz Podcast #2: Marketing via Facebook

The second episode of Business Buzz Podcast with Jodi Keily discussed how to use Facebook effectively for marketing tools. We discussed the changes of Facebook from a pure personal social networking to a commercialize marketing tool, the challenges for businesses to manage their fan pages, the possible solutions and the future trend of using Facebook for marketing.  Betty also joined us as the guest host to talk about her challenges as a small business owner in dealing with facebook fan page.

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Cross Posted at Jodi Kiely Communications

[PODCAST SCRIPT]

Jodi: Welcome to our “Business Buzz” podcast where today I am joined by Zachary Long and our guest host for today’s episode Betty Feng. And Betty is actually our technical specialist but she is joining us today for this particular discussion because as we were brainstorming ideas on what to talk about, it was actually Betty who brought up the topic of Facebook marketing. And as the discussion evolved, she had a lot of great insight so it just made sense to bring her in today as a guest host.

So as I mentioned, we’re going to be talking about Facebook marketing and the challenges that small businesses encounter when they are using Facebook as a marketing tool, and also some of the issues that people should consider when they start using a Facebook marketing page.

My name is Jodi Kiely and I’m a freelance PR and communications consultant based out of Orlando, Florida.

Zachary: And my name is Zachary Long and I’m a social media user and I also operate the Twitter account for the Orlando World Center Marriott at the front desk. (@TheFrontDesk).

Betty: My name is Betty Feng and I’m the co-owner of a camera rental business called Camera Concierge and I’m also the technical specialist of the “Business Buzz” podcast.

Jodi: So as I mentioned earlier, today we’re all going to be discussing Facebook as a marketing tool, and I’m just going to make the broad assumption here that everyone listening to the podcast is familiar with Facebook. And you all should be and if you aren’t you better have a great excuse because it is pretty much arguably the number one social networking site in the world.

But it’s interesting because the site is also going through a transformation and that is it is turning from a social networking site to a marketing tool. And we’re just going to discuss the shift that this brings up in terms of the challenges that companies encounter as they start experimenting with Facebook marketing.

So before we go into that, I’m just curious as to what Betty and Zac have to say about this trend overall.

Betty: Well, Facebook started as an alumni networking site requiring members to register with a university email address. Later on the greater public was able to sign up and as it happens, we are now seeing and befriending our parents, friends, bosses and colleagues. HR managers now screen candidates on their Facebook profiles and Facebook is becoming more and more complicated and challenging with its changing privacy settings. This site used to be place for all of us to share our secret moments with friends but it is now changing into a commercialized social network with many concerns about privacy settings, privacy control and information sharing.

Today many companies have jumped onto social media tools to market their businesses and connect with their customers. This kind of transformation of Facebook is just amazing.

Zachary: Like Betty was saying, there has been a real commercial shift in Facebook and as Jodi first pointed out, it is the number one social networking site, pretty much in the world hitting about 500 million users right now. And businesses are definitely taking notice. Currently for every company or every brand you are now able to find a fan page for and a business fan page on Facebook, about the brand of the company.

One of the interesting things is how brands have evolved to interact with their customers directly through Facebook. As Betty was saying, there has been a significant shift in the business world toward Facebook as businesses in general have taken notice of the site.

As Facebook hits the 500 million member mark, it is becoming increasingly important for corporations and any small business as well to have a presence on the site. One of the unique things about Facebook is that users are not some anonymous avatar like a random BBS or forum. These are the actual personal accounts of the customers. And having that demographic information and analytical information is extremely powerful for any company, large or small.

And one of the shifts as Facebook has slowly evolved is that with fan pages, you used to be a fan of the brand, but now you “like” a brand. And as changes occur through the privacy settings as well, there has also been a shift in these business’ pages as people create pages for businesses on a corporate level and make them more complex, changing the landing pages that you first see, special sign-up and then you can see a wall post in the way that businesses are interacting directly with their unique users.

Jodi: You know, I’m actually glad you mentioned how complex Facebook fan pages are turning into, Zac because I think there is a big misconception for a lot of companies jumping into this is that they think, “Oh, this is just a great, easy way to increase my marketing efforts!” But I think that’s a misconception because it can be difficult if you really do it right and its going to take a lot of investment, more so in time, and if you’re lacking in time or knowledge, then it’s going to require some investment in money as well.

And in just observing early users – the companies that have started early on marketing on Facebook – there are some businesses that are struggling to effectively use it. And I’ve kind of noticed a few themes or similarities that they all share.

One being that few businesses on Facebook really have a strategic plan. And as a result, they are struggling to update their page regularly – and that could be a time management issue – we can talk about that a little later.

I also noticed that some companies are not really engaging with their fans and the irony about that is we call consider Facebook to be social media. So you have to ask, “Where is the socializing?” You don’t have page administrators interacting with customers on Facebook.

And I also think that some businesses are really struggling to find good content and so in the end, they are just spamming their customers. And I think that is a challenge for businesses that are new Facebook. How do you strike a balance between promoting yourself but also offering something of value to your customers?

I don’t know if you have any thoughts on that, Zac?

Zachary: Yeah, definitely.

I was going to look at this through a corporate perspective by taking a couple of examples from companies that have their own social media departments and are trying out some pretty innovative things using Facebook as a customer service platform and to attempt to engage with the fans.

Looking at these as basically from smallest to largest, take a company like the Home Depot and their Facebook fan page has a 150 “likes” at this time, approximately – 150,000. People are posting on the wall anywhere from questions and they have the team at Home Depot – they respond directly to these, offering points of contact and real people that they can talk to to help them solve these problems.

Another good example to contrast that is a company like AT&T who, as we all know, has not been the greatest liked among the technology community with their service at the moment due to their exclusive contract with the iPhone. You see a lot of comments about dropped service, about calls, and they are basically a service company who you run the risk of having that corporate presence and now you have an open forum where everybody can really post their complaints and their compliments as well, but in a case like AT&T at the moment, their service issues bring more complaints than compliments.

Another one example I did want to look at as well is a company like Victoria’s Secret – their “Pink Page” has 2.7 million fans and not all are actual fans of the company. You will see the occasional comment about a Victoria’s Secret product but because it’s so big, you will have regular people basically spamming the wall with posts totally unrelated to the brand, and really there is no way to moderate it because it is Facebook – everything is immediately public.

And those are just a couple examples of how different corporations are going about addressing issues, like AT&T and Home Depot responding directly to posts and comments on their wall. But at the same time, another component of both of their wall pages or fan pages is another tab with specials and news about current happenings, using it as a true PR and marketing piece.

Jodi: Now Betty, as a small business owner you also have experience with this, too. Do you want to talk a little bit about your experience?

Betty: Yes, definitely and it’s a really good point to bring up as different sized companies have different challenges managing their Facebook pages. For me, speaking as a small business owner, we also have our own Facebook fan page and I feel the challenge to provide good content and to connect with our customers. We don’t want to spam our customers like you mentioned, however, our posts can be easily lost in the hundred of posts of our friends’ received every day. I know it’s happened to me over time. For example, I once missed the update announcing my friend’s new baby. So how bad is that? So you can easily miss any post.

Jodi: And I think this all goes back to when you’re looking to use Facebook as a marketing tool, companies really need to research it, I think, before they jump onto the Facebook bandwagon.

I can think of one company whose Facebook fan page literally died the same month that they started it. The problem was pretty obvious, that is, their target audience wasn’t on Facebook and wasn’t really using social media at the time. I’m not going to name the company, but for what it’s worth, it was in the managed care industry so they were basically a Medicare company. And when you at the demographics of their target audience, it’s an older audience who probably isn’t quick to adapt to social media per se.

So I think the lesson with that was that basic planning can go a long way.

I would suggest that companies that are considering a Facebook fan page should ask a few basic questions. For example:

–          What do I hope to gain by having a Facebook fan page?

–          How will I know my goals have been met?

–          Who is my target audience and are they even using Facebook?

–          And for content, what am I going to post on my page? How often? Should I be posting daily, weekly, on weekends and if so, are there specific times that attract more traffic than others and I can’t say for sure – I can point to research saying weekdays attract traffic than weekends, but still, it’s worth thinking about as you start writing your plan.

I also think you should ask yourself, “Where am I going to find consistent, good content to share with my fans?”

And this goes back to what we were talking about before, finding the balance between promoting yourself and offering useful information for your customers.

Zachary: And that’s a great point and I think that any information you post has to be really relevant to the customers. And if your Facebook fan page, if you’re a restaurant and you’re posting about the local politics, do your fans really want to see the politics from you, the restaurant owner? No, they probably want to see something related to the industry you’re in. You want to be posting an update about your industry or a special going on.

And to your point about frequency of posts, yes there may be optimal times, but should you hold that content just because you have it or is it more a matter of frequency? Different users would access Facebook different times of the day. You might have the college kid accessing it in the middle of the afternoon or you have a family so maybe you access it first thing at work so that 9:30 is the optimal time, so they maybe access it again when they get off work, maybe 5:45 when they get home. So there is the balance of yes there are optimal times, but do you really to withhold news just because you want to hit those optimal times. Then you’re only delivering news at scheduled intervals and maybe missing larger parts of the story.

Some other thoughts on the subject of engaging your fans and finding relevant information is when taking a look at, when using an example, CNN, yes they are a news organization but they don’t post every story, but the stories they do post generate hundreds of likes and hundreds of comments – it’s something that really gets discussion going. They know their target audience are obviously watchers of the news and by filtering that news and finding only a couple relevant stories that they think will generate the most interest, they are basically effectively managing their posts, not overwhelming their users, but giving the ones that could spark that discussion and spark more sharing among Facebook users that do access the page.

Jodi: And Betty you were showing me some research on the frequency of Facebook updates. Do you want to share what your learned?

Betty: Yeah, I learned more about the frequency of posting. I read some conflicting research regarding the best time to post on Facebook. One report says Tuesdays is the best time and weekends are the worst since everyone is going out on the weekends so they don’t log onto Facebook. But another report says the weekend is the best time so with this conflicting information, without seeing any raw data myself, I would just recommend having one or two posts every day.

And back to Zac’s point, the content is more important than frequency. When you have good content, your fans will more likely leave comments and “like” it which will bring the post onto the Facebook home page top news feed, even in posts posted a while ago.

It’s also very important to interact with your fans besides offering incentives such as coupons, companies can just use other techniques such as contests to give more fans incentives to participate. So the challenge for most of the companies is to post good content. It is not an easy task to create good content without professional knowledge if the business wants to be seen as an expert or provide useful information.

Big organizations can hire a dedicated social media coordinator to write content. With small businesses, we often see that they are struggling to create good content without a significant input of time and energy. So for many organizations and businesses, they often post news and photos of their events (as their page contents).

I also just want to emphasize the importance of a person responding to comments. Fans will leave a fan page if their questions or comments are not responded to – as least that’s the case with me. I’ll leave some comments on a company’s Facebook page and if I don’t get a response, I will be disappointed and I will “unlike” the page.

Jodi: I think you brought up a lot of good points and thing I want to return to is something you said about the issue of time management. I think that is a big challenge for some companies and you have mentioned hiring an external party to manage a social media site. It makes sense: Folks get busy, they forget and their fan page can be ignored.

Considering that, what are both of your opinions on outsourcing that to a third party?

Zac: I think there is value. You both mentioned that time investment is necessary to successfully execute a page. There is value in freeing up resources – if you’re a small business and your expertise is not social media, it does make sense to find someone who is, but with the caveat that they have to have an overall strategy and know who your fans are and know what content is relevant to them. And to our prior points, it has to be quality content that is targeted to the audience.

Betty: Yeah, totally agree with that. I would love to outsource that task if I could afford to do it, so a dedicated social media expert could create good content, manage Facebook promotional events and interact with the fans in a timely manner. I have to be honest in that I often forget to update our own Facebook fan page for Camera Concierge, as I have so many other things going on.

So Jodi and Zac, perhaps you guys can create a consulting company to manage social media accounts for small businesses. So what do you think?

Jodi: I’d be open to that, I enjoy working with Zac!

And as we go back to the issue of time management and outsourcing this job, as an independent consultant, I do feel that it can be done effectively, but you have set some ground rules or you have to have some sort of plan, like Zac said.

And just from my experience managing a client’s social media account, I have a few big tips that I would suggest to companies considering making a Facebook fan page to consider:

And one is, share your company’s social media policy with your consultant because this is going to be a great way to not only to provide guidance on what the company’s rules are in terms of using the company social media site, but it also protects you in a way. Social media policies are kind of a new thing, you can find examples online of companies who have made their’s public. I have also written about a little about this on my blog at JodiKiely.com – that’s J-O-D-I-K-I-E-L-Y dot com and if you just search in my archives for social media policies and guidelines, that could be a good starting point for any company that has not drafted one – and I strongly suggest that if you haven’t started a social media account yet, draft your social media guidelines or handbook before you do. If you already are using social media and you don’t have a set of guidelines, really consider doing that right away. There are just a lot of benefits to doing that.

But another thing I would like to stress is that if you are going to outsource your social media efforts to a contractor, make sure there is a constant flow of information because your contractor is not going to have all that inside information about the business that you have. So for example, if you have a big trade show coming up, make sure your contractor knows where that trade show is going to be, what the dates are, where your booth is going to be located in the convention center so all that can be shared with your Facebook fan page members and followers.

Also, if you have an e-newsletter, make sure your consultant is receiving that because that’s a great source of information in terms of updating your page as are news releases.

Just make sure there is a flow of constant communication.

Betty: Yeah, I totally agree with you that the consultant needs to be updated about what’s going on with the company in order to provide relevant content to customers. Otherwise you’re providing irrelevant information and confusing your fans.

Jodi: You know, in an ideal situation, the person writing your e-newsletters can be the same person managing your social media account. You know, it’s just something to consider.

Also, in my experience, I’ve found out that some of the best information comes up at the spur of the moment. Like, for example, the CEO will be on T.V. – you need to make sure your social media coordinator or whoever you are outsourcing this to is aware of these kind of details that come up at the last minute so that they can put that online and give your fans a chance to catch you on T.V. or hear you on the radio.

I don’t know if either of you have anything more to add on that?

Zachary: There’s just one other point. Besides have a social media policy, have a real strategy and know what you want to achieve with the site. Is it more fans – well, why do you want more fans? Is there a real reason behind that or do you really want to engage your fans? Before you go out and hire a social media consultant, sit down with the leadership team of whatever organization it is and let them develop some goals and the metrics of what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve those – really think it out.

Jodi: Right Zac, and I totally agree. Like we said it all comes down to planning and communicating your plans with the right people.

So before we tie things up, I have one question for Zac and Betty and that is their feelings on Facebook as a trend in social networking. Facebook has about 50 million registered users (sic) and apparently it’s getting more visits than Google. So considering this, how do you guys feel about Facebook as a marketing strategy long term?

Betty: Personally, I find myself spending less time on Facebook for my personal profile just because Facebook is so commercialized today. I don’t feel that personal touch anymore. It’s great to connect with friends and update others on the changes in my life, but I’m afraid people will actually spend less quality personal time on Facebook because of information and advertisement overload.

Perhaps some people are logging in just to spend time playing Farmville – I can tell by my friends’ annoying status updates. I don’t know how a company can target to those customers playing Farmville, but I feel Facebook is becoming a large business forum site like Zac mentioned earlier. The good thing about that is that customers can enjoy the convenience of getting updates on fan pages and it’s easy for them to use Facebook to interact with companies or organizations they like.

Most importantly, the customer can use Facebook to voice their opinions. With such large amounts of users, Facebook is a mandatory marketing strategy for many – not all- B2C businesses if Voice of Customer is important to them.

Zac: And that’s exactly right. Facebook is too large to ignore. At this point in the game, it’s pretty much mandatory that you have some sort of presence on Facebook. And if you’re not, you’re missing out on a huge marketing opportunity and interaction opportunity. It’s an opportunity to connect on a personal level because these are real people behind all the accounts. And they are not afraid to voice their very public opinions on your fan page about what you’re doing right or wrong at the company. And so as a company again, you have that responsibility to respond. And if you’re not responding then that kind of snowballs the whole PR effect and makes matters worse by not responding so there is that catch 22. Now because you’re public and because they’re leaving comments about you, you have an obligation to respond to those comments or be seen as being unfeeling or uncaring.

Jodi:   Well there actually are a lot of case studies out there on the web addressing that problem. I’ll see what I can do about tracking those down and posting those on the blog in case anyone is interested in reading those. I guess in closing we can all agree that Facebook marketing can be worthwhile but there is a wrong and right way to approach it. They key is be strategic about it, do your research before you jump into the pool and don’t forget to interact.

So this wraps up our episode today. On behalf of all of us, I want to thank everyone for joining in and listening to us. If you want more information, you can check out my blog at JodiKiely.com or you can follow me on Twitter @Jodi_Kiely.

Zac: And of course you can follow me on Twitter as well and find me just by googling my name, pretty much. Zachary Long, spelled Z-A-C-H-A-R-Y L-O-N-G. Go to @ZacharyLong on Twitter, zacharylong.com or just google me.

Betty: It was my pleasure being guest host for this episode, and listeners can find my blog at GSCMotion.wordpress.com and follow me on Twitter @BettyFeng (one word). Also, don’t forget to join our Facebook fan page for Camera Concierge if you are a photography fan.

Jodi: Great, thanks for listening everyone, we hope you gained a lot from our discussion today and thanks to Betty and Zac for another great episode!

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