Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Challenges for a Business in a Facebook World

By Craig Allan, Visionary Group

When I sat down to write this article I recalled numerous conversations about Social Media, and Facebook in particular. We’ve reviewed some of the finer issues that consistently emerge in talks with our client partners... most of the ‘burning questions’ are responded to in the issues described below, but also at our Masterclasses and Workshops (more details here).

Do I really need to get involved in Facebook?
The main challenge for business owners is how to best use their time to best serve the business – we often hear “just because it’s the latest thing doesn’t make it right for my business”, or “... my customers are not on Facebook”.
A few points of fact may help if you find yourself in this dilemma - with over 800 million people across the world using Facebook and over 60% of Australians being regular users, your customers are already there. Age breakdown of Facebook users is also evenly split between Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y, making Facebook one of the most broadly adopted communication channels.

Facebook as a marketing vehicle:
Many sole traders, micro businesses and consultancies are finding that Facebook is all they need for promoting their business and attracting clients. Marketing and promotion costs have always been a headache for small business and Facebook has been a saviour... however this strategy may not be appropriate for many operators. Great for micro-businesses, but is the corporate world using Facebook?

It’s been reported that 54% of Global 100 companies use Facebook, however in Australia only 30% have indicated use of Social media. It seems that while more small to medium Aussie businesses are promoting their Facbook presence, many boards of top companies are hesitant to embrace social media... possibly due to lack of understanding as well as the age and gender of board members?

For all other businesses, Facebook has a competitive advantage that is cost effective and relatively easy to manage, both as a promotional and relationship platform, but it is also a support network for customer feedback, product/service development and to ‘keep your finger on the pulse’.

Protecting your company brand and reputation:
For businesses willing to invest in Facebook there are a great deal of benefits, however there are a few issues regarding security and privacy that need to be considered.  The level of exposure that a company places itself within social media is a genuine concern, for example how do you stop negative comments from trashing the good name of your company?

Business page owners can always remove content and (as a last resort) report users to Facebook, however sometimes a negative comment (if constructive) can be a blessing in disguise... an opportunity to showcase your customer service skills and how you care.

Every now and then we hear of Facebook users having their accounts or pages hacked, invariably we find that simple passwords are the root cause. Use solid passwords and change on a regular basis, also if you’re not sure it might pay to get some support in setting up the security settings of the business page, however it’s been streamlined and with a little time and effort most business owners will be able to get the settings right.

More now than ever, the distinction between our personal and professional lives are blurred and operators of smaller businesses will find this a big challenge. Consultants and professionals need to market themselves as the business. To combat this some people will either have a private profile (for friends and family) and also a public profile to run the business page with.

Best use of time and return on investment:
As with almost anything online or technology based, time tends to get away from us all, time management is essential to attain a balance between maintaining communications on Facebook and not letting it take over...  we use and recommend setting up a schedule within your diary when you are going to work on Facebook... and trying to stick with it!

Facebook can be a great way of receiving referrals and positioning yourself or your business as an expert in your field; it does take time and consistent effort... the main key word is ‘consistency’.

How do I keep up-to-date with all the changes?
There have been a number of significant changes to Facebook over the last 12 months, including new layouts such as timelines, new pages such as business pages and also changes to privacy and security – keeping up to date with these changes and how they impact end users is difficult. Business owners can subscribe to a number of newsletters, blogs etc to be kept informed, however sometimes it’s more effective to seek professional advice.

Develop a Digital Strategy now!
Internet technologies (especially Social Media) have changed the landscape of how companies speak and relate to consumers... the Internet also furnishes the consumer with knowledge and choice never seen in the past – with this in mind companies require development of a digital strategy of how they operate online.

Business operators require a paradigm shift in their thinking regarding how they communicate to consumers, social media technologies are the vehicle that allow relationships to develop with virtually 1 on 1 communications with each consumer – relationship marketing is the norm in social media for business.

Other areas to consider when developing a digital strategy for your firm is to how to integrate social media activities with other marketing channels, this includes the need to co-ordinate campaigns across all channels and the frequency of communications within each channel... very few firms have mastered this successfully without concerted effort and planning with support from professionals.

Want to know how we can help? Contact us how we can partner with you to reach your goals!