Building a following on social media is a good way to foster engagement with your customer base and find potential new clients. But are you going about it all wrong?
After establishing an online presence—grabbing a domain name, building a website, setting up email, etc.—registering a bunch of social media accounts for your small business seems like the next logical step. The bad news is that many entrepreneurs don’t take their social network's culture into account, according to Jay Izso, a psychological business consultant and author of Got Social Mediology? Using Psychology to Master Social Media Without Spending a Dime.
Facebook Business Pages are a prime example of how a small business owner's updates on social media frequently don’t mesh with the community's culture and expectations. That is, if those updates ever get seen at all.
Most of the time, the updates to your business page won’t even appear in your followers' newsfeeds. "Organically, [updates appear] less than four percent of the time when you post something on your business page," Izso said during a recent interview. Of course, there is a way to get more users to view your posts, and that's to pay to promote them.
Izso offers a more effective, and cheaper, alternative.
Get Personal on Facebook Business Pages
"The real power of Facebook is the personal relationships," said Izso. Facebook, as both a social network and a culture, thrives on authentic interpersonal connections and involvement, often placing it at odds with product-driven marketing efforts.
Today's consumer can see right through most marketing efforts, he warned. "You can't fake authenticity. You can read through it instantly." Facebook users respond better to people that "recognize them as individuals" and interact as, well, people. What does that mean for small business owners?
Izso succinctly summed up the impact of a personal approach to Facebook in a statement sent to Small Business Computing.
"If you spend more time as the CEO and business owner working on personal relationships, you will generate real people who want to support you, refer you and your business," he stated. "This will also generate word-of-mouth, because you're developing real knowing, real liking, and ultimately developing personal trust that leads to long term business, not broadcasting, which the majority of the Facebook culture does not like anyway."
As a bonus, "you don't have to spend any money" using his approach.
What's Not to 'Like'?
Facebook Business Pages do have value, noted Izso. They are particularly suited for giveaways and other promotions that require a structured engagement model. However, small businesses are better off being themselves.
"Become human and open to interactions," he suggested. Post about and reply to happy milestones, great restaurant finds and the day-to-day happenings that offer customers a look at "the person behind the business." This kind of behavior demonstrates that you contribute to the community and to the local economy. Those insights are "triggers that help us trust and believe in that person."
And don't try to fake it. "When you are authentic, people really want to know more about what you do," Izso. That often translates into likeability, which "is a huge influencer for businesses."
Plus, you don't have to worry about carving out time for a social media campaign. In fact, you can save time compared to attempts at crafting the perfect promotional Facebook update. Respond to posts on your iPad while catching up with the news at breakfast, while waiting in line at the bank or during those moments you're checking Facebook anyway.
Being Real Hit Home
Izso's family witnessed firsthand the results of being a person first on Facebook, and a small business owner second.
His wife Linda Craft, a real estate professional, created a client list of roughly 40 former and current clients and followed them on Facebook. During her free moments, she would engage with her clients as she would her friends by sharing life events, congratulating successes and expressing support during setbacks.
The power of Facebook really hit home, when after chronicling her mother's struggle with cancer, clients lined up to engage her for their real estate needs, said Izso. Sharing that part of her life "made her relatable, made her real and authentic," traits that people look for in both small businesses and friends.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of IT-related websites and as the Green IT curator for GigaOM Pro. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE
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