After looking at the many changes Facebook rolled out last week, it looks like small businesses now are at somewhat of a disadvantage on the 700-million strong social networking site. Many small businesses were relying on Facebook as a free platform to develop a loyal following that might “like” and “share” and “comment” in the hopes that others would see and do the same, and ultimately be converted into a regular customer. Facebook has just made that harder for small businesses, especially if these businesses are new to the social site, have under 500 or so fans, and are not an advertising partner. I would encourage every small business owner to look at the new changes so they are up-to-date. It’s going to be vital to go out and revisit Facebook to overcome the roadblocks that have been put in place and look at what opportunities are now available.
Looking closely at the changes, it’s apparent that many of them are designed specifically to benefit developers and enterprise level advertisers. The new “open graph” encourages daily users to post more information about themselves and connect to friends’ information on a whole new level. Facebook is asking massive advertising partners to find ‘key influencers’ and their communities and start creating ‘experiences’ for those communities. Developers can create applications that get users to share even more information around a certain subject and spend more time linked to Facebook. Users will be able to not only play games and buy products but also watch movies, TV, listen to music, read the news, without leaving Facebook.
Facebook has now separated newsfeed and ‘boring’ news in a users’ feed. Because of this separation, Facebook has changed the way everyone receives information to benefit those two important groups. It’s not clear yet what algorithms are used to determine these separations and rank stories.
Here are some of the roadblocks for small business owners:
- Learn / Re-learn: These changes are going to require small businesses to quickly learn the new system. Get past the inconvenience and dig in. Read everything you can and educate yourself. Change is a constant in social media, and you’ll have to scratch out some time for learning.
- Study Facebook Insights. This data will help you determine what works and what doesn’t. Learn what days of the week you get the most interaction, what types of posts people like and comment on, what the demographics of your fans are—and start keeping track, either by hand or on an Excel spreadsheet.
- Find The Key Fans. Small businesses that rely solely on organic growth (your fan numbers growing naturally) may fail in the new system. Identify key influencers in your fan base and begin to learn how to use them (and reward them) for amplifying your messages.
- Content is KING. Familiarize or reach out to Triangle Direct to help with providing quality content. Develop an actual social media strategy. By creating a strategy and continually providing content on a regular basis, you can successfully increase your online presence — not just on Facebook.
And now for the good stuff! Here are some of the opportunities!
- Facebook is not the only place to present your business online. Think about developing an online presence other places as well. Do some research and contact Triangle Direct to figure out other channels and look at what other businesses like yours are doing. Create an optimized blog, set up a Twitter account and use it to search what’s going on there–you don’t need to tweet to be there. Check out YouTube for ideas on how you can use video.
- Everyone loves a great party. Social media is great for events, especially with location-based applications. If you haven’t already, start taking advantage of the event piece of Facebook. Claim your physical venue on Foursquare and learn how to use it. Become familiar with Twitter hashtags for events and experiment using them.
- The ABC’s of Search Engine Optimization. Discover the power of learning more about SEO. Our proprietary software (SEOtool) is one of the most powerful platforms to solve the onsite issues on any website. If you have an unhealthy site, your social optimization plans may be fleeting.
- Mad Scientists are not the only ones that conduct experiments. Does posting out to a blog on a weekly basis work for you? How about strategically-placed ads focusing on your competition? Try different things and keep track of what works and what doesn’t. Even though social media is a science, it’s not rocket science. Don’t be afraid to try something different, and don’t be afraid to dump it if it fails.
Remember, “Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change – this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress.” Bruce Barton