Although a few years behind the international curve, social media has become fairly entrenched in South African society in the last year or so.
According to Socialbakers.com, a social media statistics website, there are currently 4.5 million Facebook users in South Africa. That is quite astounding since we believe that only just over 10% of the country is connected to the Internet which means that Facebook has an online penetration of just over 85%.
Do you hear what I’m saying? Nearly 9 out of 10 South Africans who are connected to the net are on Facebook. And it’s not gonna slow down any time soon. The total number of Facebook users in South African grew by 726 400 in the last six months. Seems I don’t have to convince you, the public, of Facebook’s value.
To add to that, almost everywhere you look the Facebook icon is conveniently located within eye shot just begging you to connect with a company or brand. But how does it all work? How does Facebook and business come together?
In the last year, Vivid Marketing has taught over 600 employees from businesses of all types and sizes about social media and its relevance to business. During this time, we found that despite almost all the delegates having Facebook accounts and using them regularly, they were still very confused about how it all works. So don’t feel silly if you don’t quite know.
This post is worth a read for anyone who uses Facebook in a personal capacity or for business or both.
When the telephone and email were invented, they weren’t purpose built for business but many quickly realized it was a great way to communicate with others in a professional capacity too and it became a part of the way we do business.
Facebook is no different. Although it wasn’t created specifically for business, many have realized its potential for business along the way and started using it as such. However, we must first understand how the process works and then understand the etiquette if we are to take advantage of the medium.
THE BEFORE TIME
When people wanted to advertise their business in the early days of Facebook, they either created a “profile” as if their business was a person or they created a “group” and invited all their friends to join.
Profiles are designed specifically for people and have a ceiling of 5000 friends which is very limiting for bigger businesses. Also, using a profile this way is effectively violating Facebook’s terms of service.
The group function wasn’t really built for business either but it was better than creating profile and although it worked well at times, three main problems arose:
- Spam. Once people joined a group, the only way an administrator of the group could keep in touch was to send a mass mail to everyone who was part of the group. There was no regulation, administrators could send as many messages as they wanted and there was nothing a user could do about it but leave the group. An all or nothing mentality.
- Invite overload. Depending on how many friends you had on Facebook, you were constantly sent many invites to various groups by friends. People also waited to be invited to a group as opposed to looking for groups they wanted to join. This created a negative culture.
Opt-in. About a year ago, Facebook took a real step backward by allowing your friends to add you to a group without asking your permission. This just upsets people.
There were a few more issue but these three points largely created a negative connotation to groups. Users didn’t feel very encouraged to connect with a brand, product or business on this basis. Something had to give.
Facebook created “pages” which they defined as “a public profile that enables you to share your business and products with Facebook users. Pages create a presence that looks and behaves like user profiles to connect and engage with your customers and amplify your voice to their friends.”
The Facebook page brought about changes that swung in favor of the average Facebook user and rightfully so but that meant that businesses wishing to maintain an interactive and engaging presence on Facebook had to work that much harder. With pages, a business could no longer send out bulk mail messages to interact with its fans.
HOW IT WORKS
Businesses now request Facebook users to visit their page and press the “like” button which is the user’s way of following this business. A business can then interact with a Facebook user by updating its status (just like a user updates its status) which then appears in the user’s news feed which is on the Facebook homepage (the first page you land on when you login to Facebook).
Your news feed is a constantly updating list of stories from people and Pages that you follow on Facebook. In addition to posts from friends you follow, you’ll see photo tags, friend requests, event updates, group memberships and other activity. Status updates from the businesses you follow now also show in your news feed.
THE STATUS UPDATE
One of the many benefits in creating a business page is that your status update is quite dynamic. It’s not just a place where write what’s going on. You can also share a photo, link, video or ask a “question”. These different kinds of status updates then show up in your fan’s news feeds.
THE “KEY” TO RUNNING A SUCCESSFUL PAGE…
is to engage the fans who follow it. If a page is used purely for marketing the business, followers will grow tired of the page and pay very little attention to future status updates from that page. A page should be there to humanize the business. If a business owner only ever spoke about his business to other people in person, those people wouldn’t want to be around the business owner too often.
One thing that will boost your follower count and engagement is great content that would interest clients and potential clients alike. It is important that this content is not always yours and not always related to making a sale.
Let’s say your company develops small business CRM software. You will want to share content that people who use your software would be interested in, such as articles on social media for customer relationships. You wouldn’t want to constantly bombard your audience with links to product sales pages directly on your Facebook wall or non-stop sales videos. An occasional status update about new products and special offers is ok when mixed in with other great content.
Your goal will be to keep providing educational and, for some industries, entertaining content over content that will make your followers feel like they are constantly being pitched to. But this is a totally separate blog topic for another time.
THE BENEFIT OF LIKING A PAGE AS THE AVERAGE FACEBOOK USER…
is that you get to connect with brands, products and businesses in one central place (your news feed). The barrier to entry is low because businesses can no longer bombard your inbox with a million messages. These companies now have to create engaging and interacting content to catch your attention and the only way they can communicate with you is via status updates in your news feed. So it’s very important to understand the role that a news feed provides.
The coming together and Facebook and business was, in my opinion, one of the best things that happened to Facebook. Business added a new dimension to Facebook and a greater reason for the average user to logon. The whole world is that much more connected and if used correctly, business benefits immensely from Facebook.
However, ir order to obtain that benefit, business must engage, interact with and even entertain the Facebook user. This then benefits the user and we all win.
KEEP IN TOUCH WITH VIVID MARKETING
This post was written for the Vivid Marketing website. If your interest is peaked and you want to learn more about engaging with an audience, “like” them on Facebook, “follow” them on Twitter and/or “follow” them on LinkedIn.
They use these channels to educate you on the finer details of social media for business.