Social Media Basics: Gain a Following on Facebook

Social Media Basics: Gain a Following on Facebook
By Heather Gooch

Facebook is so ubiquitous in our culture these days that it’s hard to believe it’s only less than seven years old. According to its official timeline, Mark Zuckerberg and co-founders Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin launched Facebook from their Harvard dorm room in February 2004. By December of that year, it reached nearly 1 million active users. Compare that to February 2010, where it hit the 400 million mark.

So what is Facebook, and why does your business "have” to be on it? Put quite simply, this giant of social media can translate into free branding for your business on a worldwide platform. All it requires of you is to be proactive, savvy, honest — and consistent.

AAB member Chris Campbell currently has 85 people who "like” her page. (Having members "like” your business profile is a spring 2010 update of what used to be known as "becoming a fan” of a page.) As a digital scrapbooker for Oscraps, Facebook originally was a way for Campbell to keep in touch with her colleagues after a trip to Mexico two years ago.

Establishing a personal profile is the first step to gaining a business presence on Facebook. From there, you can build a page that is devoted to your business and updated independently from your personal profile. In other words, your recent observation to friends and family about what you did last weekend won’t show up on your business page — unless you want it to.

Most of the artisans interviewed for this article joked that they started on Facebook as a way to keep an eye on their teen-aged or grown children. But although the platform was created by and for college students, studies find that the under 25-crowd doesn’t use Facebook as much as older adults. A study by Royal Pingdom, for example, estimates that the average user is 38 years old.

That’s just fine with AAB member Marty Vanslette, whose DewOnAPetal Custom Soy Candles and Home Fragrance Facebook page is bringing in business. Vanslette points to a few instances where the page, currently with 96 "likes,” is selling to customers long after show hours have ended.

"I literally just had a customer who found me on Facebook and said ‘I have to have these!’” she recalls, noting that graduation time earlier this summer brought another wave of online business via Facebook.

Getting Started
On your business page profile, you can share as much or as little information as you feel is useful to existing and potential customers. Most business at least post their year founded, business mission, contact information, logo and product photos/descriptions.

Lisa Glaser-Ziegler uses an Etsy-sanctioned template for her Echos Art page. She notes that the template makes updating easy. It even has the ability to accept credit card orders right on the page — not something she’s currently doing, but is looking into doing eventually. Instead, her page points interested customers to her online store URL, where she can accept payment.

DewOnAPetal’s Vanslette not only uses her Facebook page to spread the word about upcoming shows at which she’s exhibiting; she uploads photos during the events, which mix nicely with her new product introductions and basic life observations.

"It’s important to balance personal and professional posts, but don’t post anything you wouldn’t want the world to see,” she notes.

Members Only
Exclusive offers are always appealing to consumers, and using Facebook is an easy way to make that happen. Here are four member-interaction avenues to explore for your Facebook business page:

• Special discounts: Patricia Gusman, an AAB member, uses her Natural Bathtime Essentials Facebook page, primarily to post new listings and offer follower-only discounts to her 183-and-counting followers.

• Contests: At press time, Echos Art’s Glaser-Ziegler was just 10 followers shy of her goal of getting 200 "likes.” To keep the interaction going, she even asked on her page’s wall what the 200th person should receive as a prize.

• Feedback: Campbell notes that Facebook has been particularly useful to her Faery-Wings Apothecary business because of the instant feedback she can receive about a product in progress — or even yet to be thought of. For example, it was a follower’s suggestion to get a fragrance "like a Hollister store” that led Campbell to introduce her Venice Beach scent last year.

• Interaction with fellow artisans: AAB member Cindy Jones Helgason has 229 followers of Soapourri Natural Bath & Body’s page, and she finds that many followers are fellow artisans. She likes the idea of supporting one another — and sharing new innovations in marketing online. "It reminds me of the old webrings we used to have on our home pages,” she adds.

Site Maintenance
Like Twitter, LinkedIn or any other social media platform, it’s important to visit your Facebook profile frequently to see whether anyone has posted, or whether there’s any outdated links or information. Don’t let your page go neglected with the "see us at the August county fair!” message still hanging around in November. Successful users agree that at least a weekly update is the norm. It doesn’t always have to be about a new product, either.

"People like to see your personal side, they like to read about how you cleaned your studio,” Glaser-Ziegler says.

The biggest advantages to Facebook are that your business name and contact info are easily accessible by a huge population of potential customers. Unlike Twitter, your updates can be more than 140 characters long. Adding photos and web links can enhance the updates, as well.

Best of all, because it’s such a popular platform, any question you may have or challenge you might run into while using Facebook is more than likely already answered in an online forum. A simple Google search can usually turn up a plethora of information about any aspect of Facebook from users who have been in the same boat.

If you haven’t started with Facebook yet, now is the time to start: The platform is free to use, there is plenty of online support (not just from Facebook, but from other users), and it’s an easy way to gain new customers.

Even if you only sell at shows, Glaser-Ziegler notes, many attendees will go home and search for your business name on Facebook — "and they’ll be surprised if they can’t find you on there!” 


HEATHER GOOCH  (http://www.postiveyarn.com/) is vice president of Gooch & Gooch LLC, an editorial marketing services firm.  She specializes in marketing for the needlework and craft industries. Heather wrote this feature article exclusively for Debbie May.com (www.DebbieMay.com), an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.