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Using Facebook for Business

By Julie King |

Social networks have given the marketing concept of "I'll tell two friends; then they'll tell two friends" an exponential boost.

The new magic number, at least on Facebook, is 130. That's the average number of people friends each Facebook users has.

As a business, an important part of spreading the word about something through Facebook is that you need people to interact. When someone responds to or "likes" a posting, their interaction is then seen by most of their friends. As those friends, in turn, interact, the pattern continues. When people start to forward information, like a popular video, that is even better.

This is how a single YouTube video, such as Susan Boyle's famous appearance on Britain's Got Talent, was able to spread to tens of millions of viewers overnight.

Incredible market reach

An obvious reason to examine how Facebook can be used as a marketing tools is, quite simply, the shear numbers.

In April 2009, Facebook had 175,000,000 active users. By October 2009, that number had risen to 300,000,000. Today, the social network has more than 400,000,000 active users.

That is greater than the population of the United States; if Facebook were a country it would be the third largest country in the world.

Elmer Sotto's top 10 tips for making connections on Facebook

Speaking at the Mesh Marketing conference last fall, Elmer Sotto, Country Growth Manager with Facebook Canada, explained that the best way to promote your business or services on Facebook is to focus on creating a great "fan page" for your business and then getting users to interact.

Here is a summary of the 10 things Sotto recommended businesses do to reach people on Facebook:

10.     Create a Facebook page and maintain it. Sotto noted that businesses are being encouraged to create Facebook pages rather than groups.
9.   Think about publishing content that others will interact with. As noted above, you will get better results if you create stories that people interact with, respond to and share.
8.     Design your page for your users. Facebook lets you add a larger picture, known as a profile picture, as well as a smaller version of the same image to your fan page. What many businesses may not realize is that you can add impact to your page by creating a longer profile picture than the standard size used in your individual profile.
7.   Keep things succinct and interesting. Brevity is important online, so keep your postings brief and make sure they contain valuable information.
6.     Be innovative, but don't overcomplicate things. You can add custom functionality and even integrate your Facebook page with an e-commerce store on the company's main website. However, users are accustomed to the native navigational structure of Facebook, so be careful not to overcomplicate or change things.
5.     Have a consistent voice. This standard journalism and marketing practice applies to the social media sphere as well. It's good to have a personality, but be sure to maintain a consistent tone suitable for your fans. A tax accountant may want to be clear and conservative in tone, while an outdoor sporting goods store would probably turn off viewers if they adopted this characterization.
4.    Manage your publication schedule. Users will like consistency. They don't need to hear from you every day; in fact, if they hear from you too often they might be inclined to remove your fan page from their list. It's good to share breaking news, but otherwise create a publishing schedule and pace out the delivery of your posts.
3.     Evaluate and adjust your efforts on an ongoing basis. Facebook provides a tool called "Page Insights" that can help you identify who your fans are, where they live and the posts that create the most interest. Use this information to improve the way you communicate with fans.
2.   Use engagement ads to promote your fan page. Sotto explained that these ads, which encourage user interactions during their regular use of Facebook, are the easiest way to connect with and gain more fans. For example, if you want to gain a particular type of sports fanatic as fans, you might run an interactive poll as an engagement ad to spark their interest.
1.    Finally, integrate Facebook with your company website. Facebook provides tools, known as widgets, that make it very easy for you to do this. Currently Facebook widgets let businesses share Facebook content or post a Page Badge on their websites, allow users to add a fan box to their Facebook pages and automatically post their Facebook status updates to Twitter.

Another tool, Facebook Connect, lets users share content from your website with their friends on Facebook. As friends find the content on Facebook, they then click back to your website, completing the viral loop.

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