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11 Ways Facebook Can Help SMBs Grow Their Business

Facebook likes small and medium-size businesses (SMBs)—and it turns out that SMBs want to befriend Facebook, too.

More than 30 million SMBs have an active business page on Facebook, over 19 million manage their pages via mobile, and in excess of one million spend money on ads, noted Dan Levy, director of small business for the social network, speaking at Facebook Fit New York—a boot camp that teaches SMB owners how to grow their business through Facebook.

Of course, no one understands how Facebook can impact businesses better than SMBs themselves. Four individuals shared their success stories and advice during Facebook Fit’s Small Business Panel. Here are their 11 tips for how SMB owners can leverage Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild to drive engagement and customers.

1) Know your audience and how to reach them: When Tavy and Assaf Ronen purchased The Yarn Company on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in 2011, the two co-owners decided to relaunch the shop, originally established back in 1979, and give it a modern flare.

“We wanted to create a place that was all about aesthetics, fashion, and textile all at the same time,” Tavy Ronen said.

However, the siblings knew that their “more traditional” and “old-fashioned” customers might not appreciate their new vision, Tavy said. So the Ronen duo set out to build a new customer base by reaching out to international prospects rather than neighborhood locals.

To spread word of their relaunch far and wide, the Ronens relied on Facebook and other digital marketing methods. For instance, the co-owners created a gallery of their textiles in-store and then posted images from the gallery on Facebook. This allowed remote prospects who weren’t physically come to the store to experience the colors and beauty of the textiles. The company also sends an email newsletter containing new products and trends to about 9,000 people.

2) Invite customers to engage with you: If SMB owners want customers to engage with them, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask them to do so, said Emanuel Peña, owner of Harlem-based Astor Row Café. For example, instead of creating a website for his restaurant, Peña directs consumers to the café’s Facebook page where they can view images of the food and beverages, as well as like and share comments. He said that he also asks customers to like Astor Row Café’s Facebook page or to check in. In fact, customers must check in to receive the café’s Wi-Fi password.

“Being able to track down this data—it’s essential,” Peña said.

3) Get more customers with existing customers: Grocery chain Fairway Market might not seem like an SMB—especially considering that the brand’s advertising and display costs were approximated at $9.5 million for the end of the 2013 fiscal year and that its marketing costs were estimated at another $1.2 million, according to its annual report. However, Fairway’s VP of Marketing Jacqueline Donovan said that the company shares many of the same challenges, including awareness.

Fairway has 15 locations across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut; however, many associate the brand as solely a Manhattan chain. So when Fairway opened a new location, it asked its Facebook fans why they love Fairway for a commercial.

“There is nothing more powerful than the fans that you already have,” Donovan said.

4) Let customers do the marketing: Instead of constantly posting his own pictures of dishes, Peña encourages customers to share their own images and other forms of user-generated content. Hey, what’s better than free publicity?

5) Enable bragging: Of course, if SMBs want customers to brag about them, they have to give them the means to do it. When Donovan started working at Fairway five years ago, she discovered that the brand had an avid fan base—but nowhere to profess their love for the company. So Donovan helped Fairway launch its own Facebook page to give its customers a platform for engagement. Today, Fairway has more than 89,000 likes.

She also helped Fairway broaden its customer advocacy efforts. In the past, Fairway prohibited customers from taking pictures in its stores. But after receiving a complaint from an Australian shopper who wanted to take a picture of the store to send to his friends back home, Fairway had a change of heart, Donovan said.

“It’s not the competition trying to find out what we’re doing,” she said. “It’s our customers trying to brag.”

6) Be current: It’s important for SMBs to be current and know what’s going on in the world, said Alexandra Barber, digital marketing associate for Roundabout Theatre Company. This can help companies appear relevant in their campaigns. For instance, Roundabout Theatre Company produced a show in which the audience voted on the ending during an election season.

7) Think multichannel: When Tavy Ronen sends out her email newsletter to the 9,000 people on her list, she also promotes her Facebook page. Likewise, she said that she promotes the email newsletter on Facebook. And the fusion doesn’t end there. Ronen said that she recently started importing her email list into Facebook’s Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences to reach more people and increase The Yarn Company’s number of likes.

8) Learn from others: SMBs shouldn’t turn the other cheek when it comes to competitors’ marketing. To get ideas for how she could make grocery shopping seem “sexy,” Donovan started browsing the Web.

“It’s not plagiarism,” she said, “that’s called search and reapply.”

9) Engage in a dialogue: SMBs like when customers engage with their brand, but customers like a little feedback, too, Donovan said. Hence, she encourages SMBs to take the time to like and respond to consumers’ comments.

“Those super fans are the ones that are going to really drive your business,” she said.

10) Don’t always focus on the sale: “Even though we’re a retail store, our retail-geared posts are less than 20% of our [overall] posts,” said Tavy Ronen of The Yarn Company.

Instead of constantly trying to pitch customers, Ronen encourages SMB owners to be conversational. For instance, she said that she posts on Facebook about three to five times a day and that only one of her posts is retail-focused. The other posts, she said, might be responses to a customer or a simple “good night” message.

11) Just try: While SMBs may worry that no one will care about their posts, they’ll never know until they try, Donovan said. Plus, she said, Facebook’s measurement capabilities will inform SMB owners which posts and ads perform well.

“The worst thing that could happen is [that] you take down the post,” Donovan said. “The world is not going to end.”

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