It is important for small businesses to make a strong connection with consumers in a way that extends beyond the basic transaction. Without the resources and marketing presence of large corporations, small businesses must rely on their relationships with customers and the personal touch they bring to the market.
Though originally conceived of as an experiment in social interaction, Facebook is quickly becoming a useful business platform. In fact, a recent study by Merchant Circle Research found that 70 percent of local businesses use Facebook for active marketing campaigns. This figure represents an increase from 50 percent last year and is expected to grow.
Here are some ways that small businesses can successfully utilize Facebook to strengthen their customer base.
The perks of friendship
Part of the allure of Facebook is the ability to choose friends and communicate with them exclusively. In social networking terms, the reward for being someone's friend on Facebook is the ability to communicate with each other. In the business world, the reward should be more concrete. Companies can tell Facebook friends about exclusive special offers as well as news and promotions unique to their Facebook fan base.
One of the best things that companies can do to personalize an experience for their customers is to actually respond to questions and complaints. Facebook is an excellent forum through which to elicit consumer feedback. Small businesses that take the time to answer Facebook queries are showing customers that they really do care about their concerns. Questions from friends can also serve as a jumping-off point to retool aspects of a marketing campaign or services that don't work very well.
Pointing consumers in the right direction
Being friends with someone on Facebook means giving others the ability to see what you're up to. If small businesses have received good press, Facebook is an excellent way to passively share it with customers. News and information that is relevant to a company is also easy to share with fellow Facebook users.