Understanding Facebook sharing patterns for small business marketing

One of the best ways for small businesses to stay in contact with customers and reach out to potential clients is by using social media. There are numerous reasons why this is an excellent way to get in touch with consumers, but the two most important are likely the fact that it is low-cost and easy to use. Such tools aren't often available to small business marketers and should therefore be embraced whenever possible.

However, just because companies have social media available to them doesn't mean they'll understand how it is used. A Constant Contact study recently revealed that 81 percent of small businesses use social media of one form or another to engage with customers. Of those, 96 percent use Facebook alone, or in tandem with some other social networking platform.

This means that there are quite a few organizations going through the motions, uncertain of how best to use this kind of engagement tool to maximum effect. Just because Facebook is easy to use and inexpensive doesn't mean that marketers won't end up wasting time and resources on ill-informed outreach campaigns that ultimately do very little for a business.

However, if there is one important component to using Facebook for customer outreach, it is the "like." It wasn't so long ago that the word simply indicated a preference or affection for someone or something. Now, it signifies an action that can have all sorts of repercussions for both individual users as well as companies engaged in social media marketing.

Consider how a "like" will affect individual consumers. Being told that a person "liked" something posted or commented on forms a connection between the two. Subsequent comments, likes or additional posts will cause notifications to be sent to both people, solidifying their connection and keeping them in closer contact.

That close contact is a social benefit, but consider how important it can be for small business. The more people are actively engaged with a company, the more they can disseminate word of their prices, promotions, events and products. CrowdScience recently polled Facebook users in order to interpret their "likes" for both individual users' content and that which was posted by companies.

It turns out that wall posts, pictures and comments each receive 16 percent of the likes that people offer. This means that almost half of a company's content offerings should be from one of these categories to maximize the extent to which they're liked, and therefore connected to particular users.

However, only 10 percent of Facebook users allocate their likes to branded pages. While it isn't unhelpful to encourage people to like a company, product line or brand on the site, it clearly won't always be that successful. Rather, videos, pictures, wall posts and other forms of media that a business shares will likely have a higher rate of success in terms of being liked.

The reasons that people like things also sheds light on the action. Interestingly, 28 percent of people like things because they actually enjoy the content, while another 28 percent just want to show their support for the person or organization doing the posting. Unfortunately, only 10 percent are actively looking to stay informed, and only 6 percent believe they may receive discounts when they like a business.

Therefore, organizations shouldn't actively solicit likes in exchange for promotional news or announcements. Rather, it is important to cultivate a relationship with a customer outside of a promotional context until they are comfortable giving out email or being solicited with reminders about events and sales.  

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