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The Facebook Effect

Take advantage of Facebook's features for creating and maintaining customer relations

As Facebook passes 800 million members, it's more important than ever to make the most of your company's page. This means posting events, offering deals and encouraging users to "like" the page.

But first, it's critical that you avoid certain social media faux pas. There are significant differences between promoting your business with a profile, which people "friend," and promoting your business with a page, which people "like." Understanding the difference is key to using Facebook effectively in your marketing strategy.

With a business page, "liking" a company and enjoying the benefits are instant. Click and done. The relationship instantly appears on the user's wall for all of his or her friends to see. On the other hand, trying to get customers to be "friends" delays the creation of the relationship because nothing happens until the business accepts the friend request.

Post Your Events
I recently received an e-mail newsletter from a friend announcing that she would be performing in a town where I know a lot of people. Being a nice guy, I wanted to share the upcoming concert with my friends. A quick visit to her Facebook page should've done the trick, only she hadn't created one. Next, I visited the Facebook page for the store where she'd be performing. Nothing.

If I'd been able to click "share" to promote the event to my 25 "friends" who actually live in town, their 200 "friends" would have seen the posting on their walls, creating 5,000 impressions in about 15 seconds.

And here's where Facebook's synergy can really take over.

According to Facebook, its average user has 130 friends. Let's say her concert would have been within an hour's drive of just 1 percent of her followers. Promoting the event via Facebook to those six people would have made 780 impressions. If it's fair to assume that 25 percent of the store's Facebook followers are people far away like me, promoting to the other 75 percent — the locals — would have made 62,400 impressions. Yet many of the business-faithful Facebookers are missing out on this powerful feature. Post your events!

Offer Deals
A study conducted last year by ExactTarget found that 40 percent of people say
they will follow a business page to receive discounts and promotions, 36 percent to get a freebie and 30 percent to get updates on upcoming sales. In other words, customers "like" your business because they want you to market to them.

Better yet, deals don't have to be a big deal. Your Facebook deals can include promotions you're already running or an extra incentive — maybe a small discount or free gift for "checking in" to your store. (Facebook offers the ability for users to check in when they go to a physical location to let their friends know where they are.) Or, offer a free set of strings with any guitar purchase over $249 if a customer "likes" your Facebook page.

When used properly, Facebook can be a modern way to build an old-fashioned relationship with your customers. By establishing your business page, promoting your events and offering deals, you will attract new customers and build even more loyalty with your existing base. MI

Grant Billings is the owner of Billings Piano Gallery in Madison, Wis.