While sites like Twitter and Pinterest have certainly grabbed a large slice of the social media pie, few platforms have as much reach as Facebook, which continues to grow exponentially. That makes the site essential for small businesses with marketing budgets that simply don't measure up to large competitors with much deeper pockets.
Facebook picture from Shutterstock
However, while the urgency of establishing a Facebook presence has certainly been communicated to the small business community, the urgency to do it properly has been a lot less so. From TMI posts from owners who don't understand the difference between private and public to those who update once a year, there are some mistakes that make not having a Facebook page a better strategy than having one at all.
To ensure you avoid the pitfalls, let's take a look at the top 5 mistakes small businesses make on Facebook and how to avoid them.
1. Treating The Site Like A Radio Ad
You know those radio adverts that feature SHOUTING ANNOUNCERS speaking far too quickly to possibly be understood? How about all of that paper that jams your post box with offers from local chain stores you care nothing about?
Yeah, we call that advertising (or, to be more precise, broadcast advertising) and it absolutely should not happen on Facebook. I'm not saying that you can't post photos of your products or announcements about sales or deals, but it needs to be done in a way that makes your posts feel like interesting stories with which your following actively wants to engage. The goal of a Facebook business page is to create a community, and to do that you have to give that community content they're actually looking for. That could mean anything from expert how-to posts to funny videos of customers using your product in the field to games, apps, contests -- you name it.
And when you do post something that's an ad at its core -- like, say, details about your newest product -- make it casual and fun. Your fans are much more likely to comment on a photo that provides a fascinating VIP glimpse into the production process than one that says "BUY THESE SHOES FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY."
2. Slapping Anything Up There At Any Time
To many small business owners, Facebook is just that thing they have to update once in a while. Accordingly, they get lazy about constructing original posts, instead linking to something irrelevant like a cat meme or only posting a link once every month or so. The problem is, the Facebook algorithm decides how prominently to display your updates in your fans' feeds based on how much engagement both current and previous posts are getting. So if you're posting infrequently, you're not going to get much viewership, which means you won't get much engagement, which means your new post a month later won't do well, and so forth in a never-ending spiral to the bottom of the news feed.
To avoid this, it's important to have a content strategy that's focus on getting the comments, likes and shares. That means opting for updates that really generate engagement, as we detailed above. It also means keeping a regular posting schedule, ideally one for which you've created a calendar with reminders and that syncs with your wider company marketing activities.
Additionally, it's best to do a little experimentation to see what posting times and days get the most viewers. While some people claim to know the magic formula, it's actually a lot more dependent on where you're located, how your audience uses Facebook (in some regions, for example, Facebook is used as more of an RSS feed than a social site) and when your target customers are online. The only real way to determine this is to try a few different posting times on, take a look at your Facebook metrics in the admin panel, and compare your stats to other post times. The new "Pages to Watch" section also lets you see how your competitors are faring, which should help cut down on how long this takes.
3. Not Responding To Comments
Regardless of whether or not you're posting regularly on Facebook, chances are your customers are. To the modern consumer, there are few things more frustrating than a business with a Facebook page that doesn't actually respond to their comments. Not only does this make consumers feel actively ignored, but it also just makes your business look out of touch. For some businesses, especially those in more supposedly tech-savvy industries, that can be a real sales and conversion killer.
To avoid this fate, make sure that you respond to every comment. If it's a negative one, offer a remedy for all to see. If it's positive, thank your customer, and consider mentioning them in a future post, as most fans will enjoy being called out. You should also check and respond to messages frequently, and use the hashtag option to see what people are saying about you and respond accordingly.
4. Not Understanding The Platform
Sometimes, it's an uploaded logo that's too pixelated for a profile shot to the point where it's become unreadable. Other times, it's simply not taking advantage of the platform's powerful analytics, which can really help you determine which of your efforts are working and which are entirely useless. Other times still, it's an info tab that barely provides any helpful information. Whatever the issue, too often small business owners don't take the time to understand not only how Facebook works in general but also specifically how business pages work. This is a big missed opportunity, as it basically puts you back to shooting in the dark as advertisers did in the pre-big data digital age.
To avoid this fate, when you're first getting started, take the time to browse a few good resources for small businesses on Facebook and to read the platform's own tutorials. After all, it requires creativity to stand out from the crowd and you can't be creative without knowing the tools you've been given.
5. Getting Political
It should go without saying, but sadly does not: don't get too political or religious. The only time controversy is good is when it spurs fun debate related to your industry. For instance, a post like "iPhone or Android? Go!" might generate a lot of engagement and shares, while a post that's religious or personal will effectively polarise a large percentage of your audience that doesn't share your views.
Similarly, while Facebook is a great place to personalise your brand and communicate your unique brand and story, it's not the place to go into deep detail about your recent struggle to make a home payment. This can be a fine line to walk, but my rule of thumb is that if something feels raw and unresolved, you're probably still harbouring a lot of anger, and that's bound to overshadow the compelling elements of your story.
Facebook is a powerful platform for small business owners, but only if navigated strategically. How do you use Facebook to promote your own business? Let us know in the comments below.
Beverley Reinemann is a freelance writer and blogger who spent three years travelling and working in Australia and New Zealand. Now back in London she splits her time between travelling, running her blog; Pack Your Passport, and her job in online marketing at Distilled.