Are small Businesses scared of Facebook?

Some weeks ago I went along to a local small business gathering – you know the type I mean, the sort where each new member has an opportunity to give their elevator pitch to the rest of the group. Well, I listened to each business person with interest and understanding and waited patiently for my opportunity to describe just what I do, until finally it was my turn to give a 2 minute pitch on my business – ‘Facebook’ I stated proudly and went on to start explaining. No sooner had the ‘F’ word slipped from my tongue it was as if I’d suddenly grown another head on my shoulders! The reaction was mostly polite, but rather deflating, some people were even quite rude. One woman even turned her back on me stating ‘Oh, that’s just for kids’ and started to walk away! I have to say, after a further hour or so I left that gathering feeling slightly bruised.

Even over these short weeks since that date the world of Social Media has grown further with the announcement this week by Facebook of a total 677 Million users. Re-living my unfortunate experience with the business group really got me thinking about the image of Facebook and why so many other small/med business owners weren’t seeing what I now could see in Facebook. Feels strange to admit it now, but I was a huge cynic of Facebook when it started, I hated when my husband would share our private photos with the
world! I guess I could say that I was scared of Facebook! I actually feel that ‘fear’ of this unknown is what drove me into this business – if I had trouble understanding it, I can’t be the only one and how where other understanding it? – I thought to myself! Now, having taken time to really understand how it works for Business I don’t believe there is anything even slightly similar in the tools or functionality it offers it’s users; Twitter, Youtube, Google Places, True Local and alike are all wonderful Social Media tools in themselves;
Facebook gives you almost all of these tools, and, in one place.

So why aren’t small businesses using it? Well, unfortunately I think Facebook itself has a lot to answer for.

In my research over the last six months, studying Facebook Monday to Friday, I’ve found that Facebook offers little in the way of tuition but relies heavily on the viral aspects of its tools – some really fundamental functions of a Business page are not easily found, let alone understood! What chance does a small business owner have when their main concerns are in the day to day running of their business, their staff, their costs and running capital etc etc. Then on the other side of the scale, its sad to see some businesses attempting to use Facebook but failing – either inadvertently setting up the page as a personal profile page rather than a Business fanpage or creating a page and then leaving it to die a slow death. Can I take you back to real basics here and share a few tools that Facebook offers only business fanpages – they might be small tools, but they are very powerful.

One of my main concerns, as mentioned, are the number of businesses who set up their pages as a ‘person’ instead of a Business fanpage. Not only are these businesses then limited in the tools Facebook offers but they have no means of broadcasting their word any further than their friends list. Facebook recently offered these business a ‘get out of jail free’ card in a conversion to a fanpage option. This conversion allowed for a personal profile to be converted into a fanpage with the addition of taking all the friends/followers with it – an instant number of ‘Likes’.

The ‘Likes’ button is one of the bonuses business fanpages has to offer. Followers can ‘like’ the page without asking for permission to do so, whilst a personal profile has to approve each friend request. Personal profiles, limited in the number of friends it can have (5000) is also limited in its visibility to the world.

This brings me to the next main bonus for Business pages – the facility to open your Facebook Page to the world of search engines by converting the username to a ‘Vanity URL’. Once a Business has at least 25 Likes, Facebook is then able to verify the business to qualify it to shorten its URL, this then allows search engines on the www to find that Business. So a Google search for a Business name for example, will bring up the website for that business AND as a separate search result, that businesses Facebook fanpage. Not only does this open the door by allowing non-Facebook users to view your page but its impact on SEO for that businesses website is huge. Facebook developers are improving on these tools almost daily, with metadata options etc, a topic I’ll look forward to covering in a future post.

Aside from these, some other amazing tools on offer are: Facebook Places, Check-in, ‘Deals’ (coming to Australia soon), Event invitations, News features, Discussion facilities, Video and Photo content, Ecommerce tools, Blogging tools, Email facilities, auto Responders, Analytics and thousands of Apps to add to your page – the list is endless and 90% of these tools and Apps are absolutely FREE!

I’m finding that many small business owners initially have a very cynical view of Facebook, as I did when I first touched on Social Marketing. And there may be some basis behind lack of easily found tuition tools but in my opinion the combination of cynicism, mis-understanding and complacency is what really stops businesses from making use of Facebook. Now, as it’s membership fast approaches 1 Billion users worldwide, it’s definitely time for small/med business owners to change their views of Facebook – it’s time to expand your thinking, change with the times and all those familiar cliches; become part of the massive growth of the Social World – or – get left behind.

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