I grew up in a close-knit neighborhood with a grand total of 3 “best friends for life”. I grew up with the same kids I went to elementary, middle, and high school with. We spent after school together and basically formed a friendship pact that would put the Goonies to shame. When we went to college, we drifted apart and now, surprise: we’re all friends on Facebook. I get the occasional tag into a nostalgic post or comment on one of my statuses. Offline friendships moved into online friendships almost seamlessly.
A friendship isn’t too different than a business relationship. Sure, I seriously doubt you’ll stay up late playing video games with your accountant or gossip about your ex to a customer but there is still a connection binding parties. It’s a relationship that takes time to build and time to develop to an area where you want to keep these people around long term. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don’t. Connecting with your fans online is like connecting with an old friend.
Let’s talk about how to make things work.
FORM REAL BONDS
People want to know why you do what you do. People want to root for you. People want to see you succeed! To make your business thrive, you need to a group of supporters to help lift you up.
Associating with other businesses and getting your face out there in the community will actually help your online life. That means: GET AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER (for now). Show up to Chamber of Commerce meetings, join local business groups and most importantly, have a drink with people. The more people get to know the real you – not your business persona – the more they’ll want to help lift you up.
Getting supporters online start with getting real connections offline.
One thing I like to do is “like” pages in my area as my personal Facebook and a business Facebook I manage. The deli shop down the street, the comic book store a block away, and the advertising agency across the railroad tracks are people you should be supporting. Liking a business page as a business page allows you to comment on their feed, like their posts, and overall show your support of their success. Not only do you help their engagement, you help your visibility by appearing on THEIR feed as well. Think of it as a virtual high five for being awesome.
INVEST IN FACEBOOK ADS, SERIOUSLY
If you can’t spend $30 a month in advertising through Facebook, you shouldn’t be in business. For one dollar a day, you can put your ads (and business) in front of a few thousand people. It’s pretty incredible. UPDATED 5/2016: Facebook has updated the minimum daily budget to $5 dollars. Here is more information on the subject.
You DON’T have to invest thousands of dollars a month trying to reach customers that may not even be your target audience but investing a small portion is a great start!
Scott at Post Planner went ahead and made a challenge of spending around $30 dollars a month on ads for likes to calculate the reach his page got. He was able to place an ad to garner 56 new local, real likes and reach over 2,000 people that could hopefully turn into leads for business. Do you see the keyword there? LOCAL. The best thing about Facebook ads is the ability to define your target audience. Visitors to your website, e-mail lists, and interest groups are huge potential clients and narrowing them down geographically by location may benefit your business.
You want people to see your ads, but you want valuable leads and interested fans. Focusing on local fans helps improve your visibility in the community. You may not talk to the barbershop down the street, but they may see your ads on Facebook and know of your presence for reference or future business.
DON’ T BE AFRAID TO NUDGE CUSTOMERS
On your business cards, does it make mention of Facebook or Twitter? How about on receipts? What about signs in your store? Nope? Your customers may not even know that you’re online, so it’s totally okay to let them know.
Card handouts, signs on your register, or even running contests to promote people to like your Facebook page – these are all great ideas to start getting customers to realize that you’re online and you’re ready to connect.
Local shops in my area utilize promoting sales or discounts only via Facebook to reward people who connected them online. While we mentioned Facebook ads, Twitter is a great way to also inform people of sales with a tight deadline (“today only!”, “first 5 customers in today…”, “4-5PM happy hour!”, etc). Your customers need encouraging to find you online, so give them good reason. We suggest telling them at checkout that they’ll find discounts online or even having it printed on receipts.
Taking your offline relationships online isn’t rocket science. Building your brand through honest, face-to-face interaction may be the best way to go about things, so it should be in terms of marketing online too. It’s not tacky to like a page as a business, it’s not tacky to throw a “follow us on Facebook” on an ad, and it’s not tacky to be serious about connecting with people online.
So go on, make those offline connections into profitable and rewarding online connections!