We have all come to think of Facebook as something that is part of our daily lives. We check it as often as we can. It is our way of keeping in touch with our friends--both old and new. It has pervaded our society like few other modes of technology in a very short time. Most don't even realize that Facebook isn't even 10 years old.
How prevalant is it? Last night I was listening to the radio in the car on the way to my hockey game and I heard an ad for Buckley's cough mix. Now that is nothing new. What is new is that they made sure to mention that you can find them on Facebook and get special coupon deals if you do. They didn't say find us on the internet, they went out of their way to say Facebook. This is nothing new. Companies now know they can get to you if they are on Facebook and they fully intend to take advantage of that. Good for them. That is just good business to be where the customers are. I have no problem with that and if I was them I would do exactly the same thing. This is also the reason that Facebook was valued so high when it went public a year ago. There is an expectation that this will be the new way for business to reach the customer and in so doing Facebook will become the giant of industry. Whether that ends up happening or not ( I am betting on not), it can't be disputed that they are a major player to be reckoned with.
But for you and me, the average Joe out there, what is Facebook for us? More specifically, if you have something to sell, how effective is Facebook as a mode to do that, and if so, how should you go about it?
My topic for today is: How to use social media to sell your product.
First let's examine why most people really use Facebook (and Twitter to some extent, although I don't use it, so I am not as familiar with the ins and outs of Twitter).
My original impetus--like most people who open an account on Facebook--was to reconnect with old school friends and to stay connected with my current friends who I have seemed to lose touch with. We all know how this happens. After University, people get jobs, busy jobs and sometimes jobs in other cities. They get married and have kids. They get so busy with all of that and it is easy to lose touch. That is the reality most of us deal with. Facebook, in many ways can bridge that gap. I have to say that in spite of knocking Facebook for many things I am very happy that it was there as a tool for me to reconnect with lots of my friends and schoolmates. It has worked perfectly in that respect.
After a while, you also find that you can meet new people. People you would never encounter otherwise. I have many new friends, with common interests from all over the world. It is a great gathering and meeting place. And, in my opinion, that is its value.
Facebook is a gathering place. It is one big world room where people have the chance to meet, with no pressure. You encounter as many flavors as you like. Almost like walking into a Baskin Robbins and going up to the counter, yet nobody can really see you if you choose to be invisible. You survey all the flavors and pick out the ones you want to try and sample and then decide if you want to go further.
In this respect, Facebook is just the Match.com of social media. It doesn't mean you are going to get a date or relationship, it is just a mode to find people, on volume that have some common interests and see if you wish to go further.
But just like Match.com, there are no guaruntees. It doesn't ensure interaction, because it takes two to tango. And secondly, Facebook is not really set up to interact in any meaningful way. It is there to gather people, sell products that big business have to sell and make a profit. That is what its purpose is.
How does this relate to you, the small business or independent contractor?
Let me use a concrete example that I am familiar with. Many of my Facebook friends try to use Facbook (and Twitter and other social media) to sell their books. Most fail at that. For one simple reason: Facebook can't help you sell your book. It is not setup to do that and it wont work. What it can do is find those you can sell to and then get them directed elsewhere where the interaction can be more meaningful and possibly lead to sales. It is a place to find your customer, potential customer. There is no other tool currently out there that can do that. Certainly not as quickly or efficiently.
In my mind, that is the value of it as a marketing strategy. It finds the potential customers, in a very orderly and efficient way. From there, if you wish to complete the cycle, you must go elsewhere. A place where you completely control the content, how it is presented and how you can interact. And you still have to have great content.
So, remember that Facebook and Twitter are just a place to make connections and find others who you can interact with...elsewhere.
Much like Match.com. It matches you up, it doesn't get you hooked up. That is still up to you. And if you try to force it down peoples throats on Facebook, or Twitter you are just wasting the time you put in to find them in the first place.