Facebook may have 500 million users, but having an outpost on the social-media site won't necessarily increase sales or referrals to your website. But the right tools, used strategically, can help make Facebook an important part of your marketing, lead acquisition and customer-service strategies.
Here are some do's and don'ts for your company's Facebook page.
1. Do: Take advantage of Facebook Places. This location-based application allows users to "check in" -- or alert their network -- wherever they are. If you have a brick-and-mortar location, turn patrons into Facebook promoters by giving them freebies or specials offers if they check-in from your location, using Facebook Places. But be sure to connect your check-in page to your company page, otherwise Facebook users who click check-in links on their News Feeds and Walls will be taken to a generic Facebook page that doesn't contain your keywords or branding.
2. Do: Use Facebook for customer service. Online support forums and live-chat services can be costly. But Facebook can help you communicate easily with customers who become your fans on the site. Facebook's Wall, forums, status updates and other features let you answer technical and other queries, post new product upgrades or offer a frequently-asked-questions section. Additionally, your fans can help each other out.
3. Do: Go "tag" crazy. Tagging is simply to identify a Facebook user in a photo or video, an action that triggers an update to the user's News Feeds. Tag your business and your customers in videos and photos as often as possible. Why? Tagged photos and videos, especially those tagged by your fans, have a higher likelihood of being seen by more people. If you decide to launch a Facebook promotion, try to find ways to integrate tagging into the plan.
4. Do: Befriend Facebook group administrators. Search out influencers on Facebook and offer them specials, coupons and other perks they can offer to their Facebook groups. A status update, Wall post or message from a group's administrator will return better results than a mass message to their members from you.
5. Do: Add a well-placed "Like" button to your website and newsletters. Don't just throw a "Like" button on your site, integrate it into the customer experience and surround it with a call to action. For example, place near your mailing-list sign-up form. Users are more likely to click a "Like" button while opting-in for a subscription. Test, track and adjust this tactic until you see results. Here is a link to some instructions to help you get started.
6. Don't: Let your Facebook Wall be the first thing newcomers to your page see. The company page Wall is usually busy with status updates and user comments. Instead, use Facebook's page settings to set up a "welcome" page (see "How do I change the default tab"). Make sure it inspires action. Perhaps you can post a short YouTube video about your company with a vanity URL to a big promotion website or design a custom background showing users how to sign up for your mailing list.
7. Don't: Turn off your user comments function. If you promote your brand online, odds are good that you'll receive some negative feedback. Whether or not these comments are warranted, your responses and communication with these individuals will demonstrate your commitment to customer service.
8. Don't: Use the Facebook Events tab for RSVPs. If users register for events that you list on Facebook, you will not capture their data for your mailing list. Always require registrants to sign up for events on your own site.
9. Don't: Send mass messages to your network. Most users will never even look at your messages. Should you be compelled to send a message, make sure it offers something of real value. Clearly state that value in the message subject line. Avoid general brand messages and announcements, or you'll lose supporters.
10. Don't: Link Facebook Ads to your Facebook page. Targeted and compelling Facebook Ads may get you results. But link them to a page on your website that hosts information about the promotion and encourages users to take action in as few clicks as possible. Remember to push users from Facebook to your turf-- a web page -- where you control the content, environment and functionality. Doing so may provide a higher probability of converting leads into sales and acquiring consumer contact information.