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Facebook: Where Selling Meets Social

Facebook is the new town square, where people meet to socialize, and it offers both unique and familiar sales challenges.
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Imagine you live in a small town in a big, old house with a wrap-around porch on Main Street. You are sitting on your front porch as people walk by on a warm summer evening. You sip lemonade, commenting on the heat, and playing checkers with your neighbor. Many of the people who walk by wave or say hello. Some stop and visit for a while, chatting about births, weddings, deaths, local gossip.

Sometimes those who join you on the porch also invite friends to join them on the porch to sit and chat. Others walking by shout a quick hello and a short bit of news without even slowing their pace.

This casual, dynamic, social environment is Facebook.

Facebook is the new town square where people connect with friends, family and acquaintances. People do not go to the town square to search for the answers to a problem or to buy life insurance. They go to meet people, to see and to be seen, to interact.

Facebook is about who people are: what they like, what they believe in, and with whom they like to associate. Facebook is where people share announcements, opinions, and insights not for any particular objective, but just to share. To connect. To be alive.

Related: How Small Companies Are Marketing Through Facebook

People do not go to Facebook to search for the answer to a problem, to find a product or learn about your service. The front-porch experience is about connecting and exchanging ideas and news or even just a "poke."

Can you still sell on this new front porch? Absolutely.

Selling on the front porch is not that same as selling with Google AdWords. An ad that had terrific results on Google AdWords may flop on Facebook. But why?

Consider this example. Search for "guitar" on Google. Instantly, Google shows natural search results related to the keyword guitar. As Google delivers links to information about guitars, it also simultaneously displays ads related to guitars. If Google does its job well, users shouldn’t care because the search results and the ads are of equal interest to them.

Now search Facebook for "guitar." Facebook's search feature searched content only on Facebook. Because Facebook’s ads aren’t based on what you are doing right now, which is searching the word “guitar,” no guitar ads will appear. Rather, you will see ads focused on who you are as a person: your age, your sex, your marital status, and the pages, TV shows and other things you’re into.

In Google you get to sell to the specific need that the user is digitally shouting at you. Not so on Facebook. If you were to stand on your front porch, or Facebook, and yell at everyone walking down the street that “I have a great deal on car insurance,” some people might stop by and talk with you, but most would start walking down the other side of the street.

Selling on the front porch is about engaging people where they are, based on their personal likes and interests. This is what makes Facebook such a great tool for advertising products related to art, beliefs, music, culture, health, fitness or hobbies.

Let's say sell pottery. Selling directly on Facebook (“Buy this glazed mug right now for only $150”) can turn off your audience -- Facebook users are not shopping. You’ll miss the real opportunity and will probably not sell enough pots to pay for the ads.

Related: How Can I Get People to My Facebook Page? (Video)

So what might you do instead? Tell a story based on what marketers like to call your unique selling proposition. Why is your product or service special? You must offer something nobody else offers, does or promises.

Next, craft interesting and engaging content that reflects this unique selling proposition. Are you selling pottery as an investment? Art form? Dinner plates? Are you selling to twenty-something hipsters? Forty-something professionals? For each one of these groups, you may craft a different front-porch experience that provides value to your audience, like a video visit to an artist’s studio, a buying guide for different types of pottery, or a slideshow of crazy, one-of-a-kind pieces.

Pictures, videos, cartoons, testimonials -- all about pottery -- support your front porch conversation and validate your unique selling proposition. Gather email addresses through at least one special offer that comes only through email, and always invite your visitors to share this information with their friends.

Selling on the front porch is not new. For years I have been encouraging my clients to engage their customers with a website with a strong landing page offering relevant conversation and value-added information.

Rather than focus initially on products or service offerings, first provide free information around your products and services. If the potential customers request more information and you collect their contact information, then you have a lot more space to work with them until they are ready for a sale.

The goal, once you pay for a click, is to begin to build a relationship with a customer, one where they like you, appreciate your expertise, and want to purchase from you.

Related: Facebook Posting Techniques that Really Work

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