Mari Smith on Building Facebook Engagement for Small Businesses

by Brenda Barron on March 6, 2014
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Mari Smith, a Canadian-born Scot who currently lives in San Diego, is widely respected as a social media leader, particularly when it comes to Facebook. She’s the author of The New Relationship Marketing and co-author of Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day. She’s also one of the top 10 “social media power influencers,” according to Forbes.

The Intuit Small Business Blog recently had the pleasure of interviewing Smith (pictured) about how small-business owners can more effectively engage with Facebook users and what makes for a successful presence on the site.

ISBB: When establishing a Facebook page, what key things should small-business owners focus on? 

Smith: After uploading a well-designed profile picture and cover image and thoroughly filling out your bio and About section, I recommend a simple three-pronged approach that comprises content, engagement, and conversion.

Sit down with your team and create a solid content strategy that includes a blend of original created content and curated content. Curated content is what I like to call “OPC” — that is, other people’s content.

Fortunately, there are many terrific tools available today at no and low cost for cherry-picking quality, relevant content. Take a look at ContentGems, Spundge, AllTop, Scoop.it, and Trapit (enterprise). Strive for a variety of formats from blog posts, articles, images, short videos, and perhaps audio and podcasts, too.

For engagement, hiring a community manager even for a few hours a week could be the best investment you make. Your community wants to have their questions answered and know that they’re important to you.

For conversion, this is a matter of interspersing your value-adding content with periodic promotions. Don’t be afraid to ask for the sale! Make it clear and obvious what you sell and how to do business with you.

Companies often set up Facebook pages that lack direction or a clear strategy. What are some things small businesses can do every day to make the most of the time they spend on Facebook? 

Share a minimum of one piece of great content per day, and be sure to proactively engage with your community on your page and beyond.

A simple way to stay focused on the right activities is to make use of Interest Lists. Many business users on Facebook don’t seem to be aware of this awesome feature. You can create your own lists with a mix of business pages and people, whether you like/follow those sources or not. Lists can be public or private and function similarly to Twitter lists.

I recommend creating a public list with a variety of related pages/people. Include yourself on the list, and then check it a few times a day to stay current. Plus, you’ll have fresh content that you can both share and engage with.

Realizing that no two organizations are the same, at what point do you recommend that small businesses buy Facebook ads to expand their reach? 

Given that Facebook ads [get] the most targeted traffic your money can buy, small-business owners would do well to allocate an ad budget right away. Even a nominal $10 per day to help amplify the reach of your daily wall posts can make all the difference.

However, the right content strategy has to be in place. There’s not much point in pushing out content to a wider audience without tying monetizable goals to that content. So, for instance, good posts to promote are ones with special offers, events, invitations to buy a product/service, giveaways, contests, and posts that have first gotten decent organic reach in order to further expand that reach.

In your experience, what types of posts build the most engagement? Do they differ by industry? If so, how so? 

The most buzz-worthy and viral posts seem to be the ones that make people laugh, cry, or go “aww.” Of course, we can’t all post cute cats or laughing babies! And we can’t all be George Takei.

So, other tactics to try are posts that are sometimes controversial, posts that ask stimulating questions, polls, eye-catching images, short video tutorials, case-studies, and infographics. Think about the content in terms of your typical fans — if they were to share your post, would it make them look good to their friends?

On my own Facebook page, I focus predominantly on sharing Facebook marketing tips, news, stats, and facts. I’m rarely controversial because, well, I simply like to keep the peace. But, on occasion, I get inspired to post something a bit outside the box, like this post where I shared a crazy idea I had to delete my Facebook page and start over again. Or, this one getting on my soap box about the fact Facebook ad failure is user error, not Facebook error! These were some of my most popular posts of the past several months.

The secret is to check your metrics daily and see what’s working. Test, test, test. Watch similar businesses and also observe pages in completely different industries. SocialBakers.com is a great site to check regularly to see which big brands around the world are performing [well] on Facebook and Twitter.

Brenda Barron is a writer from Southern California. She specializes in discussing how technology and social media are used in business practices.

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