I was planning to teach a class at Winooski Circle Arts, a store I managed, about using Facebook for business. Since WCA is closed, I thought I’d share some ideas here. The examples are from two Facebook business pages I created: Winooski Circle Arts and Small Equals.
I've framed this for business pages but the ideas hold true for any professional pages: art, writing, publishing, theater, cooking classes, or anything.
The four key ideas are:
Image + Story
+ Acknowledgement + Engagement
1) Use images:
You can use vintage images on your facebook page. Add text with imaging software like PicMonkey, which is free online.
Use images as often as you can. It’s best if you can shoot your own. iPhone or smartphone pictures are great for this. Better still - take an extra few minutes to crop, frame, and add text if you want. Remember to add your logo, and add photo credit if the photos are not your own, or even if they are. I use online photo editing software, PicMonkey and think it's a great program. There is a free standard version or you can upgrade for more versitility.
Take pictures of your product, your office, studio, employees; take pictures at the craft or business fairs you attend. Take photos at events you speak at. Take pictures of the equipment you use to make your product, and the people who are using the equipment. Take pictures of your customers interacting with your product - but only use them with permission.
Old images are great too. Take advantage of google image searches to find a vintage image that is no longer under copyright. These are fun and people enjoy them. Do not use images that are copyright. Rule of thumb, stick to images made before 1925. That’s not precise, but good enough.
2) Tell a story.
Photo of a small equals product being made in the Flashbags studio. Photo ©flashbags vermont
Story sells. There’s always something to tell about your product or service. Do you make something that uses ingredients or components? Write a paragraph or two about them. In my business, Small Equals, I like to write about how my bags and placemats are made by Flashbags in Burlington, VT. Or about the boxes that are made for me by Vermont Wooden Box. Go to your supplier, ask some questions, snap some photos. Link to their websites. Do this often.
Did you start working with a new manufacturer, with a new tool, a different paint? How is it different? What does it look like? Where did you get it?
Unless you go into the woods and chew down trees to make your paper, your supplies are made somewhere. This is interesting when you think about it. Your customers will think so too; even more so if you actually do go into the woods and chew down the trees.
Did you read an article or see a film that inspired you? Even if it is only tangentially related to your business, your readers might like to know about it too. Remember, your customers are well-rounded people, and they want to hear about your ideas as well as your product.
If you’ve written a blog post about anything related to your business, make sure to link it on facebook. And, of course, make sure you have a facebook link on your blog.
3) ACKNOWLEDGE EVERYONE
Acknowledge your employees. Saturday shopkeeper, Willa at front desk.
No business, maker or artist works completely on their own, nor do they get their ideas out of thin air. Did someone give you a terrific idea that you put into production? Were there books that inspired you? Tell your customers about it. They want to know, and the person who gave you the idea deserves credit.
Is your product being sold in a local store? Go there and take some pictures, or at least write a little post about them. Make sure you link to their facebook page, too. This lets your customers know where they can get your product, and builds good relations with the store. This is very important. Do this often.
Did you consult on a project with someone? Tell your readers. You have an amazing accountant, fed ex driver, editor, publicist? A customer who was particularly encouraging or funny. Share the story.
Write about your employees, mention their birthdays, or if they got an award or had a baby or if they accomplished something interesting or important for your business. Everyone likes to be recognized, and your readers will like peeking behind the scenes.
This is all about building good will with your customers, friends and employees.
This is also known as building community. It matters. A lot.
4) ENGAGE WITH YOUR READERS
respond to your readers. If they don't matter to you, you are in the wrong business.
Don’t just post and run. Make sure to respond when someone comments on a post. A “like” will be the barely acceptable minimum. A “thank you, Sally,” is quick and easy. If someone asks a question, answer it. If someone’s comment inspires you to write back, do so, even if it's brief. Conversation is engagement. Conversation lets your customers know that there is a real person there and that you care about them. If you don’t care about your customers, you are in the wrong business.
Sometimes your readers will post a comment you disagree with. If it's truly offensive, if it uses slurs or attacks, you certainly have the option of deleting it, and often that is the best thing to do. But if readers are responding with a genuine concern or interesting idea, even if you don't agree, try to think of this as an opportunity for engagement. You lose credibility by ignoring or deleting comments that don't tell you how wonderful you are, or that don't parrot your own ideas. Eventually your readers will figure out that you do this, and will realize that what you have provided is not a community but an echo chamber. All but the diehard fans will leave, and this is not really something that will help you promote your business.
These suggestions mean you have to check in to facebook regularly. I’d say minimum of once a day. Keep posting, keep responding to your readers. Engage! This is an important part of your job. Just do it. And have fun with it.
Your business is not just about you. It is about relationships. Build them.
PS: I wrote a post several years ago about reciprocity in business that covers some of the same topics. Find it HERE
Winooski Circle Arts is not open right now, but here's the Facebook Page.
Find Small Equals Facebook page HERE