The whole point of a business owner using social media sites like Facebook is to engage with your customers. But do you treat your followers like customers, or do you treat them as a part of your community?
There is an art to turning customers into a community, and vice versa. If you have the mindset of a shopkeeper, then every person that steps over your threshold is a potential customer. You see them as someone who you can potentially profit from, and you will do your best to make your shop look as appealing as possible to try to gain a sale. You will bend over backwards to be nice and polite to them so they will be more inclined to browse and buy.
But what if your shop was a local corner shop where you had a regular set of customers calling in each day for their newspaper and a pint of milk. Why do they come to you each day when they could quite as easily pop to the nearest supermarket for their goods? Is it because of the familiarity you share with your regulars? Is it the daily conversation about the weather or the state of the roads that you exchange with them that brings them back to you each day?
Is it that coming to your shop gives your customers a greater sense of community, and a level of familiarity that you just cannot get from an ever-changing range of supermarket cashiers, or even a self-service till?
The same can be said of a gym. If you were a gym owner would you only be interested in selling a gym membership, or is it the service you deliver after the sale? The getting to know you stage that can transform your customers into a friendly community of members who meet up for more than just a workout.
Do you treat your Facebook business page like a shop window where people can drop in and buy something, but never really offer them any incentive to hang around to see what will happen next? This is the difference between treating people like customers or like members of your community. To keep people coming back to your Facebook page regularly you will need to have an elective process that people would be happy to subscribe to.
Creative planning for your Facebook page
So you have got your business Facebook page up and running, but what’s next? It is good that you have people who like your page and follow your posts, but if you can also collect emails then you will have another way to contact your community, especially if they have not been on Facebook for a while and may have been missing your posts.
You can put up a simple sign-up link on your Facebook page with a promise of some free information in return, so lets say you sold dog collars online, you could offer a free ebook for signing up about how to groom your dog, clip their nails, remove ticks and clean their teeth. It is something useful and interesting for your followers to read, and is related to your business without it being an obvious sales ploy to buy anything from you.
Once you have an email list you can fire off regular email newsletters that can serve to tempt your readers back to your Facebook page with the promise of upcoming posts with free tips, advice and posts about dietary planning for your dog, local or national dog shows and competitions, free give-aways, sponsored dog walks, recipe ideas for home-made dog biscuits etc.
You can offer up a competition to win a blinged up dog collar by getting your followers to post a photo of their pet pooch dressed up in bunny ears for Easter, or the muddiest dog picture, or the oddest position to sleep in. Everyone loves posting pictures of their pets, so this is a great way to engage with your Facebook followers, and get them to engage with each other to build a sense of community.
Don’t forget to put a selection of cute photos into your email newsletter to send out to your list. Those who may have missed the competition will come back to your page to see what is happening, and will more than likely stick around because they will not want to miss out on what will happen next.
So how would this help you sell dog collars? Well, if you can build up a good sense of community about your Facebook page, then you can mix in the occasional post about one of your dog collars that is on special offer, or is a new style or design you are launching in your range etc.
Further down the lineAre you building a community on Facebook? when you start to diversify from only selling dog collars and start to sell other pet accessories, you will already have a loyal and trusting community around you that would be more inclined to buy from your new range of doggy bandanas or bespoke doggy raincoats.
Building a community around your Facebook page shifts the perception from simply selling dog collars to becoming a place to meet up and share news with like-minded people. Your followers will grow to value your page as a part of their social life, and will start to talk to you and each other on a regular basis. This is the whole point of social media, and selling should always be secondary to that.
Forums for pages allows you to include the option to add a Discussions tab to your page so your community can discuss different topics related to your industry. Here is a link if you are interested: http://apps.facebook.com/forumforpages/ Using the dog collar business idea, these can work really well for discussions about measuring your dogs neck for ordering the correct size collar, or discussions about feeding your dog a raw food diet, or even a discussion about meet-ups for dog walks and sponsored events where people can support each other. It gets people talking, asking questions, sharing information and engaging with each other.
Create an event for your page
You can gather people together for a special event on your page, and you can do this by creating an event. This will show up on your followers Facebook front page, and they can get more information about the event, and can respond to say whether they will be attending or not.
Your events can be about anything related to your niche, and it may take a little trial and error to see what sort of events actively draw your followers to attend, or even what sort of event switches them off. The great thing about events are that your follower can share them with their friends and can invite guests along too. This gives you a great potential to connect and engage with more like-minded people, and possibly convert them into customers eventually.
Events can be real ones in the real world, such as a party or meet-up somewhere, a new shop opening, or it can be a virtual event that happens on your page. One Facebook group I follow holds a virtual pub meet up event every Friday evening. One member is nominated as the bar person each week, and they rustle up your virtual drink order for you while you engage with other members that drop in for a pint or a cocktail at the end of a busy week. It is great fun, and also a good place to get things off your chest, discuss worries, tell each other about new things we have bought, as well as find out about online bargains that other members have spotted during the week. It is worth finding out about similar groups in your niche so you can join in with the community and spread the word about your page too.
The result of all this effort is that people will visit your page, share comments, laugh, post pictures, start discussions, offer advice and strike up friendships. This can often lead to meet-ups in real life, and groups of locals going to events together, taking part in fun-runs, the list goes on! What you have ended up with is something that is not just a bunch of strangers liking a page, but a lot of friends that are now part of a community.