Tips for getting started and being productive on the most popular social networking site
Are you using any social media channels to market your business? And if not, why not? One of the biggest social media marketing challenges we hear about is the fear of using Facebook. Many foodservice businesses say that the platform is just too social and not serious enough for them to consider it as a realistic channel for broadcasting a business message.
To refute that notion, we’ve assembled some practical and useful tips for employing Facebook as a productive marketing channel for your business, and gathered insight from a couple of power Facebook users who rely on the social media channel to promote their successful, profitable and growing catering businesses: Heidi Andermack, co-owner of Chowgirls Killer Catering in Minneapolis; and Angelo Chresanthakes, general manager of Basils Greek Dining in Aurora, Ill.
First, a note to the doubters: As the most popular social media platform, Facebook’s usage numbers alone make it worth considering as a component of your marketing efforts. Consider these numbers:
- According to Nielsen, 72 percent of online adults visit Facebook at least once a month.
- There are approximately 157 million daily active users of Facebook in the U.S. and Canada.
- U.S. females, on average, have 250 Facebook friends (according to Adweek).
- Forty-five percent of Internet users 65 and older use Facebook (according to Pew Research Center).
Looking past the numbers, one of the things I like most about using Facebook as a business marketing tool is how it forces a company to think critically about business objectives, about its audience, about its lead-generation strategies and about the type of content that will help you engage this audience.
Let’s break that down a bit. Do your business objectives include things like:
- Increasing online sales
- Building awareness of a new service, or
- Promoting your real success serving a specific market (i.e., weddings, bar mitzvahs, commercial contracts)?
Then Facebook can help you to sharpen your business objectives, stay focused on serving the right audience, shorten the time you take to generate new business, and create compelling content to engage your customers.
Following are some stages of Facebook readiness that you can use as an easy checklist, whether you are new to the platform or an existing Facebook user. Keep in mind that these tips will focus on the organic side of Facebook marketing, and not on Facebook advertising.
Make sure the “About” section of your business fan page is complete. This includes:
- Hours of operation
- Phone number
- Email address
- A profile photo and a cover image that features your company logo or something connected to your business (i.e., owner’s image, or professional photo from an event you did).
When the “About” section is complete, then it’s time to:
- Create a free call-to-action button (which is different from a paid “Offer”). Options include “Book Now,” “Contact Us” and “Sign Up” (to encourage visitors to sign up for your newsletter, for instance).
- Invite your Facebook friends to “Like” your company’s fan page.
This assumes that you will be using what Facebook describes as a fan page for your business, which is free, and not your own personal Facebook page. However, if your business is named after you, you may decide to use your personal Facebook page for your business. If you do, then you must only use it for business purposes, and not for any personal socializing. And if you do, some of these options mentioned above won’t be available to you, such as the “call-to-action” button.
“In this day and age, you have to adjust with the times,” says Chresanthakes, whose restaurant and catering business have been recognized as the “Best Ethnic Restaurant in Naperville” (Ill.) for three consecutive years, and who has been actively using Facebook for Basils Greek Dining since 2009. “We recognized that having a presence on Facebook was a necessity.”
Posting Content and Comments to Facebook
The real work comes in how you post content to your company’s Facebook page. The word “content” is key, because content can include plain text, or it can be accompanied by a static image like a photograph or by a video.
- Video often engages a Facebook audience more effectively than anything, but only if the video that is shared contains a clear message and has a short run-time (under 30 seconds). Cell phone videos are fine to use on Facebook.
- Brevity is the key to a good Facebook update. Keep your updates under 250-300 characters, if possible. This means you may need to write the update offline before actually publishing it to your page.
Chowgirls’ Andermack adds that it’s also important to focus on the nature of your subject matter. “We use Facebook for community-building, goodwill and posting photos of our work,” she says. “The back-and-forth of tagging other businesses is helpful and strategic. We also do that with local farmers, and for special events in our community.”
Chowgirls recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, and the caterer has garnered a variety of honors, including the 2015 Best Social Event award from the International Special Events Society-Minnesota and the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce 2015 Small Business of the Year award.
“We focus our messages on quality over quantity, and try to make sure our updates are related to real-world events here at the restaurant, or else focused on our customers,” says Chresanthakes. “We are here for the public, and we don’t share our opinions on our Facebook page. We only owe our customers great food and great service, not our opinions.”
- Your posts should encourage your followers to start a conversation with you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and find ways to engage your audience.
“Always respect the customer on Facebook, and everywhere!” says Chresanthakes. “Make sure that your updates reflect your company’s personality. Don’t try to be anyone but yourself.”
In terms of frequency, our experts agree that a steady volume of Facebook page updates is beneficial and will pay off with referrals, customer queries and quality interactions with customers on Facebook. How steady? Chowgirls Killer Catering and Basils Greek Dining each post updates to their Facebook pages on a near-daily basis.
Andermack says the Chowgirls’ Facebook page has also helped to attract employees, including recently when a business partner, the Minneapolis-based Dangerous Man Brewing Co., shared Chowgirls’ help-wanted ad. This Facebook share led to the company finding a new receptionist.
- Finally, don’t be afraid to turn over the reins of your Facebook page to someone else on your team.
Andermack and Chresanthakes both agree on this point, and while each reviews update drafts before they get published, they are no longer solely responsible for making sure their businesses’ Facebook pages are getting updated and being monitored.
Chowgirls, which has 80 employees, has a dedicated marketing team member responsible for generating most of the company’s Facebook page ideas, monitoring the page and publishing updates. Basils, which has 47 employees, assigns responsibility of the company’s Facebook page to an outsourced marketing team member. l
About the Author
Pete Wiltjer is principal of Pete Wiltjer Marketing Group (PWMG), an award-winning integrated marketing communications consultancy, focused on positively impacting marketing, sales and technology. PWMG enjoys serving the commercial foodservice market, having worked for a variety of industry-specific organizations, including industry associations, manufacturers and publishers. For more information, visit pwmginc.com.