Embrace Social Media Part 2 – Get More from Facebook

Embrace Social Media Part 2

The Insider’s Guide to EcommerceIn this exclusive three-part extract from his latest book, The Insider’s Guide to Ecommerce, Chris Barling gives an introduction to engaging on social networking sites. Part 2 has tips specific to Facebook and should be read after considering the general tips for social media in Part 1,all of which apply to Facebook.

Facebook’s strategy appears to be to maximise the time people spend on their site by opening up its platform to third party developers and encouraging people to come to Facebook and then stay within its “walled garden”. It is also extending the reach of Facebook across the web by allowing people to use its Facebook logon to access third party sites. As well as this, third parties can embed Facebook functionality in its sites which then feed data back to the Facebook ecosystem.

In fact, Facebook seems to believe that the more time people spend on Facebook and the more information it can glean from customers, the more it will be able to monetise this traffic and knowledge.

The centre of the Facebook universe is the Facebook account which is owned by an individual who must give their real name. People can then mutually decide to link up as “friends”. Facebook is great at suggesting possible friends based on the network of existing friend’s and most people find they are quickly connected to most people they have known for many years. So a friend usually replicates past or present real-life friendships.

Anyone can un-friend any existing friend. Facebook users can send any number of messages to their friends. Facebook also allows companies to have their own pages and Facebook users connect with these pages by “Liking” them.

Facebook lets you easily upload photos and “tag” them with the names of your friends. The result is that Facebook has become the biggest photo sharing site in the world. You can post what you’ve been up to and Facebook decides what information to put into each individual’s newsfeed.
You can set up an “event” for a party or wedding and easily invite your friends. Basically, it takes social interaction and computerises it, mostly by making it easier to do what groups of humans have always done.

Here’s a quick Facebook primer:

  • Like. Any user of Facebook can “like” a company’s Facebook page, as well as blogs, products and many other objects. The Like button can show the faces of friends who have already pressed it, so there is a potential multiplier effect. Pressing the button makes a connection to the publisher that persists. A proportion of Likes will show up on friend’s news feeds (see below). According to Facebook this “gives positive feedback and connects you with things you care about”. When you own a company Facebook page you can look at “Facebook Insights” which will tell you a lot of demographic information about the people who Liked the page. Facebook also uses the information about what people like for its own purposes and in a number of ways. Similar functions are “Recommend” which is self explanatory, and “Send” which provides the ability to send a message with a URL to friends through their wall or email address.

  • Send. The Send button allows your audience to choose to send some of your content to their friends.

  • Comments. The Comments facility lets users comment on any piece of content on your site.

  • Share button. This is a legacy button, which is no longer going to be supported by Facebook. The Like and Send buttons have taken priority.

  • News Feed. When people visit Facebook they see a constantly updated stream of information based on what their friends are doing. This shows pictures, what friends like, what they share and postings between the walls of user’s friends.

  • Wall and other communication. The Wall can be used for friends to post messages for each other and the Wall can be seen by anyone. This is designed for short immediate notes. Status updates allow users to create messages for their friends to read. The answer to the question “What’s on your mind” is a status update. Friends can respond with comments or a Like. Photo tagging allows people to tag photos with a brand, product, company or person’s Facebook page. The poke feature allows people to attract the attention of their friends.

  • Events, marketplaces, places and deals. These are all additional features used within Facebook. For instance events are things that are going to be happening e.g. weddings and parties, that allow arrangements to be made and memories gathered.

  • Facebook Ads. Facebook allows you to pay to advertise as well as providing some free services. For the paid service, you have a lot of control over who sees the Ad e.g. age, sex, interests, and you only pay when someone clicks on the Ad. You can also “sponsor stories”. This is a fast changing area as Facebook intend to make most of their revenue here.

  • Social plugins. These enable web site owners to put the Like Button, Recommendations, Login and more on their sites. The capability to allow web site developers to get and send information from and to Facebook is known as the “Graph API”.

That’s all great, but the question is, can this be useful for an ecommerce business? In the following tips we explore the possibilities.

  1. Listen to real experts

    Michael Dell, founder of Dell Corporation, came up with an interesting quote. He said:

    “I think you’d be crazy not to be using social media, because it’s the quintessential force of our time in terms of communicating with customers and sharing information. You can go out there and get your message across directly to lots of customers, lots of prospects.”

    Michael Dell was an early advocate of selling across the web so his opinion is very interesting. Facebook wants to be the go-to resource when it comes to all things advertising and ecommerce, for businesses large and small… That’s why many aspects of Facebook have been changed to help businesses use the platform.

  2. Don’t over-commit

    All of the latest figures seem to show that while Facebook usage remains high in its most mature markets like the US and UK, and Facebook is still the world’s biggest web site, time spent on the site in these markets is at best flat-lining. So keep an eye out for the trends.

  3. Understand the principles

    Facebook is about friendship that takes place on a relatively small scale. For individuals, in contrast to traditional communication tools, it’s much easier to expand their network with relevant people, or communities based on mutual interests. As a result, these communities have brought much more influence to individuals and it potentially heralds a major shift of power from company to consumer. Although there are a huge number of total users, it is hard to make Facebook work for a businesses on a large scale. You can only engage with people on Facebook on a small personal scale. Something you do might go viral, but this has a frighteningly small probability. It is where lots social networking marketing advice is plain wrong. Most activities just don’t scale. The business challenge is to address that issue.

  4. Assess the relevance to you

    Facebook is most relevant in the consumer or entertainment space. Selling to businesses is a different story. The family and friends of, say, a heating engineer aren’t likely to be interested in the arcane details of heating systems. In contrast if you’re in the entertainment business, the friends of your existing customers are much more likely to be prospects.

    If word of mouth is important in your field, Facebook could be a big factor. Facebook has the most potential for start-ups and small companies where a small advantage and a few extra customers is more significant.

    Having said that, large brands at least are going to be subject to discussion on Facebook, so it’s good for them to be involved. Play.com stated that customers who came through Facebook placed 30% higher orders than the average, and this certainly gives food for thought.

    It is possible that Facebook may work best for ecommerce businesses if you have innovative new products that aren’t well known or if you are the exclusive supplier of goods. In both cases raising general awareness will benefit you because all sales will actually come through you. The key is to remember the connected nature of social networks, recommendations prove to be the best type of sales lead and social networks can act like a mega phone for both praise and condemnation.

  5. Participate appropriately

    You can only engage with people on Facebook by being interesting and interactive. To get the most from the medium, use “we” and “I” and take strong positions, either positive or negative. This last advice comes from published research by Dan Zarrella, which looked at ten thousand most liked Facebook pages, analysing more than a million posts. It just applies to Facebook, not necessarily to other social networks.

  6. Provide service

    Although we are principally looking at Facebook as a marketing channel, it has another benefit. If you monitor for any discussion of your company, you will find queries and also be able to pick up service issues before they are broadcast too widely and become a big problem. Helping with enquiries and problems boosts the perceptions of your brand and service.

  7. 7 Set up a business page

    The first action for any ecommerce business that wishes to avoid being out-flanked on Facebook is to set up a Facebook page for their company in the form www.facebook.com/mybusiness. And the good thing is that it’s free. You should do this if only to stop someone else taking your name.

    One development of interest is that consumer brands now seem to be directing people to their Facebook pages in advertisements in preference to their own website. However, it’s hard to see that this is the right approach for an ecommerce business.

  8. Make your Facebook page useful

    It’s important to provide items of genuine interest on your page. Don’t allow yourself to make too much of a sales pitch which will be counter-productive. Try to limit yourself to three useful posts to every self-serving one and ideally post regularly. You should decide on the tone that you want to set. Are you serious and reliable, or are you fun and lively?

    This will depend on the products you are selling and the demographic that you are targeting. However, don’t try to be something that you’re not. Ensure that you answer questions posted to your page. Consider putting Ads on your Facebook page, some companies have reported these can result in up to a 6% click through.

  9. Build an audience

    You can build an audience by getting people to “Like” your Facebook page by clicking the Facebook Like button. This is a bit like agreeing to be friends, except that the initiative is entirely on their side. Apart from having an attractive page with interesting content, you can encourage people by offering exclusive content and only allowing people to post who have Liked you.

    Facebook says that the average person who presses “Like” has more than twice as many friends as the average and is generally more curious. The same group clicks on links to external websites more than five times as frequently. Fans won’t ever revisit your page unless there is good reason, and that’s just the way that they interact with their friends pages. It’s important to realise that the more they visit, the more likely your postings will appear on their timelines reminding them of your existence and providing an opportunity for them to tell their friends. If when they arrive, it’s dead space they will not bother coming again. Remember, don’t post too much.

  10. Understand how you communicate with fans

    After people “Like” your company page, they become your fans. You can use messaging capability to send broadcast emails to them.
    Alternatively, you can target them based on their gender, age and location. Whenever you post anything on your Facebook Page, it may appear in your fans’ news feeds, depending on EdgeRank, discussed below.

    In fact Facebook has said that only 16% of company posts, on average, will appear in a fan’s news feed. Facebook says that the average user has around 250 friends, and if the user responds to your page or your posting, the item might appear in their friends’ newsfeeds. If they then “Like” you, they are added to your fan base and their network of friends becomes potentially reachable. However, this multiplier effect will only happen if what you do is highly engaging.

  11. Understand how EdgeRank affects virality

    Facebook calculates “EdgeRank” in order to identify what actions to share on friends’ or fans’ timelines. The equation is:

    EdgeRank = Time Decay + Affinity + Weight.

    Time Decay is just about how fresh the content is. Something that is a week old is very unlikely to be seen by anyone.

    Affinity is a measure of how close a person is to your company page. If they visit it regularly, or comment on things that you post, they will be seen as closer. Similarly, friends that are always communicating with each other have a high affinity and each other’s actions are more likely to be seen on each other’s timelines.

    Finally, weight is about the effort of the action. A Like is just one click, so the weight is low. Uploading a picture or posting a long comment has a much higher weight (video would be even better) as it requires more action on a user’s part. So if this morning you post a picture with a question, then someone who has visited your page several times in the last few days sees it on their news feed, comments on it and uploads a picture themselves, it is much more likely to appear in their friends’ news feeds.

    Just remember that “Chris Barling likes SellerDeck” and similar can be damaging if it continually turns up on a timeline. Instead of motivating your fans it will irritate them and they will Unlike you.

  12. Put a Like button on your site

    Adding the Like button provides an opportunity to increase traffic and grow your number of fans. Each click gives the potential for your site details to appear on the customer’s friends’ Facebook news feeds. Consider adding “Like us on Facebook” to things such as your newsletter and the order confirmation page. The subtle problem is that as Facebook records all of your customer’s likes and interests, competitors can target them through Facebook advertising.

  13. Use the Insights feature

    Every Facebook page comes with a free analytics capability called Facebook Insights. This gives information on the activity of people that have liked your page, and how much your page is being discussed. You also can see demographic information on the people that have liked the page including gender, country and age. This is a great start to profiling your customers and prospects, which can be used in subsequent marketing campaigns.

  14. Ensure you monetise your fans

    The only point of building your fan base is to get them to visit your ecommerce store and make purchases or to influence their friends to do the same. The big argument against Facebook ecommerce is that Facebook is all about socialising not shopping. Would you be happy for someone to try to sell you something while you were watching the match, eating in a restaurant or seeing the latest episode of your favourite soap?

    There is no way to broadcast to all Facebook users (although you can advertise) so the argument is that selling is entirely counter to the culture, and is therefore hard. So although the objective of monetising your fans is clear, it must be approached carefully. You may get visits as a result of your general brand building, but you can also refer to special articles on your website, announce new products on your Facebook page with a click-through link and provide discount vouchers. You need to make sure you are not significantly cannibalising existing sales with your activities or giving discounts to people that would have bought anyway.

  15. Understand the principles of Facebook ads

    BusinessWeek.com stated that banner advertisements on Facebook get only 20% of the number of clicks compared to other ads on the web. Its other findings were that Google gets users to click on their first ad 8% of the time. Facebook’s users click only 0.04% of the time. There is however a positive way of looking at this. Since you can decide to only pay for clicks, this could be a cheap way of building your brand through advertising.

    Comparing Google with Facebook misses the point. Google searchers are thinking about a problem and looking for a solution; Facebook users aren’t. It means that Google searchers are a lot closer to a purchase. That’s good, but there are issues. If you have a unique or new product which no-one knows about, then Facebook may be much better. Capturing a person’s interest at an earlier stage in the sales funnel may enable you to short circuit the competition, and may avoid head to head price comparison. It’s very early days of advertising on Facebook, and no doubt further insights will emerge.

  16. Consider advertising on Facebook

    Facebook allows advertising, and in fact its plan is to make most of its money through this route. Your adverts are displayed when a prospect is viewing Facebook and you only pay when they click on your ad.

    Unlike Google, Facebook allows an image to be displayed with your advert. You can also pay for each impression but that almost certainly isn’t the best option for ecommerce merchants, where pay-per-click is generally better. You make a bid on how much you wish to pay, and the higher your bid the more likely your ad is to be displayed. Generally speaking, the proportion of people that both see your ad and click on it will be small – think one in a thousand or much less. Google click through will be much higher as people are specifically searching for products on Google. However, the key metric is not the click through rate but the cost per conversion.

    As well as straight ads, you should consider Sponsored Stories and Promoted Posts, which are discussed below.

  17. Carefully select advert demographics

    Facebook allows you huge control over who will see your ad. You can select the age range, sex, education, relationship status, location and interests. In other words, if you are selling Star Wars merchandise, you can just target people who are interested in Star Wars.

  18. Understand how viral works in advertising

    Once we have built a substantial base of fans for our Facebook page (people that have “Liked” the page), there are options to both target those fans and their friends, as explained elsewhere. It’s the fact that there is interesting content on the Facebook page that will cause people to Like the page and maybe tell their friends about it. It’s when we have interesting posts that people Like those and maybe pass them on to their friends which is the viral effect. So it’s making sure that content is interesting, engaging, and not spam that enables the viral quality of Facebook to be exploited.

  19. Try local advertising

    Try to be very selective on how you advertise, and continually refine your targeting to reduce the cost of each lead and sale. Watch how the Facebook Ad Exchange develops where you bid for ads.

    A great benefit of Facebook advertising is that you can target localities. So it’s worth discovering if this can improve response rates, particularly if you have a significant presence in one area. Although ecommerce is national, people can still feel reassured that they can visit you and get support, see products or make returns.

  20. Look at Sponsored Stories

    Sponsored Stories allow you to take a post on your Facebook page and pay to have it seen down the right hand side of people’s Facebook pages. They can be targeted like an ad and in most ways are identical. The exception is that they are displayed with engagement information showing Likes, shares and comments. They are likely to be best at trying to build up the fan base of your page.

  21. Think about Promoted Posts

    Promoted Posts allow you to get a post on your Facebook page to show up more widely in your fans’ news feeds than they otherwise would. You can optionally also target the friends of your fans.

    Unfortunately, Promoted Posts are only available to companies with between 400 to 100,000 fans. They are likely to be best at getting people to take a specific action such as visit your site, download a tips booklet or take advantage of an offer.

  22. Assess Facebook ads v. Google

    Although Facebook reaches more than half all internet users, Google reaches 90 percent. Google has click through rates on adverts around the web of around 0.4%, Facebook 0.04%.

  23. Compare Facebook v. Twitter

    Twitter may be better at making quick connections to a large number of people. If you want to communicate more complex messages accompanied by drawings, photographs and videos, Facebook may be a better option. Understand that Twitter is a “fire hose” where anyone that follows you gets 100% of your posts (if they are logged on to Twitter), while Facebook on average only passes on 16% of your posts to your fans. The biggest difference between the two is information degradation. With Facebook, thanks to EdgeRank, your content is delivered to the most relevant people for longer.

  24. Watch out for gifts

    Launched in the US in September 2012 Facebook Gifts makes buying gifts for friends incredibly easy. Based on the “Birthdays and Life Events” section, you can purchase a gift, and have it delivered to your friend in a Facebook bag while choosing to share a message privately or publicly with that friend when the order is placed. This, of course, means that you can purchase on your friends actual birthday, and tell them what it is and when it will arrive, even though physical delivery may be later. This could be a boon to those afflicted with last minute tendencies. Friends will even be able to secretly swap their gift if they don’t like it!

  25. Allow login using Facebook

    An area that Facebook can help you in engagement with customers is through log-in at your site. It’s possible to allow people to log on using their Facebook account and this obviously minimises a barrier to transacting with your site.


SellerDeckChris Barling is co-founder and chairman of ecommerce software and EPOS systems supplier, SellerDeck and has over 17 years’ experience of helping SME retailers with advice on trading online.

In his third book Chris shares the basic steps to setting up shop on the web, together with the key lessons he has learned that can make the difference between success and failure.

The paperback edition is £12.99 from www.sellerdeck.co.uk/insider and a Kindle version is also available on Amazon for £6.49.

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