These days I find businesses aren’t directing customers to their main site anymore. Everywhere I go, whether it’s a restaurant or boutique, the movie theater or even a service, the signs are clear: Join us on Facebook! The discount codes are posted to the Wall, the pictures from last night’s special event are now upload to the photo albums, and everybody’s your friend and talking to each other on your fan page. Facebook has truly become an important hub for businesses large and small, localized and nationwide. It’s an incredible tool for last-minute updates on events and great for customer retention and support.
We’re willing to bet, too, you aren’t even doing half of what you could be doing with it to optimize your business.
As with other social networks that appear to maintain rigid design structures, Facebook does allow you to get away with the occasional trick to help make your profile or fan page stand out among the rest. If you plan to rely on Facebook for the bulk of your social marketing, you especially want to pay attention to different ways to optimize that space. You may already know about custom tabs (and if you don’t, we’ll cover that soon enough) and manipulating the Boxes tabs to arrange information the way you want, but there is so much more you can do to turn a simple wall thread into a genuine hub for your customers and soon-to-be customers that will keep them coming back to interact.
You can maximize your profile picture!
That all-too-critical profile picture is the first thing people will see when they visit you. More than likely, given the positioning and small print of that dinky About You box underneath it, they will miss your main URL. It’s important to take advantage of your allotted space here to advertise who you are and what you do. This example from Eurobookings illustrates how they have used the maximum 200×600 pixel spot to showcase the beautiful hotel rooms they book. The URL is clear and they have branded the picture with their logo. You look at this and you know this is a page for travel accommodations.
The challenge, of course, comes in designing a cascade like image to suit your company. If your logo is more horizontal than vertical, choose images relevant to your business and be sure to make your URL prominent.
You can add custom boxes on your personal profile!
Customizing on Facebook isn’t limited to fan pages. If you have a fan page for your company live, you must have a profile to manage it. With the application HTML Profile Box, you can add custom HTML code to your profile to advertise anything at all – your main site, your Facebook page, products and more. You can link anywhere in the world, and set the profile box on your profile sidebar, so every time a new friend comes to visit your information is there to guide them anywhere on the Internet. In this example, a teaser advertisement for an upcoming book is placed on the author’s personal profile. As newcomers visit, though it’s possible they won’t see the entire profile as dictated by the privacy settings marked, the custom box should remain visible for anybody to see.
Two caveats to using HTML Profile Box that I have found: it appears you can only use the application once on your profile, and you need to make sure permissions are turned on to have it appear on your profile. It’s important for your personal profile to have some kind of optimization done that guides people to the fan page, where you are more apt to collect people who “like” what you have to offer.
You can sell stuff! If you take Paypal for goods and services, you can sell on Facebook. There is a nifty plugin called Payvment that allows you to integrate a small cart on a custom Facebook tab. What you have to offer, people can buy it right there without having to leave Facebook:
Certain fees may apply. Be sure to check with the site and plugin as you set up your account.
You can collect e-mails for your newsletter! The relevancy of e-mail marketing in the age of social media remains under debate. However, as long as e-mail is still used, e-mail marketing is germane. If you have a newsletter or alert system in place and use a system like Aweber or VerticalResponse, you can set up a tab to collect opt-in interest for your company:
You can host a live chat! Live Stream is one of many helpful plugins designed to shape your Facebook experience. With this code inserted in a custom tab (or even on a website that accepts iframe code), you can host a live chat event for your business.
With these and other Facebook fixes, you can create an interactive forum for your company that truly puts the social in social media!
Kathryn Lively is a social media specialist assisting clients with Facebook Marketing. She has helped a number of companies, including Virginia Beach web design firms, global trade forums, European hotel booking sites, and Gainesville bed and breakfast inns achieve optimized social profiles.