How to Attract and Retain Customers by Social Media Marketing on Facebook

Facebook began as an online version of the American high-school yearbook, and in less than a decade has grown into a utility used by over a billion people worldwide. It is the website of choice for sharing the experiences of daily life, for keeping in touch without having to bother with individual emails and for finding long-lost friends and family. It is also notorious for wasting vast amounts of time and hosting photos which people might later regret. Like all the social networks, the 'signal-to-noise' ratio is often skewed poorly in favor of the trivia.

Regardless of these issues, a website which reaches roughly one-seventh of the world's population can not be ignored by business. The number one mantra for those using Facebook for social media marketing is 'no-one opens Facebook to read advertising'. The users are not there to find out about your brand – they are there to be updated by their friends and to share their own news. Your job is to catch their attention and divert them to your brand's page. Once they are on that page, it is important to keep their attention and encourage them to participate. Finally, you need to analyze the results and feed them back into your marketing activity.

Catching attention

The virtues of Facebook advertising are well-known, helping you to target the right demographic in the right location. It sounds very easy – but it is worth considering the real behavior of Facebook users when planning your social media marketing.

The general public is often more advertising-savvy than businesses think. Facebook users are learning to ignore the right-hand side of the page, which is where the sponsored links are shown and where most of the commercial activity takes place. So your Facebook advert needs to stand out, and to offer them something which will make them click on it.

Some people are also wary of apps, which are Facebook utilities that allow users to do things that are not part of the standard Facebook functionality. Popular apps allow users to share music, play games and record their worldwide travels. All apps will share some or all of a user's Facebook profile information. While this should not specifically be used for advertising, it does mean users lose control of where the information is going. This is the reason for resistance.

These two issues mean that you can not assume that Facebook users are going to be receptive to your advert. Your Facebook advertising campaign can be deliberately targeted to the correct demographic and location, but remember that having the advert displayed is not the same thing as having people respond to it. Ideas that may help your brand stand out include:

· Offering an explicit discount on your products

· Flagging up a local event and providing a special offer to those clicking on the advert

· Offering an interesting free item – everyone loves a freebie

· Running a competition related to a current or upcoming event

Remember that you can also reach potential customers via search engines, because all non-secured Facebook pages are searchable. To increase the chance of better search 'hits', pay attention to keywords when filling in your profile details, and include all your domain names in the 'websites' section. Once you have more than 25 'likes' on your page, you will be able to choose a suitable username as a subdomain of www.facebook.com . Choose this carefully as it can not be changed.

Retaining attention

Once you have attracted attention to your page, your next task is to make the visit worthwhile. People sent to an empty Facebook page will not hang around, and will not return. So before you start advertising (especially if it is a paid campaign), run through a checklist for your page. It should include the following:

· An appealing cover photo and profile photo. Think hard about your target audience and remember that some photos can backfire in unexpected ways. For instance, to target the 18-Myrtle Beach5s you may want to post a photo of some teen celebrities advertising your cause. However the clichéd 'three smiling blondes' photo may deter other age groups, and annoy those who expect more diversity. Why not use a photo of 'real people' who are happy with your product?

· Information about your brand. The Facebook timeline allows you to post enduring content such as FAQs, history of your brand or product, information about the company and contact information. Make sure that all the information is up to date and that all links work – and check them regularly.

· Content – the most important part to keep your customers. Your content needs to be updated frequently, because out-of-date pages give the impression that you are not bothered. Content must be interesting, thought-provoking and engaging. While it obviously needs to be related to your brand, your content has to provide a lot more value than a simple 'buy from us!' statement.

Do not forget that grammar, spelling and good writing style always matter. There is no place for 'txt speak' outside text messages.

Analyzing results and traffic

Facebook provides an ever-growing suite of tools to allow you to monitor activity. Most of these will start functioning once your page has thirty or more 'likes'. Available information includes:

· 'Likes' broken down by time period, so that you can correlate a posting or event with a spike in interest. You can also see how people reached your page, so you know which marketing efforts are producing results.

· 'Denies' – knowing what is going wrong is just as important as knowing what you are doing correctly.

· People talking about your page.

· Demographics and location details about your users.

An effective social media marketing policy has to monitor results and effects, and take swift action in response. All new postings and activity should be assessed to see if there is a possible response from the community. A burst of new 'likes' and comments from previously silent users shows that you are on the right track.

The final thing to consider on Facebook is the 'Edgerank' algorithm, which controls what users see on their newsfeeds. It does this by monitoring actions and assigning different weightings to them. For example, a comment is more important than a 'like' and other variables such as time of posting also make a difference. In short, Edgerank means that users see more postings from those with what they engage most. This is useful for retaining interested users, but means that you need to continue to work to attract new customers.