#FacebookFit: Small Businesses and Social Media Success

The #FacebookFit PanelSocial media behemoth Facebook kicked off a national tour of conferences catering to small businesses on June 3 in New York City. The event, called Facebook Fit, featured a panel of four small business folks who currently use Facebook for marketing-related purposes. Though the tour is ultimately a push to get more small businesses to sign up for Facebook advertising, the contributors had some useful input regarding the use of the social media channel.

The panel was moderated by USA Today columnist Rhonda Abrams and featured four panelists. Emmanuel Peña is the co-owner at Astor Row Café on Lenox Avenue in Harlem; Jacqueline Donovan is a marketing executive at the speciality grocery store Fairway Market; Tavy Ronen is co-owner of The Yarn Company, a high-end yarn shop; and Alexandra Barber is a digital marketer at the not-for-profit Roundabout Theatre Company. Here’s what they had to say about the role Facebook plays in their businesses.

Ask People to Like Your Page

Emmanuel Pena, who opened Astor Row Café nearly three years ago with his wife in Harlem, N.Y., said there is no website for his business, only a Facebook page. He emphasized the idea that marketers shouldn’t be afraid to ask people to check-in through Facebook and like the business’ page. Pena said to let your customers create the content for your page. To keep his Facebook presence current, he even requires his baristas to check in on Facebook so their friends know about Astor Row Café.

Use Your Current Fans to Your Advantage

Jacqueline Donovan, marketing executive for Fairway Market, said the grocery chain launched its Facebook page after a customer asked why they weren’t on it. She noted that “there is nothing more powerful than the fans you already have.” Donovan also  shared that when Fairway recently opened a store on Long Island, it decided to have a commercial shot for the new store and ask their Facebook fans why they love Fairway.

Give Your Fans a Voice

Alexandra Barber, digital marketer at Roundabout Theatre Company, which has five theaters on Broadway and puts together seven or eight productions a year, said one of their shows created a tagline: “It’s about the journeys you take to discover who you are.” To get people involved with the company, they launched a Facebook photo contest asking for photos of journeys that their fans have been on with a description of how the journey changed them. “We really try to be creative and create promotions that allow our fans to have a voice,” she said, adding that information about the contest is included in all of their marketing materials, including emails and printed material in the  theater.

Incorporate Facebook into Your Marketing Strategy

Tavy Ronen, who bought The Yarn Company three years ago with her brother, said they have an email newsletter with 9,000 subscribers. They use Facebook to get additional email subscribers, and they have a link to Facebook in the newsletter to gain more fans on the social network. “Facebook fans are always the first to get special offers,” she said, adding that her online store is accessible directly through Facebook by using a plugin.

Visuals, Visuals, Visuals

Ronen said The Yarn Company makes a major effort to show what they do inside the store on Facebook, and visuals draw the most engagement.

“We tried to show to the world what we do by putting up very good visual images, and we very quickly found out that the photos people responded to the most were those that represented our color choices. So people – even though they couldn’t touch – they were very responsive to our color choices,” she said.

Though every business has its own marketing needs, influenced by a variety of factors including industry, service, and scale, Facebook can be a powerful tool for bringing in new business and retaining existing customers. How does your business leverage Facebook to stay on customers’ radars? Let us know in the comments section.

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About Tim Sohn

Tim Sohn is a freelance writer and editor. He can be reached at timothyjsohn@gmail.com and on Twitter @editortim. Also, check out his website at TimothyJSohn.com.