“The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” - Chicken Little
This has been a rough year for doing business on Facebook. The changes early this year, to the algorithm have made it harder and harder to reach our audience. However, with every challenge, there is an opportunity. Instead of focusing on what doesn’t work anymore, let’s look at what does.
There was a time when Facebook was all about pokes and connecting with old high school friends (I’ll refrain from sharing my high school photo, again). While it’s still a great place to reconnect, Facebook has slowly grown to become one of the leading business platforms on the internet competing even with the likes of LinkedIn. Solopreneurs and other businesses have used this to gain an edge by polishing their marketing tactics.
If you really want to get the most out of growing your business on Facebook, it’s important to know what works and what doesn’t. That way you can maximize the time you spend more effectively.
Why choose Facebook?
If you don’t already know now, networking is the art of creating connections with people who may be able to help you out later in different aspects of your business. I once was able to use my networking contacts to get box seats at a Nickelback concert! But we will be concentrating on the business gain for now.
The fundamentals of networking on Facebook and Instagram are very similar. However, Facebook comes with a distinct set of advantages.
Facebook has a feature called groups where all the like-minded people can come together and discuss their interests. Not only can one chat in these groups but they start to become a part of the community. The number of such groups is hard to count as there are new ones created every day. We will look more into these later, but each one of these groups is a possible treasure trove of solid leads.
Instagram boasts a total number of active users of over a billion. It would be extremely hard to top that number until you try and compete with a whale like Facebook. This social media giant has over 2.25 billion active users. That is about a third of the whole word. This means your potential market is already double the size of Instagram.
While Instagram is coming up with a lot of features like Facebook (and vice versa), Facebook still clearly has more options that can help you network better and get popular. For example, you can start polls and interact with people. You can also go with text or multimedia posts. Recently you can also ask people for advice about anything you want. Sure, listening to strange people on the internet is something your parents have strongly advised you against since you started using a computer. But, let’s hope that they aren’t reading this with you.
Perfect mix of Professional and Social Cultures
Instagram is as casual as a social networking site gets. Well maybe not as much as tinder, but you get my point. Facebook on the other hand, due to its arsenal of features can be used effectively for both professional and social purposes. This is extremely important as it will help you maintain the right kind of relations with your connections. You wouldn’t want them to see how drunk you got during the family reunion and horrendously failed at performing a backflip in the pool. So you can control exactly who is viewing certain parts of your life.
That being said since Facebook took over Instagram, the way the two of them linked themselves together is truly remarkable. So, while it is true that Facebook is preferable over Instagram in terms of networking, true magic is created when you use both of them in sync. However, for the purpose of this article, we will focus on how to create a connection on Facebook. If you are interested in learning how to network on Instagram, do go through our post about the same.
Create Friend Lists
The first thing you need to do before you start networking on Facebook is to segregate your professional and your personal contacts. This will help you keep these lives separate online as well. Sure, a professional contact may get close enough to you later to become a personal one. But let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.
Facebook allows you to do this easily with something called lists. Simply go to your friend list to find all your good looking friends. When you hover over the ‘Friends’ tag, you should be able to see a number of lists already made available to you. You can choose them to add them to those lists or select “Add to another list”. Here you can create a new list and add all your professional contacts to it.
Unfortunately, you will have to go to each friend and use this procedure to add them to this new list. Alternatively, you can add a bunch of them together via the friend lists option under Explore on the left side of your Home Page.
Once you are done creating your list it is important to keep updating them as soon as you add new contacts. Now, everytime you post, you should see an option to change who all can view it. Simply go there and change the setting to your professional list when you are posting work-related. Alternatively while posting personal stuff you can just block this list from viewing these new posts.
Use Facebook Groups
One of the biggest reasons to prefer Facebook over Instagram is the presence of ‘Groups’ on facebook. Essentially, it is a collection of people with the same interest. Now, Imagine, your target audience is travel bloggers from Indiana. To network on Instagram, you will have to go through several tags and posts to search for these people. On the other hand, Facebook will (might) directly have a group called “Indiana Travel Bloggers”. All you have to do is join these groups and start talking to people, making your job infinitely easier.
Some of these groups might be private (requiring a member’s permission for you to join in) while the others are open allowing you to join whenever you want. Once you are in, you can use the following steps to network like a pro.
Become an active participant
The first thing you need to do is to be active in the group. You can do this in several ways. Start off by leaving meaningful comments on others’ posts or start a discussion about it. Once you are comfortable, you can post links, media, or even relevant jokes on the group to engage everyone. Eventually, when they are comfortable with you, you can try to share a relevant link from your business to this particular group.
Once you have started becoming active in the group, you will notice that there are others who are just as active as you are. You might even find some regulars who discuss your viewpoints in the comments section. In such a case, feel free to add them as a friend so you can move on to the next step of networking. Ensure you add them to your professional friend list directly so you do not end up sharing an inappropriate post with them.
Send them a message
There are extremely high chances that your request gets accept. If it doesn’t, then respect their privacy and don’t badger the comments section calling them out like a drunken ex.
Once you have added them as your friend, you would want to start conversations with topics relating to the group you met in. Later, you can delve into other topics and such. It is important to remember that this is a professional contact and not a social one, so you should know your boundaries.
Under no circumstances should you start selling yourself in the beginning in any group. Starting off by marketing yourself is never a good way to generate solid leads and a good network. It might lead to you getting banned or reported as spam.
You could use groups to do more than just networking. To find out how you can make the most of them, check out our article on how to use Facebook groups to grow your business.
Make the most of post options
Facebook has developed a lot since its inception. What earlier had just a text posting and comment options now has options to ask people for opinions and recommendations. You can make the most of these additional post options to create a bigger network for yourself.
A feature of Facebook allows you to take polls asking people their opinion on various topics. This feature is great since it gives the users a chance to interact with you. So if you come with an interesting enough question where everyone wants to give their opinion then you might get a great response. To top it off, it’s a great way to do a market survey in groups or amongst your friend circle - at absolutely no cost 😉
You can also see which users selected which option in this poll. Using their answers can be a great conversation starter with someone who you had otherwise known as an acquaintance. But be careful while doing this as not everyone will be open to the idea of being approached like that.
Use ‘Ask for Recommendations’ instead of polls. It is quite similar to polls, but gives you location-specific answers and allows users to interact more since the questions are open-ended. Moreover, your users would feel like their opinion is valued more.
Just like Instagram, Facebook also has an option to live stream various events. This is a great place to meet people. You can choose to view someone else's live stream and share your thoughts with like-minded people. This is a lot like attending some concert and discussing how beautiful the music is with the person in the next seat.
You could also try live streaming other things yourself to get your dormant users to be more interactive. For example, if you are a baseball coach, you can live stream a prodigious talent learning at your academy. This is sure to get the attention of others and a great way to market your services at the same time.
Stories are something that was popularized by Snapchat but eventually, everyone wanted a piece of the cake so they all started “getting inspired” by it. Though not as popular as its counterparts, some people still use Facebook stories to document various things.
Just like streaming something live, this gives people a chance to start a conversation with you or share their opinion. If you uploaded a story about a product that you strongly believe in related to your friend, then others might ask you for reviews as they might be looking for a similar product.
You could also use other types of posts like starting an event page to publicize a seminar you are planning to organize. Alternatively, you should implement various types of media as well to try and engage your connections. Nowadays, you will find memes are the best icebreakers. They have probably even replaced pick up lines in online dating. So, go post something funny (not necessarily related to your field) and make the most Facebook post options to expand your network.
Create a Facebook page
Another way to start networking is to make use of the facebook pages option. This is the best way to have a professional presence on Facebook. As a Facebook user, you can create a page on facebook about absolutely anything you want. No, seriously, it can even be about how you should put cereal before the milk for your breakfast and not vice versa. As long as Facebook doesn’t deem the content of the page to be harmful to anyone, you can have whatever you want.
Of course, you don’t want to have a page about cereal eating techniques (or do you?), but you should start a page about your own business and the services you offer.
“But WHY should I have a page if Facebook doesn’t show it to anyone?”
Let me digress a bit here.
Once upon a time, marketing was hard. You had to spend lots of money on big campaigns and do a lot of challenging things.
And then Facebook came along.
Marketing became relatively cheap and easy (I’ll refrain from the comparison here). Facebook made it simple to put out content and get new audiences.
Then Facebook decided to start making money and they made everything hard again.
But hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Frankly, there are still people who are going to research your company using Facebook as one point of reference. If you don’t have a moderately active page, they will think twice about doing business with you.
Shift your perspective. Instead of your page as being a solid lead generator, consider it a branding and reputation building tool.
Your professional page should have everything about the services that you offer, your address, contact information and other relevant things to your practice. All this should be easily accessible to the users for maximum conversion rate.
Invite friends to like
This might make you seem as desperate as a teenage boy. Unfortunately, it is one of the most effective techniques to get people to recognize your services and start a dialog. Remember the friends you gathered from various groups and the ones you already had, they will be useful here. Request them to like your page.
I’ve actually had this work for me. I’ve gotten a few new clients from inviting contacts I’ve made to like my page. They knew me from groups or local events and reached out when they received the invitation to like my page.
Once your friends like and follow your page, two things will happen. Firstly, your page will gain popularity. Secondly, their friends will get to see that they have liked your page and they might wonder what is it all about. If you are lucky they might turn into potential leads as well.
Just remember, only invite friends that you think are in your target audience. Facebook is more likely to show your posts to people it thinks will be interested and engage. Your uncle Jack might like your page to support you, but, if he never engages, that “like” actually hurts you.
Also, if you ever consider advertising using Facebook, it will be to your benefit to have a narrower, targeted audience.
Be active on the page
The previous technique is only bound to work if your page is regularly updated with new content. The posts don’t have to be related to your field, but can sometimes be a bit personal as well. If you want, you can even lighten the mood with a few memes here and there. At the same time, you must ensure that you aren’t repeating your posts too regularly. Once every 3 to 6 months is fine if you have a lot of content going up. Less often if you only post once a week.
This also means that you will have to be quite active while replying to the messages asked by people online. This will help you project a positive image and develop newer connections.
Use the page to comment on groups
Finally, you can now use your page identity almost as a separate entity on Facebook. So once you get into a particular group, you can start posting on that group using your page id. Similarly, you could also use this to comment or reply to comments on other posts on various groups. This helps you establish yourself in the group as your professional self rather than just another individual. Furthermore, it will open you up to queries from others increasing your opportunities to network.
Use a balance here. People like to do business with people first. While interacting as your page can help people see what you do, it doesn’t always help people get to know the person behind the business.
I’m about to share with you the real secret to networking on Facebook. It’s the thing that few people do. Because it is so under utilized, it’s a gold mine of opportunity. You will stand out in a crowded sea if you use this technique.
Stay in Touch
Now that you have created a network of people, it is extremely important to maintain it as well. Without this, it would be hard or you to ever ask them for a favor if it ever comes to it. Imagine if an acquaintance from middle school suddenly came up to you 20 years later and asked for help in a business venture, you wouldn't be inclined to help, would you? Here are a few simple ways you can stay in touch.
Comment on their posts
Whether someone is a part of your professional network or your personal one, it is important to show an interest in their lives. You can simply do this by commenting on the things that they post on Facebook. For example, if they post a picture of themselves, you can compliment them or if they post an update about getting a new job, you can congratulate them. Just remember not to sound too mechanical with your comments or they might perceive it as an insincere comment.
While the generic comments will help you stay in their minds, the truly unique ones will open a path for deeper friendship and better network building. Just don’t get too crazy in the comment section - remember everyone can read your comments.
Share their posts
Another great idea to stay in touch is to share their posts whenever you feel they are something you relate with as well. Alternatively, you might feel that you have an opposing opinion and you can share the post with your opinion. Remember, the objective is not to attack the person with your opinion but rather to have a constructive discussion on the topic.
Let’s be honest, if it wasn’t for Facebook, we probably wouldn’t remember our best friend’s birthday or maybe even our own anniversary. This is possibly one of the reasons that I still have the Facebook app on my phone. All you need to do is send out a thoughtful message to that person on their birthday. Otherwise, you could even post on his/her wall. It is just so easy. If its a professional contact don’t post anything embarrassing on their wall though - that privilege is reserved for your best friends 😉
Want to truly uplevel your birthday wishes? Find or create a unique image to share your birthday message. This can either be slightly (but not overly) branded to your business or something specific to that person. Just remember, if it’s business branded, it should still be more about the other person than your business. No one likes a Happy Birthday from the Team at XYZ Insurance Brokers, Keeping Your Insurance costs low…
Networking on Facebook has always been a very easy thing to do. One might say, that is the very essence of Facebook with all the friend suggestions that it dishes out on a constant basis. However, it is important to keep the personal and professional apart. Just remember the following tips -
- Keep your professional connections separate using lists
- Maximize the use of groups to add new connections
- Use the various posting formats to interact with your existing contacts
- Make a professional page about your service for any online inquiries
- Stay in touch with them by interacting with their posts and wishing them on their birthdays
Doing all this on your own might seem like a daunting task. However, if you had some help from our Virtual A-Team, all this might seem like a walk in the park. So, don’t waste your time. Contact us and let’s get cracking on making you a Facebook sensation and building that network up!