Pages before ads and other Facebook marketing tips

Authors Dan and Alison Zarrella on how businesses can put Facebook to use.

Dan Zarrella (@danzarrella) and Alison Zarrella (@alison), co-authors of “The Facebook Marketing Book,” discuss what Facebook can and cannot do for businesses in the following interview. Most importantly, they explain why Facebook pages — not the ads — should be the focus of Facebook campaigns.

What sets Facebook apart from Google, Twitter and other online marketing tools?

Dan Zarrella: The first thing that marketers have to think about when they’re looking at something like Twitter is whether their market is actually on Twitter. With Facebook, your market is on Facebook — at least the vast majority of them.

Facebook is also about “strong” connections, whereas Twitter tends to be about “weak” connections. For the most part, I’m not friends with people I don’t actually know.

As for Google, most marketers are used to doing pay-per-click advertising with ads that respond to a user’s intention. People are Googling “locksmith” not because they want to make friends with a locksmith, but because they need somebody to unlock their house.

It’s important to remember that someone using Facebook isn’t necessarily in a buying mindset. Marketers need to think about different ways to get a brand message across.

How can Facebook be used as a marketing tool in tandem with other platforms?

Alison Zarrella: You can put an automated feed from a blog into Facebook, and automated content is a great way to keep your page populated. But you’ll want to work toward eventually posting manual content and engaging with people through Facebook. You can cull content from your blog, but that shouldn’t be your only Facebook strategy.

Dan Zarrella: When you’re running a social media marketing campaign that involves more than one platform, pick one platform as a hub. In some cases, a blog will be the best hub. In other situations, Facebook can serve as the hub.

Running a campaign in tandem is awesome, but it’s important to recognize each platform is different. You can’t rely on cross-posting and repurposing content.

Does advertising work on Facebook?

Dan Zarrella: Entertainment-focused ads, B2B ads and dating websites seem to do well. But bluntly, I’m not a huge fan of Facebook ads. I’d advise a marketer or business new to Facebook to first set up a Facebook page and get that working effectively. Then, if they want to experiment with spending more money, they could test Facebook ads.

Alison Zarrella: You really want to concentrate on having content and a core fan base on your page. That said, once you get to the point where you want to do ads, there’s a lot of really bad stuff out there: typos, grammar mistakes, that kind of thing. Spending a little extra time with your ad can push it light years ahead of what everyone else is doing.

Facebook allows companies to create storefronts. What are your thoughts on those?

Alison Zarrella: I think they’re cool. Facebook wants to keep users within the site, so allowing businesses to sell products within Facebook is a big win.

I haven’t seen any companies put their entire inventory on Facebook at this point, but oftentimes a special deal is only available to Facebook users.

I’ve also heard concerns from people about the security of checking out through Facebook. There’s a portion of users who are certainly wary.

Dan Zarrella: I’m not convinced storefronts will replace stand-alone websites for shopping. They’re sort of like a mall in that there’s a social experience that goes along with the shopping process. There’s a bunch of other merchants that are very close — one or two clicks away — verses a stand-alone department store where you have a full shopping experience.

Broadly, what mindset should businesses apply to Facebook marketing?

Alison Zarrella: If a company is going to be on Facebook, they have to do it well. If they’re not going to take the time to set something up correctly and create engagement, I’d recommend putting effort and focus into a traditional website instead.

Dan Zarrella: When it comes to community marketing, businesses have a tendency to port what they’ve always been doing to a new place or platform. That’s partly why many traditional marketers initially gravitate toward Facebook ads. But that’s the last thing a marketer building a Facebook campaign should focus on.

Facebook is not just some place to toss up a brochure and a bunch of ads. The way to approach Facebook marketing is to use a brand to facilitate social relationships and allow people to have more fun with their friends.

This interview was edited and condensed.


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