Facebook: Next Generation Best Practices for Businesses

May 16, 2011
Facebook had a make-over this past March and this article helps electronic design firms understand those changes and benefit from them.

With the roll-out of Facebook’s new make-over this spring a fait accompli, many electronic design firms rejoice that some of the service’s new features will make it much easier for them to do business on the social network – both creatively and from a business analytics perspective.

Millions of Facebook users have been watching the latest evolution of the service – which includes a new look and feel for everyone who has a Facebook account – roll-out across the network since late 2010.

“Just being out there has introduced us to a customer that otherwise might not know about us, the local tinkerer,” says John Chester, director of sales and marketing, Sterling Electronic Design (www.sterling-edc.com). “They search for local resources on Facebook, find us, and give us a call.”

Adds Bob Potock, market director at Altium, an electronic design software firm: “Altium's goal with any social medium -- be it Facebook, Twitter, or online forums -- is to connect more directly with our customers and in a more personal way. It allows Altium to share news in real-time, have conversations with engineers, and respond immediately to questions and feedback.”

One of Facebook’s most anticipated changes is the service’s new ability to easily add framed content to a Facebook page – technically known as content presented within iFrames. Essentially, the change enables any company to easily mirror the Web design on their Web site on a Facebook page – as long as it’s within an iFrame.

Scores of Web designers are celebrating the move, since attempting to duplicate the look and feel of a company’s Web site pages on Facebook had previously presented quite a challenge in many cases.

Moreover, Web marketers say the introduction of easy iFraming also makes it much easier for a business to crunch analytics, including tracking user activity on Facebook pages, and thoroughly analyzing how sales and other sought-after conversions are unfolding on company Facebook pages.

All told, the make-over has stimulated marketers to update their best marketing practices for the service, as detailed below.

• Understand Why Facebook is So Powerful

While social networking has been around for awhile (people were socializing on CompuServe discussion forums long before Mark Zuckerberg got his first tricycle), Facebook was one of the services that made such networking so effortless, so fun and so multifaceted. For example, once someone signs up for your ‘fan’ or business page on Facebook, they immediately begin getting info about your company in their News Feed, can instantly share your offers to others in their social network, can effortlessly engage in discussions on your Facebook page, can give their opinion about your products or services and can shop on your Facebook page – all without even thinking about how to do these things.

“Facebook social networking is huge,” says Daiki Hirata, a Web designer at Sonnex, an electronic design firm. “The potential of a wide range of customers, or the notice of our new brand, can be spread person-by-person.”

“We have been up on Facebook a few months, and it was a snap to set the page up,” says Sterling’s Chester. “It took less than an hour to set up the page, and we only spend a few minutes per week on the page.For the amount of time it takes, there is a lot of ROI.”

Small wonder. Facebook now has 600 million-plus registered users.

Get Creative With Facebook’s Newly Unshackled Web Design Features

For years, Web designers have bemoaned the fact that they were forced to use Facebook’s propriety programming for much of the designing they did on the Facebook site. No more. With the roll-out of Facebook’s latest make-over March 1st, the service is now offering Web designers complete creative design freedom within specified framed areas of your pages on Facebook.

”I for one am thrilled with this long-awaited news,” says Janet Driscoll Miller, CEO of SearchMojo, a Web marketing firm. Essentially, any content that appears within these specially designed iFrames is no longer subject to the limitations of Facebook’s design format. Instead, the content can be easily designed with more robust Web design programs like DreamWeaver or Microsoft Expression. “This is a huge timesaver when you’re trying to program pages to match your corporate brand,” Miller adds. (You can check out what your content will look like within an iFrame at this link: http://www.facebook.com/whosbloggingwhat?sk=app_126661227405239).

Take Advantage of Facebook’s New Integration with Google Analytics

“Not long ago, Facebook removed some features that allowed you to track your page views in Facebook via Google Analytics,” Miller says. That’s no longer a problem, she adds, now that Google allows company Web content to be displayed within the new iFrames model. Essentially, any content showcased within the frame can be completely tracked, sliced and diced with Google Analytics (http://www.google.com/analytics/), a free program that has a great reputation for analyzing user behavior on Web sites.

Easily Track Sales and Other Conversions Sought on Your Facebook Presence

“Seriously, this one deserves about 15 exclamation points,” Miller says. “iFrames makes tracking conversions from Facebook – and keeping ad respondents within the Facebook application – much easier.”

Post a ‘Like Button’

A recent Facebook innovation, the ability to ‘Like’ a business confers an instant recommendation of your business to everyone within a Facebook user’s circle – be it 12 people, or 1,200 people. You can easily add a ‘Like’ button to your Facebook page by visiting: (http://developers.facebook.com/docs/plugins/).

Consider Other Business-Friendly Social Plugins

These plugins include ‘Recommendations,” which gives users personalized suggestions for pages on your site that they might like and ‘Comments,’ which allows visitors to comment on content on your Facebook site.

Meanwhile, the ‘Like Box,’ enables users to ‘like’ your Facebook page and view its stream directly from your Web site; ‘Facepile’ shows profile pictures of a user’s friends who have already signed up for your site and ‘Live Stream’ allows users to exchange comments and engage in other shared activity in real-time as they interact during a live event on your Facebook page.

Post Freely Under Your Business Name to Other Pages on Facebook

With the March 1st make-over, Facebook has made it very easy for a business to post to the walls of other pages. Previously, a business’s messages had been restricted to appearing on the Facebook News Feeds of people who liked you, friends of those people, and of course, on the wall of your own business Facebook page. Used judiciously, this new freedom to post to the walls of other Facebook pages could make promotion on Facebook a whole lot easier.

Post Often, Interestingly and With Plenty of Graphics

The only way to continually attract attention to your Facebook page is via constant updates to your page. Fortunately, you can post to Facebook a few times a week, or in some cases, every day, and other Facebook users won’t consider you annoying. After all, those who ‘friend’ you are clearly saying they are interested in what you have to say. Just be sure it’s interesting, and it includes images or video often. Graphics are the lifeblood of Facebook.

Engage, Don’t Broadcast

If you’ve had a business page on Facebook for any amount of time, no doubt you’ve heard this. But it bears repeating. Businesses that use traditional methods to broadcast their brands on Facebook are generally received with a collective yawn -- and sometimes even negative retribution -- from Facebook users protective of the social network’s culture.

Agrees Altium’s Potock: “In general, Altium focuses more on having conversations with people and posting relevant content versus being a bullhorn for the marketing department.”

Quite simply, Facebook users expect a conversation from the businesses they befriend. And they expect it to be authentic.

”One thing I would have done differently is establish a Facebook presence sooner,” says Sterling’s Chester. “As I began to work on building brand recognition, I concentrated on traditional means, improving the website, getting into resource guides, networking at tradeshows, and so forth. But setting up a Facebook page was so easy, and has borne such fruit that it should have been an integral part of the project -- not an afterthought.”

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