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Facebook’s little-known weapon for small businesses

04 October 2016 Adam Zuchetti
Facebook tips for small business

“It’s the secret that I really want to let you guys in on,” says Facebook’s head of brand – and most agents are oblivious to its existence and potential.

“Business is like relationships. You don’t just jump in and scream ‘DATE ME!’. You want them to get to know who you are and what you stand for first, so give them a little bit of what you are about,” Naomi Shepherd, head of brand at Facebook and Instagram, told the Sensis Digital Marketing Forum. 

Ms Shepherd said business owners should work on their business plan first and foremost, instead of their social or digital strategy which are simply tools for helping a business connect with its customer base.

“It’s no longer about building readers or followers, it’s about targeting who you reach,” she said.


These five digital marketing tips – including Facebook’s secret weapon – can help you push your brand and connect with both old and new customers.

1. Use the tools available to you
According to Ms Shepherd, SMEs in particular are under-utilising the social and digital tools available to them, which can go a long way towards achieving growth.

One of the reasons she put forward is that many people in business view Facebook solely as an inbound sales channel. However, Facebook can also be used as an outbound tool, pushing your own content to different audiences and measuring which audience segments respond to what.

“Globally connected people are becoming globally connected consumers,” Ms Shepherd said, adding that this is why Facebook has developed a tool that profiles your existing customer base and then scans its network for profiles in other regions and countries that match those profiles.

“There are a lot of people in other parts of the world who are connecting to small and medium businesses here in Australia,” she said.

“It’s the secret that I really want to let you guys in on … this tool that we have called Lookalike Audiences is probably the most under-utilised, but most valuable, thing that we have for small and medium businesses today.”

2. Know your data
According to another panellist at the forum, Adore Beauty founder and CEO Kate Morris, customer data is the most important tool you have as a business owner.

“Trust in God, but everyone else has to bring data,” Ms Morris said.

The Impossible Institute’s advertising expert Dan Gregory, meanwhile, used the example of a DIY turf seller to explain the importance of understanding what your customers actually want.

“Our initial strategy was just based on what they told us that people wanted, so we designed some marketing material that had pictures of little old ladies like Betty White, with the line, ‘If you see a tradie in my front yard, he’s not laying the lawn’,” Mr Gregory recalled.

“But then when we sat down and had a look at the purchasing data… and we looked at the data from the big box hardware stores, people like Bunnings and people like Masters, and what we found was under four metres squared was the average purchase, which is smaller than the average courtyard lawn.

“Which means people aren’t buying lawn from hardware stores because they want to lay a lawn. They are buying it to repair a lawn they already have.”

3. Define yourself as a business
The fact that the forum panellists couldn’t agree on the most important aspect of conveying your business demonstrates the different ways consumers can understand your company.

While there was no consensus on which was most important, everyone agreed that it is important for a business to clearly define the following aspects:

  • Who: Who are your customers? Really drill down to who they are and what their needs are.
  • Why: Why do you what you do? Everyone has a story behind their business. Don’t be afraid to share that with prospective customers as it personalises your business and helps people connect with you.
  • What: What do you actually deliver to customers? A food retailer may say they deliver food, but dig deeper than this. Is the food you offer actually delivering nostalgia, convenience, nutrition or a customer experience?

4. Attraction isn’t everything
It’s all well and good to focus on attracting new leads to your website and social media channels, but if you can’t keep them there, your efforts will be in vain.

“Once you’ve lost them, it’s very, very difficult to get them back to your site,” Sensis CEO John Allan said.

According to Ms Morris, customer experience should be the fundamental reason for everything you do in business.

“The edge SMEs have over big business is the reactiveness they have to customer comments,” she said.

Ms Morris said many big businesses have made bad decisions on new forays or product launches because they were trying to add value or boost revenue, rather than putting their customers first.

5. Invest in a mobile-friendly site
Many small businesses feel that a standard website is good enough to reach customers. However, according to Mr Allan, this oversight could be costing you more in lost sales than the initial investment in developing a mobile-friendly site.

Research by Sensis shows that not only do 70 per cent of Australians make purchases via mobile devices, but sites that are mobile friendly actually rank higher with Google than those that aren’t. 

“In the old world, you could be excused for thinking that an SME could never compete with a larger business, due to a lack of resources, footprint and scale. But the digital revolution has changed all that,” Mr Allan said.

“The level playing field exists because businesses who get their online presence right will attract customers, no matter their size.”

Facebook’s little-known weapon for small businesses
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