A new face for businessesWhen Facebook started in 2004, its purpose was to allow college students to get to know each other. Eventually, the website opened its doors to high school students before allowing anyone to sign up.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
When Facebook started in 2004, its purpose was to allow college students to get to know each other. Eventually, the website opened its doors to high school students before allowing anyone to sign up.
Now with more than 845 million users, it seems as though everyone is using the site, including the coffee shop down the street, the local car dealership and your clinic.
So why would businesses want to be part of something that started in the unprofessional world of college dorm rooms?
“It’s about building your relationships,” Shannan Harris, owner of Red Wing home décor boutique Moments on Main, said.
“We use it as a source for advertising, to post pictures of flowers that we have and arrangements that we’ve done,” said Tom Quanrud, co-owner of Inspired Home and Flower Studio.
Both Harris and Quanrud said they signed up for the social networking site a couple years ago, and now use the site to keep customers up to date on in-store happenings.
“It’s a great opportunity to have dialogue and conversations with your customers if they’re not in your store on a daily basis,” Harris said.
For Quanrud, Facebook allows him to post updates more frequently that he and co-owner Brian Schneider would update their normal website.
“It’s just kind of an extension of having a regular website,” he said.
And while both business owners said they do advertise sales and promotions on the site, they also said they post things that aren’t directly related to their businesses.
“It’s about posting about things they find interesting,” Harris said.
For example, she said she might share a recipe for Easter on her page or ask a question about weekend plans. Quanrud said he might post something about an event another downtown business is having.
“You’re trying to get them to be engaged,” Harris said.
And even if each post only gets one or two comments, Harris said it still gets people talking and thinking about her store.
“They may not be responding, but they’re paying attention,” she said.
Even for organizations less interested in advertising promotions and making sales, like Fairview Red Wing Medical Center, Facebook can still be a valuable communication tool.
“We want to communicate with people the way they want to be communicated with,” Fairview Red Wing spokeswoman Marcy Dowse said. “For a lot of people that means social media.”
But the medical center uses Facebook in a slightly different way than the downtown businesses do. Dowse said the organization’s goal is to make sure the community gets accurate health information, and Facebook can help spread the word.
“I know that people think of Fairview Red Wing as a trusted source of health information,” Dowse said. “And we’re just transferring that to our Facebook presence. … We want to make sure people have access to good information.”
Currently, Fairview Red Wing has just more than 400 “likes,” which is up from 120 before the medical center launched a Facebook campaign several weeks ago. Moments on Main has nearly 500 and Inspired boasts around 260.
But it’s not just about getting anybody to “like” you. The goal, business owners say, is to attract the right kind of “like.”
“You want ‘likes’ that make sense to you,” Harris said.
That means people who care about the business and who are actually interested in what’s going on there. Quanrud said he encourages people who are already customers to click Inspired’s “like” button.
Dean Swanson, district director for SCORE Minnesota, advised that business owners make sure that their customers also get something out of “liking” a Facebook page.
“What does it mean to your customer?” he said. “Why should they engage you?”
Swanson suggested relating Facebook content to customers’ interests, much like Harris does or offering a promotional deal to “like” a page.
So, after working to acquire all those “likes” and taking the time to post and comment, does having a Facebook page mean more customers and increased sales?
Recently, Quanrud said he posted a photo of a flower arrangement he made and, in less than five minutes, a woman commented that she would buy it. But other than that, he admitted he wasn’t sure if there were “any tangible results” of more sales.
Harris agreed, adding that she hasn’t been able to correlate a growing number of “likes” to more customers in the store.
Still, neither Quanrud nor Harris doubts that the social networking site is a valuable promotional tool.
“It’s an opportunity to do some really good advertising,” Quanrud said.
“It’s awesome, if it’s done well,” Harris agreed.