If you, like many small businesses, jumped on the bandwagon of social media and made it your mission to invest time and money into growing your likes, followers, etc., then you have probably come to depend partially on the free or low-cost exposure available via Facebook posts.
Many small businesses report up to 20 percent of their direct leads happening as a direct result of Facebook posts. The organic traffic available to businesses using Facebook was, until now, a reliable source of distribution and engagement… but that is about to change. Effective January 2015, Facebook will significantly decrease the exposure of promotional posts. According to their news release, a promotional post is defined as:
- posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app
- posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context
- posts that reuse the exact same content from ads
According to Facebook, this move was made based purely on feedback provided by users who had voiced concerns regarding News Feed saturation and irrelevant posts from pages they like.
Public perception, however, places this move as a way for Facebook to force businesses, big and small, to purchase placement in the Feeds of customers that, through their own choosing, have “liked” a brand. In short, the move raises questions as to who truly owns the relationship between a business Facebook Page and a customer who has opted to like the page with intent of both active and passive engagement.
There is no denial that many small businesses with limited or no marketing budget will suffer significantly from this move. We at ReviewTrackers took a closer look at ways for businesses to overcome the lead deficit generated by this change, and we want to share our best findings with you to equip you to better handle the transition and take steps toward maintaining or growing your online lead generation through the usage of free or low-cost social engagement sites and review sites.
Let’s take a look at a few strategies that offer significant opportunity for two-way engagement and lead acquisition in the online marketplace.
Don’t Dismiss Facebook Entirely: There Are Good Reasons to Stay
Before you walk out in total disappointment and abandon all Facebook engagements, consider that Facebook business pages receive millions of visits that originate from within Facebook search, but also as a result of organic searches.
Maintaining engagement welcomes new visitors with interest in your product and service into a virtual environment that should strive to best represent your brand. Continue to post regularly, engage with followers wishing to directly engage with your business through questions and comments, and tackle customer service concerns escalated via Facebook with promptness and customer focus.
Continue to encourage and welcome Facebook reviews, and don’t forget to thank customers for tags and mentions in association with your business. When posting and linking, make your posts interesting and with a story-like narrative that allows for organic virality. In short, post information people will be inclined to share.
ALSO check out: “Managing Your Facebook Reviews: A Quick Guide for Local Business Owners”)
Push Your Promos on Foursquare or Google for Reaching Targeted Audiences
In the past, when you pushed a promo via Facebook, it was unlikely that those receiving your message in the Feed were specifically searching for your services or products. Instead, it was more like a game of chance, hoping to spark interest in a neutral context.
Undoubtedly, there was always a percentage among your followers that responded to your pitch, resulting in incremental business. This model of marketing was more opportunistic than relevant and targeted. Akin to television commercials, the goal was to spark interest ahead of time in hopes of building brand recall. There is nothing wrong with using this approach as part of your marketing strategy.
Thankfully, there are many tools of engagements available to businesses that are far more targeted. They only reach out to customers that are either in close proximity to your location or are specifically searching for services in your niche. If you want to push a promo at no cost to you, then consider using tools such as Foursquare, or launch a promo on your own site and promote it using Google+.
Converse in a Highly Relevant Context Using Q&A Tools and Forums
Many review sites provide small businesses avenues to engage with shoppers beyond the standard review response. Maximize your opportunities for engagement with potential customers by becoming an expert for your niche and providing information that facilitates the shopping experience for potential customers.
A great example of engagement tools with potential of generating business is the TripAdvisor Question-and-Answers feature. Taking the time to provide in-depth information, not only about your business but also about the locality of your business and nearby attractions, will solidify your position as a regional expert and increase the level of trust and willingness from potential customers to support your business. Similarly, many review sites dedicated to the automotive industry provide dealerships with fantastic opportunities to educate potential purchasers on the specifics of their products.
Become the Expert by Blogging, Enhancing Your Profiles, and Posting on Review Sites
When trying to overcome the challenge of customer engagement, you are likely to lose as a result of Facebook’s algorithm change. The main goal is to find ways that will replace your direct communication with loyal customers and new potential customers specifically searching for the products you offer.
Considering that the majority of lead-generating engagements are the result of specific searches conducted in Google, it simply makes sense to maximize your messaging across all review sites. Take time to identify all the outreach tools available to your business via review sites, and pick the ones most likely to appeal to your target segments. Once you have put a plan together, seek out messaging that equips consumers to make smart decisions and points them to your business.
Finally, don’t neglect the power of amplification. Repost your blog posts and enhanced profiles using platforms such as Google+, Twitter, and even Facebook.
With diligence and a little research, you will quickly regain ground and will find alternate ways to reach out that are equally or more effective than Facebook. Don’t allow for paralysis to take over your marketing strategy for 2015. Adapt, improve, and maximize the diverse opportunities available to your business via the most popular review platforms.