How to Build a Local Facebook Fan BaseAs a local, physical location small business, it really doesn’t do you much good to have 1,000 Facebook fans spread all over the world.  In fact, this is one issue with many social media services that promise to increase your influence online.  They are not very good at geographic targeting.  Today, I want to give you several tips to help you focus your Facebook fan base locally.

Think outside the box, think manual activities.  I think the biggest mistake I see small business owners make with social media is forgetting the people who liked their Facebook page or followed them on twitter. Each of these followers is, well, a person.  Instead, their marketing strategy is very impersonal online.  The reason for this disconnect is this crazy idea that everyone online must be automated.

If someone walked into your business and all your employees just flat our ignored them, would that be acceptable?  So, why is it acceptable to ignore people who follow your business on twitter or like your Facebook page?  Do you trust your employees to make customer interactions face to face?  Why not trust them online as well?

Here are a couple ways to break the automation trap and create real connections with your local fan base.

  • Have one employee on every shift be responsible for your social media interaction and have a tablet or laptop set up with twitter and Facebook pulled up.
  • Set up a separate email inbox and account that is only used for social media and create alerts for everything that happens.  Every time someone retweets you, favorites a tweet, likes your Facebook page, comments on your Facebook page or shares a post you should get an email to that email inbox.
  • Empower this employee to take notice of this inbox on a regular basis and certainly no less than once per hour.
  • When something happens on social media empower them to respond, connect and engage.
  • Have them send a Facebook message to anyone who likes your page.  Don’t use some scripted, pre-form response.  They should say something like, “Hey, my name is Tony and I work at XYZ Retail Shop.  I was looking at our Facebook page and I noticed you became a fan!   Thanks so much for your support, I am here all week from 9 to 5 this week so if you come in and ask for me, I will give you a 5% discount on your purchase, I look forward to meeting you in our store and I hope you have a great day!  Make sure you check back with our Facebook community the next time you are thinking about coming in since we do post coupon offers on a regular basis.”

Train your employees to get Facebook likes and email addresses and reward them in a big way for doing this.  The value of a local person who is interested enough in your business to show up and then like your Facebook page or give you their email address is enormous!

I have always felt like it was strange that small business owners will pay my company hundreds of dollars to grow their Facebook likes or email subscriber list but they will not give their employees anything for this same information when they are the ones closest to the action.  A good round number would be $5.00 for a new email subscriber and $3.00 for a Facebook like.

If you are thinking, “How can I keep them from gaming the system and getting emails and likes from their friends?”  I would give you a couple thoughts.  First of all, the email address must be tied to an actual order in your business so if they write down a name or email address on a receipt, you can verify that information and even reach out to the customer about the order they had that day.

Most good point of sale systems can track this sort of thing for you with a little customization.  Secondly, if they have 10 friends who are all local and all give you a real email address that doesn’t bounce and they all like you on Facebook and they all buy something in your store, is that really a bad thing?  Welcome that!!!!  Tell your employees to invite their friends to come in unless your store simply doesn’t serve their demographic at all.

The easy way out of course is online marketing.  Through Facebook this is really easy.  You can choose all kinds of demographic and geographic information when running a campaign.  You should never invest in any online marketing campaign that is not geographically focused.

One more tip.  Find other online communities where your current target market hangs out and have your employees use your brand to join these conversations online.  I am an evangelist for re-tasking the physical location employee to do your online marketing for you!   If you are like most small business owners, you have a group of social media experts that you pay a low wage. They have lots of free time every day that they would love to spend on Facebook or twitter, so rather than working hard to stop this activity, channel this into time spent on social media on behalf of your company.

I realize not every employee would be a good fit for actually posting but every employee can find a job.  They can find local twitter users and follow them.  They can take pictures of customers with their smart phone or take pictures of new products and email those to the social media email inbox for posting by someone else.  Get everyone involved in promoting your brand online and watch your local Facebook community explode with new members who will come to your business and spend their money with pleasure!

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