Facebook has certainly been on a roll lately. Meta, its parent company, recently announced that the social media powerhouse has seen a decline in daily active users for the first time in its history. The company continues to face congressional and public scrutiny for its actions following damaging testimony from a whistleblower last fall. Its main app faces challengers from dozens of other social media competitors like TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat.
My small business clients who use Facebook are aware of these issues. But I have found that many ignore them. Why? Because, despite its challenges, Facebook remains a significant resource for them.
The platform still has over nearly 3 billion monthly active users and a third of the world’s population uses it monthly. Its market has more than a billion monthly active users. There are 250 million Facebook Shops worldwide. More than 90 million small businesses around the world use the platform.
So yes, Facebook has its challenges. But it is also a very important marketing and service tool for many small businesses.
» LEARN MORE: Tips for small businesses looking to advertise on Facebook
In the Philadelphia area, countless small businesses use Facebook to attract new customers and engage existing customers. Entrepreneurs, independent contractors, startups, and established businesses leverage Facebook business pages, run regular ads, upload multiple posts to their communities, and rely on apps and tools like Canva, MobileMonkey, Sendinblue, and Heyo , as well as on Facebook applications such as Polls, Messenger, Conversions. and its live video platform to host webinars and events to make sales and stay close to their communities.
Its value can vary, but there’s one thing I’ve noticed about my clients who have used Facebook successfully over the years: they know their audience, they put the right amount of resources into it, and they’re authentic. And for the most part, it all starts with demographics.
“You need to know your audience, then create content that speaks to them,” Carly Markowitz, one of Tula Yoga’s co-owners, tells Northern Liberties. “You’re competing with multiple social media channels and other things that can distract people from your messaging.”
Markowitz says her clients are a “slightly older and more advanced group of millennials,” as well as baby boomers who want to work out. To attract these customers, she regularly posts fitness updates on her company’s Facebook page and stays active in the platform’s fitness groups.
Markowitz is a mother of two and her business partner recently had a baby. So they know how important it is for young mothers to exercise and practice wellness. “So when we run yoga classes for new parents, we put that directly on the groups that cater to new parents and the yoga community,” she says. “We are looking for ‘mom’ groups on Facebook.”
Megan Sanderson, a digital marketer at the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME) in Center City, runs her organization’s Facebook page and spends much of her time moderating her 12,000-member Facebook group.
“We will be posting regular updates to the group on things happening in our industry,” Sanderson said. “For us, it’s an important digital community and the lifeblood of our business to post major updates and talk about member issues.”
Sanderson says she uses her Facebook group to update her members on legislation and to “take the temperature” of anything important. “It’s really our go-between for all things directly to our members,” she says.
These local businesses understand that Facebook is only useful when they can interact with a community that shares the same interests. But recognizing a potential community is only half the battle. Building it takes resources, planning and ongoing commitment.
Sanderson, for example, spends about 40 hours a week working on Facebook. She moderates conversations, answers questions, posts news and updates, and leverages notifications to respond to requests quickly and at any time of day.
Markowitz and her business partner have frequent planning sessions to discuss future events for her yoga business and the messaging and promotion needed to support those events so she can then translate those actions into social media content. Both pay very close attention to engagement. For them, it’s quality over quantity.
“We’ve found that if you get 30% of people who actually see a post and engage with it, that’s much better than launching a larger network and only getting 2.5-5% of those people” , says Markowitz.
What about advertising? For the most part, it’s about finding the right mix between sponsored and organic posts. An organic post, of course, costs nothing, and depending on its content, it may reach the very people you’re trying to reach by paying. But Facebook makes money from advertising, and its targeting tools are very powerful. The trick is to find a balance.
“It doesn’t have to be super complicated or expensive to run your first ad or boost your first message,” says Jennifer Leonard, vice president of brand strategy at AIME. “It could be as good as $10 a day and it could be very useful if only to reach people outside of your footprint.”
Ultimately, small businesses have found that focusing on demographics, making time to engage, and – just as importantly – being authentic and transparent are the real keys to success on Facebook.
“You have to show your personality,” Leonard says. “People don’t want to be sold. They want to get to know you and build trust. And that’s how you build loyalty. It’s also how you build engagement. The more I remember who you are, because you showed some personality, the more likely I am to engage with this post or the next post that comes through my feed.
And let’s face it: the more likely that customer will also buy your product or service.