COVID-19 Building a Facebook audience

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating significant disruption in all areas of business and life. To help you to find some order in the chaos and adjust to new ways of doing and being, Doctor Digital has put together a series of COVID-19 blogs with tips, tricks, hacks and suggestions for how digital and e-commerce tools can support you and your business.

Doctor Digital Says

While everyone is practicing social distancing and staying safe at home, they are also logging in to their social feeds looking to replace their real life connections with their online feeds. This is a perfect time for your business to up your Facebook game, and move some of your conversations across to the digital world. Facebook has the unique capacity to be both a channel to build brand and sales, while masquerading as a place for casual conversation and social chit chat. This is its total superpower.

Let’s look at how you build your engagement and audience and how you can convert that to sales and a strong online presence during COVID-19. Some of you will already have a thriving Facebook community, others will have grown theirs somewhat organically. This blog post will assume you are starting from a lower base and cover the basics. Firstly, you need to get the fundamentals of the page set-up done. Your business needs to have a business page, so make sure it is set up right, your header and cover image are sized properly, and all your information is available for your customers, including a call to action button.

Inviting friends, colleagues and email contacts to like your page is this easiest way to begin building an audience. If you’re starting from scratch, this is the first step you should take to gain your first one hundred page likes. Sure, many of the people you invite might be doing it as a favour, and won’t necessarily be your target audience, but don’t forget that when a friend likes a page, it often pops up in the newsfeeds of their friends too. This means that more people will see your page (or at least a link to your page) and your brand visibility will increase. And once you get some fans to make a fan base, you need to start sharing regular relevant content, this will bring engagement (hopefully) and a steady increase in fans who are there for your brand, not just because they are your mates.

The ‘relevant’ content for your business really depends on what you want to achieve with your social media strategy. What is the role of Facebook for your business and brand? Are you using it to grow a community, to educate them about what you do, or to migrate people across to your website for a transaction? Or you might be using it directly to sell events, or webinars, or host livestreams. Whatever you are doing, your content needs to reflect that intention, have that sentiment infused in its call to action, and walk the subtle line between genuine, authentic engagement, and subtly getting people closer to a transaction as they fall in love with your brand and product.

Growing your audience organically can take a longer time, but is likely to net you engaged followers and likers. Another way to grow it is to use Page Like Campaigns. These are a form of paid advertising which can dramatically increase your page likes on Facebook. You create a campaign much like you would a post, with an appropriate image and some short snappy text with a call-to-action to like the page. Once you’ve done this, you select the audience you want your ad to be delivered to from Facebook’s comprehensive demographic selector tool. This is the upside of all that information they collect on us: they are able to very specifically categorise who people are and what they like. To do this you can use the ‘Audience Demographics’ feature, which allows you to narrow down your audience by location, age, gender as well as interests and other liked pages.

If you have an email list, you can use it to target current customers (or at least those who have already interacted with your business), increasing the likelihood that they will click through and like your page. Facebook also has a ‘Lookalike Audience’ feature which allows you to enter your current customer base as a model for your target audience. Facebook will target users with similar behaviours and interests – those who are as close to your current customer base as possible – to increase the chance of them liking your page and engaging with your content. It sounds sneaky because it is, classic Facebook gaming the numbers but a genius way to get you closer to a new audience.

One thing you should NEVER do, no matter how tempting, is to buy followers. This is never a good strategy, as those followers have no interest in your brand or business. It won’t yield an actual engaged audience, and unless your only Facebook metric is volume, then you are wasting your money. Plus you may well put off genuine followers who are looking at your page and wondering why you have so many Russian friends in bikinis. Facebook isn’t keen on it either and won’t reward you by boosting your visibility, in fact probably just the opposite.

Once your campaigns are rolling along, it’s time to invest in your content. It’s a widely held belief that organic reach on Facebook is dead, and that paying for reach is now a necessity. If you are a business, that is pretty much on the money, but in reality, Facebook for Business is exactly that, and while you have to pay for your advertising, they do provide some very sophisticated marketing tools for a very small price. The days of being able to use Facebook for free to grow your business are definitely gone, so factor the cost of your advertising into your budget and get amongst your new customers.

One way is straight up advertising, another is boosting your posts. With a boosted post, you can reach people who haven’t yet liked your page, and who may never have heard of your brand. You can also apply the same audience targeting you used for your Page Like campaigns – or you can create an audience consisting of visitors to your website, as well as to particular landing pages such as product pages. Simply add a Facebook pixel, which can be found on the ‘Facebook for Business’ page, to your website to allow Facebook to track conversions.

Now you’ve built it and they’ve come, consistency and compelling content is the key, along with respect and a little fun. But it's not all play while the sales make themselves. The more you grow, the more messages and comments you’ll receive from your customers. Give them the time and attention they deserve and try to reply to enquiries as quickly as possible. Even if they’re complaining, reply and address the issue quickly so you can show all your customers how much you care about them and your brand. Building your Facebook audience won’t happen overnight, but it will happen with care and consistency, using a strategy and always putting yourself in your customers shoes in terms of what they need and how you can best communicate with them. Don’t forget to put your Facebook links on your website where they can be seen, and remind people to like your social channels. For more Facebook tips, head to our Social Media Fundamentals video series - Facebook for Business Part 3.

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