I’m rather amazed. I’ve spent some time this week reviewing my business year. I’ve come to discover that nearly 50% of my income in 2011 has come from creating Custom Facebook Pages for small businesses. I knew this segment of my business had grown significantly this year, but I didn’t realize it had grown that much.

Since this has become such a big part of what I do, I thought I’d share 4 things that every small business owner should know about promoting their business on Facebook.

1. If you build it they WILL NOT come

I’ve consulted with many small business owners this past year about using Facebook to market their business. Nearly all of them had a perception that I could just build them a custom page and suddenly, customers and prospects would flock to it. It doesn’t happen. If your customers and prospects don’t have a compelling reason to visit your Facebook Page, they won’t do it. The exception would be if your already a well established business and already have thousands of fans. I work predominantly with small businesses, generally they have neither.

Don’t overlook the obvious here, sometimes, the compelling reason is that you asked people to visit and “Like” your page. A good time to do that is right after folks have had a great experience with your product or service.

2. Don’t “Fan-gate” without a carrot

There’s no doubt that “Fan-gating” can work to increase the number of “Likes” for a Facebook Business Page. That having been said, you should only “fan-gate” your page if you are trading something valuable in exchange for a “Like”. Ok, does this sound funny and strange to you? Here’s a quick explanation of “Fan-gating”:

Fan-gating is when you set up your Facebook Business Page (default tab) so that only people who “Like” the page can see and/or access the important information on the page. The important information could be a coupon, a sweepstakes entry form, or maybe some sort of digital gift like a whitepaper or helpful guide.

All too often I get the request to “fan-gate” every single tab on a client’s Facebook page. Even the ones that have their product catalog and encourage the visitor’s to order stuff from them.

NEWSFLASH: DON’T DO THAT. Only require people “Like” your page if you are offering something of value to them in exchange.

3. Doing a Sweepstakes? Go BIG or go HOME

So far this year, I’ve seen sweepstakes that garnered folks thousands of “Likes” and I’ve seen some that garnered just a handful. Here’s my observation on the difference. The successful sweepstakes embraced the “Go BIG of Go HOME” philosophy. Some gave away their own products, (Jockey P2P), some gave away iPhones and other highly sought after and popular stuff. The less successful ones were the ones that didn’t have a reality about what people would trade a “Like” for such as a small percentage off of an already low priced item.

One more note about running a Sweepstakes on Facebook… think of this as a way of saying Thanks to your existing fans, not as a way of increasing your “Likes”. What you really want to happen is to have your existing fans enter the sweepstakes and then share it with their friends.

4. QUALITY is better than QUANTITY

There are now probably hundreds of “services” available that guarantee you thousands of “Likes” if you’ll just follow their method. The trouble is, the quality of those “Likes” or fans as they used to be called is LOW at best. The misconception is that if you have thousands of “Likes” that you’ll increase your reach so much that overnight your “Likes” will exponentially grow to tens and eventually hundreds of thousands.

Here’s the problem with that, thousands of un-engaged fans don’t help you reach anyone. Why? Because the don’t really “Like” you or your business. They just clicked the button because the carrot was enticing enough.

You want people to “Like” your page on Facebook because of the experience they have had with your product or service; NOT because you allowed them to enter a sweepstakes.

Here’s the bottom line, it’s better to have 50 QUALITY fans, who are engaged and are genuinely fans of your product or service, than to have 5,000 fans who clicked a button but have no idea what your business is about.

So, what’s next?

I hope this gives you some food for thought as it relates to Facebook and your business. There’s no doubt, Facebook is a viable marketing platform for nearly every business. Are you using Facebook to market your business? Have you created a Custom Facebook Page yet? If not, let’s talk.

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