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Using Facebook For Your Small Business – Part 5

Let's pick up where we left off on my last post and talk a bit more about Facebook for your small business. As promised, I want to take a look at a case study in this post. With all of the posts (listed below) that I've done on Facebook, I realize that sometimes you need to see some real examples of how Facebook is being used to impact business. As a re-cap, here's a list of the posts I've written in this series. If you haven't already, I would recommend reading these as well:

Part 1 – facebook user demographics for small businesses. (Unless you sell to babies or dead people, your customers ARE on facebook)

Part 2 – You have to have a Business Page (what you need and consideration on using facebook personally)

Part 3 – Getting Likes The Easy Way (some low hanging fruit for getting likes)

Part 4 - It's about more than just the Wall! Custom Tabs are a must.

The case study I am going to talk about today is on Ace Hardware. Most of you are probably familiar with the brand. If not, they are a hardware store much like a Home Depot or Lowes. The data I will use comes from a Marketing Sherpa study that was published online by HubSpot.

Facebook Business Page Strategy

I would like to start with the most essential element of any Facebook business page, Strategy. Ace had one and it lead to a 350% boost in profile traffic, and doubled their interaction level with Facebookers. Their average volume of comments and Likes per day grew to about 72 which was 2 times what they were getting prior to implementing their campaign and strategy. The volume of fans they had nearly doubled as well, increasing by over 26,000.

Tactics Employed In Their Facebook Strategy

As with any strategy, Ace had a core set of tactics that they employed to reach their goals. One thing to keep in mind about this scenario is that Ace started their campaign in April of 2010. Believe it or not, the demographics have changed considerably on Facebook since then. Check out Part 1 of this series for more current data on age, etc...

Think Younger, Think Interests - Know Your Target Audience

Their first tactic was to prepare for a younger audience. Their core customers were defined as 35-50 year olds. At the time, Facebook's demographics skewed to the younger end of that spectrum, 13-34.

Using Facebook's Ad platform, Ace targeted users between the ages of 25 and 50. The key outcome they were hoping for was increased Ace Hardware profile traffic, and "Likes". I think it's important to recognize that they were not trying to get users to their corporate website. Instead, they were just trying to get them to their profile page ON Facebook. This is a much more do-able scenario for users that are already on Facebook. It doesn't really disrupt their experience.

Reaching users with interests that aligned with Ace's offerings was also important to this tactic, so they used Facebook's ad platform feature that allows businesses to focus on interests. So, they chose TV shows and keywords that would tie in well with their target audiences such as HGTV, Grilling, Home Repair and Gardening.

Be Exciting! Vanilla Facebook Is Not!

I touched on custom tabs for small business facebook pages in my last post, and that's exactly what Ace Hardware used in their 2nd tactic which they deemed, "Be interactive, fun and helpful".

Key to the Ace Hardware Facebook experience was that by default, instead of landing on the company's Wall page where status updates are shared, the user went strait to a graphically appealing custom tab called 'Helpful Place'. Here's a shot of what their tab looks like as of this writing:

Not only is this custom tab more visually appealing, it is a way more effective screen to get users to "Like" their brand. In fact, they have a call out right at the top of the screen asking the user to Like Ace Hardware.

Though currently not present, Ace also setup a small Facebook application called "I Will". The premise of the application was to get users to share what they were going to do that summer. For instance, "I will [keep my garden weeded and do more grilling out with friends].". After entering their declaration, the user would click a button that said, "Update My Status". At the end of the user's status update was a short message that said "I Will" powered by Ace Hardware.

The inclusion of the last line gave other users on Facebook that read their friends' status updates from the I Will app to click on the link and do so themselves, thus sparking the social/viral aspect of the app.

A REGULAR Weekly Status Update

Along with another custom tab named "Spring Guide", the Ace Hardware team posted a weekly status update to all of their users labeled "Long Live Spring". In the update they posted a link to another page on Facebook with tips on seasonal topics. They used the same page every week so the list of tips kept growing.

The key to this technique was that they did it regularly, on the same day of the week, every week. Users then began to expect it. It was also a resource for users, not just a sales pitch.

They also sent status updates on Sales and Specials that the Ace stores were having during the week, but they didn't bombard the users with sales pitches.

Cross-Media Effort Added Consistency

Ace's 3rd tactic was to keep their message consistent and give context. They did this very effectively by using the "I Will" message throughout their marketing mix. Specifically, they ran commercials with the I Will theme that focused on one of their corporate goals, to be seen as the store to go to finish home improvement projects so you can get on with your life.

An example cited in the Marketing Sherpa resource said that one of their TV commercials showed many home owners declaring that they will fix the leaky faucet, but they won't add a whole new wing to their house. Later, a homeowner says, then, I will read comic books!

This really embodied the goal of Ace, to be the get it done and move on store.

On Facebook, Ace also encouraged discussion of leisurely topics like grilling and outdoor fun. Both of which still related to some of their product offerings. They also embedded the TV commercials right in their facebook pages.

The Average Joe Can't Create Effective Custom Facebook Pages

Ace's 4th and final tactic mentioned in the Marketing Sherpa study was to prepare their technical team. Creating custom designed facebook pages is not in the average person's skill set. They needed web development talent with HTML and FBML knowledge.

The key to a successful custom facebook page experience is to either start very early, or hire a development firm that can do the work.

Another Small Business Facebook Case Study

I realize that the Ace Hardware example shown here is of a business much larger that many small businesses we interact with every day. In my next post, I will discuss a much smaller business and see what they are doing to effectively use Facebook.