A recent post on the Marketing Mix suggested that Facebook is the least useful of the social networking services. I agreed when I first read it, but changed my mind a few days later when Facebook dropped a potentially lucrative prospect in my lap (more on that in a moment).
Facebook has enormous potential to be a colossal waste of time, but with a few simple strategies it can also be a valuable part of your marketing toolbox. It may lack the professional directness of sites like LinkedIn and Biznik, but its “ambient intimacy” can keep you visible to the clients you want most and put you on the path to valuable client relationships.
Here are four strategies to help your creative business get the most out of Facebook:
1. Keep it professional
The moment you add a client or prospect to your friend list you’re on candid camera, so keep your complaints about your girlfriend or your other clients to yourself. Remember too that it’s not just the stuff you post on Facebook that’s now accessible to them, it’s also the stuff your other friends will reveal about you. (As Michael Phelps can tell you, it only takes one compromising photo on the Internet to mess up your career prospects.)
On the other hand, if everything on your Facebook page is professional, you’ll gain credibility with the people who visit your page. Keep this in mind when you make or accept friend invitations, especially if you need to vent regularly in public or if keeping your personal stuff to yourself cramps your style. One young friend of mine got around this by creating two Facebook profiles: one that he uses for business networking and another for casual personal use. You’ll need more than one e-mail address to do this, but you can always create a second one using a free service like Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail. (Editrix's note: Facebooks Terms of Service forbid the creation of multiple accounts for one person, however you may create one personal profile and one business or "fan" page. This post explores some of your options.)
2. Reveal your talents
Instead of telling the world that you’re waiting in line at Starbucks, use your status posts to let them know what you’re up to professionally. For example, many of my clients know me as a copywriter, but aren’t aware that I also do print design work for book publishers. So when I started work last Friday, I posted “Tom is working on a textbook layout”.
Later that afternoon, I received an e-mail from a colleague several states away who is on my Facebook list. She wrote: “One of our visual design people just gave his two weeks. Our Senior Art Director needs someone to do book layouts on a freelance basis ASAP.” Within minutes I was on the phone with a hot prospect who was eager to talk with me about upcoming projects. No cold—er, research—calling required.
On other days you might see “Tom is writing a direct mail promotion”, “Tom is ghost writing a magazine article”, or “Tom is creating a software test”. I never reveal the client or specific project details. I also like to post success stories, like: “Tom is pumped that his latest online promotion sold out the event!”
Since I try to vary the projects I work on, my status has some variety. I don’t post my status every day—I don’t want to become such a nuisance that my prospects click the “Less about Tom” button—but I’m finding that it’s a great way to let people know more about what I do.
3. Connect with people you don’t often see in person
Some of my most valuable prospects are members of an international professional association that’s very expensive to join. Face time with these people is always profitable for me, but I can only get it once or twice a year. But guess what? This organization just started its own group on Facebook, and several of my best contacts from it are now on my friend list. This hasn’t resulted in a paid project yet, but as a piece of my larger marketing plan it has the potential for a big payoff with just a small investment of my time.
4. Limit the work time you spend on Facebook
I spend five minutes a day on Facebook during business hours, usually first thing in the morning. I set my chat status to “Offline”, do a quick scan of the news feeds, and check my inbox for anything business-related. Once I connect with a client or prospect on Facebook, I make a practice of switching back to regular e-mail to keep the communication channel from getting too fragmented.
Now I confess that I occasionally Superpoke a client or colleague just for fun, but only if I know them well, and only if I have time left before my 5 minutes are up. If you’re the type who can get sucked into Facebook for hours on end, set a timer to alert you when to get back to work, and do the “social” part of your social networking during your personal time.
Tom N. Tumbusch (also known as "TNT", and head of Digital Dynamite, Inc.) is a freelance copywriter specializing in direct marketing for financial newsletters, technology companies and music publishers. He writes direct mail packages, advertising, brochures, newsletters, articles, web copy, audiovisual scripts, speeches and more.