Once a social network’s number of daily users climbs past a billion (yes, that’s billion with a “b”), it seems pretty safe to call it “pervasive”—and to consider it a critical part of your marketing strategy.
Facebook is well past that figure, with 1.13 billion daily active users as of June 2016, including about 175 million daily users in the United States and Canada (compare that, for instance, to the 167 million viewers who watched the most recent Super Bowl). Those are some pretty big numbers, but don’t let them overwhelm you: your Facebook marketing campaign can start with the network’s free tools, then move on to super-focused paid campaigns.
In short: You don’t need a budget of Super Bowl proportions to get in the game. This Facebook marketing guide shares everything you need to know to get started.
Bonus: Download a free guide that teaches you how to turn Facebook traffic into sales in four simple steps using Hootsuite.
What is Facebook marketing?
Let’s clear this up right upfront. Facebook marketing is not the same thing as Facebook advertising. Yes, your Facebook marketing strategy can include advertising (more on that below), but since Facebook is, after all, a social network, your marketing should also include efforts to build lasting relationships and ongoing engagement through valuable content that’s not about making the sale.
3 tools to include in your Facebook marketing strategy
With that in mind, let’s look at the three key Facebook marketing tools you can use to connect with Facebook users, and how each fits into your Facebook marketing plan.
Think of your Facebook Page as the equivalent of a Facebook profile for your business. It’s where you post content, engage with followers, and generally participate as a brand in the Facebook experience. It doesn’t cost anything to set up a Facebook Page or post content, which is great if you’re working with a limited budget.
But keep in mind that the Facebook algorithm prioritizes content from users’ friends and family, so you can’t assume that all—or even a majority—of your followers will see your posts organically (that’s where Facebook Ads come in).
That said, setting up your Facebook Page is the first step to creating your business presence on Facebook. You’ll need a Page before you can start working with Facebook Ads. For some examples of brands doing Facebook Pages right, check out our post showcasing lessons from six must-follow brands.
Just how big can a Facebook Page following get? Coca-Cola has one of the highest brand follower counts, currently sitting at more than 99 million.
But you don’t need millions of followers to make a Facebook Page worthwhile. Neon Retro Arcade in Pasadena, California, has about 17,700 followers, but local promotions run from their Facebook Page have been successful enough that they’ve stopped advertising in their local newspaper.
Think of Facebook Groups as the online equivalent of the office water cooler or your favorite coffee shop. They provide a place for people to get together to share information and ideas with like-minded users in an online community environment.
Creating your own Facebook Group can be an effective way to gather your fans in one place and encourage them to interact with one another, building an active community of people talking about your business. It’s also a key way to gather customer intelligence: what are people really saying about you? It’s like a focus group with unlimited members, and you can dive right in to facilitate conversation or ask questions.
It’s also a prime way to source brand evangelists and showcase your expertise. You can even position a Facebook Group as an added benefit for existing customers—after all, it’s a chance for them to interact directly with you.
Entrepreneurs with a compelling message, personality, or brand story can make especially good use of Facebook Groups. For example, Josh and Jill Stanton of Screw the Nine to Five have more than 25,000 members in their Screw the Nine to Five Community Facebook Group.
You can find all the details on how to set up your own Facebook Group in this Facebook Groups 101 post.
Sometimes fans will create their own Facebook Group with a focus on your brand (search Facebook Groups for FitBit or Pokémon Go to see this in action). It’s a good idea to join these groups to make sure that the conversation is positive and factual, but in general this is a great thing, since it shows your brand has a dedicated fan base that’s really into what you do!
Much like an ad on any other channel—traditional or digital—a Facebook Ad is basically content that you pay to share with a specific, targeted audience: it’s all about getting your brand in front of the right eyeballs and achieving your conversion goals.
For example, Dos Equis ran a series of Facebook Ads to highlight its “Dos de Mayo” promotion (the brand’s answer to the Cinco de Mayo holiday). The beer company’s ads were displayed only to males aged 21 to 34 and to an audience identified as beer buyers. The campaign resulted in a three times return on the ad spend.
You can learn how to get started with Facebook Ads in our full guide to launching your first Facebook advertising campaign. Then, once you’ve mastered those Facebook marketing basics, dive into some more advanced strategies for driving traffic, leads, and purchases.
Facebook marketing best practices
Now that you understand the components of your Facebook marketing toolbox, it’s time to dig into some Facebook marketing best practices that can help you maximize the return on your Facebook marketing investment.
Know your audience
It’s impossible to target a message effectively if you don’t know whom you’re speaking to. When you’re first getting started with your Facebook marketing plan, you may not have much information to go on in terms of who is most likely to connect with your business on Facebook. The overall picture of Facebook demographics and your own brand intelligence about your customer profile can be the first building blocks in developing a sense of who your Facebook audience will be.
From there, you can use Facebook Audience Insights to drill down into the nitty-gritty details about potential customers on Facebook, giving you insights into the aggregate information about any group of users, including age, gender, education, relationship status, location, language, Facebook usage, and even past purchase activity. (For more details, check out our full tutorial on Facebook Analytics and Insights.)
This is extremely valuable information when you’re determining what kind of Facebook content will be most effective for your brand.
Don’t focus on selling
Remember when Facebook changed its algorithm back at the start of 2015? That was partly in response to brand content on the social network leaning far too heavily into driving sales.
Facebook wants its users’ news feeds to be filled with content they want to Like and share, rather than sales pitches. As a brand marketer, you should want that, too—since all those Likes and shares help extend your reach and put your brand in front of new eyeballs, without any direct effort from you or your team.
Post your best content
On that note, your Facebook content should feature the very best of what your team is creating so that your followers are motivated to engage with it and share.
Have you Tweeted content that’s getting a great response? Share it on Facebook, too. Have a page on your blog that’s always getting new comments? That’s another Facebook post contender.
Once you’ve started sharing content, you can adjust your strategy based on how your audience responds. You can track audience engagement with content on your Facebook Page and Facebook ads through Page Insights or Business Manager.
Don’t forget to respond
Nobody likes talking into a void—including your Facebook followers. If Facebook users who try to interact with your brand are met with radio silence, you’re hardly playing fair at the “social” part of the social networking game, and followers will quickly catch on and head for more interactive Pages.
Your mantra here is reply, reply, reply. That’s really all there is to it.
Make the most of pinned posts
You know you have it—that one piece of content that soars above the rest, that really captures your brand and shows potential followers exactly why they should Like your Page. Well, pin it.
A pinned post sits at the top of your Facebook Page and isn’t bumped down when you post new content. You can also use this space to share important news, showcase an amazing video, raise awareness about a current campaign, or anything else that will get potential followers excited about engaging with your brand on Facebook. You can tell a post is pinned when you see a little blue thumbtack icon on the top left of the post.
Post at optimal times
You may have noticed that there’s a lot of content on Facebook. Your post has the best chance of making it to the top of the pile if you post when your audience is most active. This will take some trial and error to pin down for your specific business (using engagement data gleaned from Page Insights), but research generally shows that the best time to post is Thursday or Friday from 1 to 3 p.m., so that’s a good place to start.
There’s a lot to learn when it comes to Facebook marketing, and it might all seem a little overwhelming at first. The good news is you can get started without investing a dime and branch out into paid campaigns as you gain more expertise. And just like that, you’re out of excuses.
Manage your Facebook presence by using Hootsuite to schedule posts, share video, engage with followers, and measure the impact of your efforts. Try it free today.