Once a social network’s number of users climbs past a billion (yes, that’s billion with a “b”), it becomes impossible to ignore—especially for marketers.
Facebook is well past that figure, with a whopping 2 billion users as of June 2017, including about 183 million daily active users in the United States and Canada (compare that, for instance, to the 172 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 incorporate the network’s free tools, as well as super-focused paid campaigns.
Let’s be clear 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 strategy should also include efforts to build lasting relationships and ongoing engagement through valuable content that’s not about making the sale.
Fortunately for small businesses, you don’t need a budget of Super Bowl proportions to get into the Facebook marketing game. Providing consistent, reliable, and valuable content that connects with fans and potential customers is your most important play. This Facebook marketing guide shares everything you need to know to develop and implement a winning Facebook marketing strategy for your brand.
Bonus: Download a free guide that teaches you how to turn Facebook traffic into sales in four simple steps using Hootsuite.
How to create a Facebook marketing plan in 7 steps
Step 1. Develop your Facebook strategy
Before you dive into creating a Facebook Page for your business, you need to determine your Facebook marketing strategy. After all, your Page can’t help you meet your business goals until you determine exactly what those goals might be. Here’s how to create a strategy that makes the most of the time and budget you invest in using Facebook for business.
Define 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 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.)
It can be tempting to focus on vanity metrics, like simply gathering as many Likes as possible. But unless those Likes are part of a broader marketing plan, they’re not going to provide a great return.
The goals will differ for every business, but they should all be based on actions that have a real impact on your bottom line—like generating leads, increasing conversions on your website, or improving your customer service response. But those are just broad categories of goals. You’ll want to make your goals much more specific and measurable, based on S.M.A.R.T goal-setting principles.
Everything you do as part of your Facebook marketing—every post, every comment, every ad—should work to support your goals. To keep things on track, it’s a good idea to distill the essence of your strategy down into a Facebook marketing mission statement for your brand. This will help you to maintain a consistent brand voice throughout your Facebook marketing activities.
Create a Facebook marketing plan
Once you’ve set your goals, you need to create a plan for how to achieve them. A key part of that plan is determining the right content mix. We recommend starting with either the 80-20 rule or the social media rule of thirds.
If you follow the 80-20 rule, you’ll use 80 percent of your Facebook posts to inform, educate, and entertain, and the other 20 percent to directly promote your brand. Remember that using Facebook for business is all about building relationships, and constantly pitching your product is not a great way to do so. But if you provide enough valuable content to keep your followers engaged, they’ll be open to learning about your products and services in those 20 percent of posts that offer a more sales-focused message.
The social media rule of thirds also prescribes a good mix of valuable content and promotional posts: one-third of your content should share ideas and stories, one-third should involve personal interactions with your followers, and the remaining third can directly promote your business.
Either way, the key message is to provide much more content than promotional material in order to keep followers interested and engaged. Facebook’s algorithm changes will always penalize brands that 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.
The final part of your plan is to determine when and how often to post. Even though the algorithm means posts don’t appear in chronological order, you have the best chance of making it to the top of the pile if you post when your audience is most active on the network.
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. Since it’s important to post consistently, create a content calendar to help balance your mix of content types and keep your posting schedule on track.
For more strategic planning ideas, check out our post on how to create a social media marketing plan.
Step 2. Create a Facebook Business Page
Once you’ve got your Facebook marketing strategy nailed down, it’s time to put it into action—which begins with creating a Facebook Page. Your Facebook Page is your business presence on Facebook, or as Facebook itself puts it, “a cornerstone of [your] online identity.”
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.
Just how big can a Facebook Page following get? Coca-Cola has one of the highest brand follower counts, currently sitting at more than 105 million.
But you don’t need millions of followers to make a Facebook Page worthwhile. Neon Retro Arcade in Pasadena, California, has about 25,800 followers, but local promotions run from their Facebook Page have been successful enough that they’ve stopped advertising in their local newspaper.
To get started, follow these step-by-step instructions to create your Facebook Page, then use these key strategies to optimize your Page and connect with fans on Facebook to develop lasting relationships that lead to fierce brand loyalty.
Keep the following Facebook marketing best practices in mind to maximize the effectiveness of your Facebook Page:
- Choose a search-friendly Page name: In most cases, this will be your brand name.
- Set a custom or “vanity” URL for your Page that’s consistent with your handle on other social networks.
- Make the most of your Page’s About section: Provide key information about your business, and let followers know how to get in touch with you.
- Since your cover and profile photos are the visual first impression for your Facebook Page, make sure they accurately represent your brand and encourage potential followers to engage.
- Add a call-to-action button, which provides an easy way for potential customers to get in touch with you, or even start shopping for your products. Set one up following Facebook’s detailed instructions.
For inspiration, check out our post showcasing lessons from six must-follow brands who have mastered the art of marketing through a Facebook Page.
Step 3: Start posting
Now you’re ready to start posting. First, let’s look at the different types of content you can post on Facebook.
Facebook text post
This is the most basic type of Facebook post. A text-only post can’t direct people to your website or drive conversions, but it can be used to spark engagement within Facebook itself. Asking a question can be a great way to get followers involved, like author and speaker Brian Tracy did in this text post:
Facebook photo post
Like a text post, a photo post is designed to build awareness or spark engagement within Facebook rather than supporting other business goals. And on that front, photo posts have plenty to offer. A study published in the journal Management Science found that adding photos to your posts significantly boosts the number of both Likes and comments.
Not sure where to find appropriate images to use in your Facebook posts? Check out our list of 20 free stock photo sites. And to keep yourself, and your brand, out of trouble, be sure you understand the basics of image copyright before sharing a photo you found online.
Also keep in mind that the “photo” in your photo post doesn’t really have to be a photo at all. It could be any kind of image, like an infographic, an illustration, or any other type of visual content, such as this illustration shared on the Hootsuite Facebook Page:
Facebook video post
A short video post can be very compelling if your product has strong visual appeal. Since videos start to play automatically in the viewer’s News Feed, even a video that’s only a few seconds long can be a great way to catch someone’s eye. What ice cream lover wouldn’t pause for a moment over this video from Haagen-Dazs?
Longer video posts have emerged as a form of highly shareable social content that can rack up thousands—or even millions—of views. Buzzfeed’s Tasty recipe videos are a prime example:
With people now watching 100 million hours of video on Facebook every single day, it’s clear that video posts can be an important way to connect with followers. Check out our 4 key ingredients of a perfect social video to get the most out of your Facebook video posts.
Facebook Live video
Facebook Live video is, not surprisingly, video broadcast live on Facebook. It can be a great way to interact with followers, or give them a behind-the-scenes look at your company, your product, or some of the key personalities involved with your brand. It’s also a great format to share announcements in real time, like this announcement of the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience tour:
Keep in mind that anything can happen when you go live, so be sure to prepare ahead of time by reading our complete guide to Facebook Live video.
Linked content post
A linked content post is exactly what it sounds like—a post that links to content outside of Facebook, like on your website or blog. This is probably the easiest kind of Facebook post to create—but you still need to think strategically.
To create a linked content post, all you need to do is copy and paste a link into the status box. Facebook will automatically pull the meta description and photo, so you get a great-looking post with very little effort. Then just add some text to tell readers why they should click through, and you’re set. While you’ll want to use most of your linked posts to share your own content, it can also work well to share content from other thought leaders in your industry. For example, Entrepreneur Magazine shared our post on how to create compelling Instagram captions.
So, how can you figure out exactly what to post about? One great way to learn what might resonate with your audience is to engage in social listening. Seeking out information about what your customers, potential customers, fans, and even competitors are saying and posting online can provide some extremely valuable insights. What do existing customers love about your company or your products? What challenges are people having that you know your product could help them address? How can you differentiate yourself from the competition? These are all questions that social listening can help you answer through your Facebook posts.
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. For the best results, be sure to share your content using cross-promotion, rather than straight cross-posting.
A pinned post is simply a regular post that you “pin” to the top of your Facebook Page so it isn’t bumped down when you post new content.
You know 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.
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.
You can only have one pinned post at a time, but you can change your pinned post as often as you like.
Step 4: Ramp up your Facebook Likes and followers
You’ve got your Facebook Page up and running, and you’ve started to populate it with great, compelling content using a variety of Facebook post types to meet your goals. Now it’s time to increase your Page’s visibility to get more followers, and increase the engagement with your posts.
First, make it easy for people you already interact with through other channels to find your Facebook Page. Link to your Facebook Page in your email signature and your branded communications (like your email newsletter). And incorporate Facebook Like and Share buttons on your website and blog to make it easy for people to find, follow, and share your Page with just one click.
On that note, make sure the content you post to Facebook is highly shareable. There’s no better way to expand your organic reach than by posting content that’s so great your followers share it for you. According to a study by the New York Times Customer Insight and Advertising Groups, “marketers should be focused on providing content that enhances consumers’ relationships with one another”—in other words, create valuable and entertaining content that followers with be happy to share with their connections.
It bears repeating here that Facebook is a social network. 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. Being actively involved on your Facebook Page is key to creating engagement with followers. After all, if you’re not engaged with your Page, why should your followers be? Followers who find themselves talking into a void will quickly catch on and head for more interactive Pages. Your mantra here is reply, reply, reply.
Finally, part of maintaining a quality Page that encourages Likes is making sure it stays up to date. Schedule a monthly audit of your Page to check for and remove any outdated content, and to make sure your About section is accurate, current, and on-brand.
Step 5. Consider creating a Facebook Group
Once you’ve started to build up your Facebook Page following, you may want to consider adding a Facebook Group to your Facebook marketing plan. With more than one billion people using Facebook Groups every month, it’s an audience too large to ignore. Think of 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.
Facebook Groups can also be a prime way to showcase your knowledge and experience while building important connections with your most engaged audience—after all, it’s a chance for them to interact directly with you. For example, Shirley Weir of Menopause Chicks offers a private Facebook Group as a place for women in her key demographic to come together and talk about highly personal topics, building trust and a sense of community while highlighting her expertise.
Your Group doesn’t have to be huge to create a lot of engagement: Between posts and comments, the 3,200 members of the Menopause Chicks Private Community Group generated 8,000 interactions in the month of August alone.
You can find step-by-step instructions on how to set up your own Facebook Group in our Facebook Groups 101 post.
Sometimes fans will create their own Facebook Group with a focus on your brand (search Facebook Groups for FitBit 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!
Step 6. Incorporate Facebook ads
Since the Facebook algorithm prioritizes content from users’ friends and family, 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.
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. Because of their combination of a huge global audience and incredibly detailed targeting options, Facebook ads are highly effective: 95.8 percent of social media marketers say that Facebook offers the best ROI of all the social platforms.
Facebook has advertising options designed for business goals both on and off the network, from brand awareness and engagement to app installs and store visits. This video provides an overview of how to set up a Facebook ad campaign:
You can get more detailed instructions on how to launch a targeted Facebook advertising campaign in our complete guide to advertising on Facebook.
An important note here: Even if you don’t plan to use Facebook ads right away, it’s a good idea to set yourself up with a Facebook pixel now, so you’ll have access to important data when you are ready to launch your first campaign. A Facebook pixel is a simple piece of code that you place on your website to track conversions, remarket to people who have already visited your website, and build targeted custom audiences for future ads. The pixel will start collecting data as soon as you place it on your site, so you’ll have remarketing and custom audience information ready to go when you start your first campaign.
Step 7. Track, measure, and refine
The very first step in this guide was to set measurable goals. Now it’s time to look at how to gather the information you need to check your results against your plans, so you can see what worked and what didn’t—and how you can improve your strategy in the future.
You can track audience engagement with content on your Facebook Page through Facebook Insights, which allows you to measure Likes, reach (how many people saw your posts), and engagement (how many people liked, clicked, shared, or commented). You can also see which of your posts result in people unliking your Page, which provides critical information about what is not working.
Facebook Insights will also help you determine which post types are working best for your Page, so you can evaluate whether your current mix is working. There’s plenty more you can learn from Facebook Insights, and we’ve got all the details in our Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Analytics and Insights.
For actions outside of Facebook (like purchase conversions), you’ll need to use tools like Google Analytics, Hootsuite Impact, and UTM parameters. That may sound complicated, but we’ve created a detailed guide that walks you through the process.
Beyond simply tracking your success, it’s important to use the information about what’s working and what’s not to make adjustments to your strategy. The data will show you what you should keep doing, and which tactics you need to tweak. Through this continuous loop of goal-setting, measuring results, and tweaking your strategy, you can improve your Facebook marketing performance over time.
Once you’ve got the strategies in this Facebook marketing guide nailed, you can expand your Facebook marketing efforts by using Facebook to generate leads for your sales team, launching a Facebook contest, and incorporating Facebook Messenger to communicate with followers one-on-one and through chatbots.
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 simply without investing a dime and branch out into more complex strategies and paid campaigns as you gain more expertise.
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.