Use Facebook To Grow Your Business Community

20 Oct 2017 | 04.04 pm

Use Facebook To Grow Your Business Community

Facebook is for all businesses, irrespective of their size

20 Oct 2017 | 04.04 pm

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Facebook is all about building communities. It has enabled thousands of Irish small and medium-sized businesses to build and maintain relationships with customers across Ireland and beyond.

 

Three years after launching its first small business council in the United States, Facebook has extended the initiative to Ireland. The Irish SME Council is a forum for over a dozen small- to medium-sized businesses — including retailer Life Style Sports, hand-made cosmetics and perfumes company Burren Perfumery and clothing company Magee Clothing — to share their experiences with each other and with Facebook, which is keen to hear from small businesses on what they need and create tools they can use.

The Irish SME Council launch came shortly after Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced the company was updating its mission statement, for the first time since 2012, to focus on building communities. And for businesses, building a strong community is key.

More than 70 million businesses globally have a dedicated Facebook Page. “Over one billion people are connected to a business in a different country on Facebook, including 43 million in other countries who are connected to a business in Ireland,” says Ciaran Quilty, Vice President of Facebook’s Small & Medium Business division across Europe, Middle East and Africa.

EXPONENTIAL GROWTH

Two billion people use Facebook every month. More than half of the people in Ireland use it, with 2.3 million people in Ireland logging in to Facebook every day, and 2.1 million of them doing so on mobile devices.

“Mobile enables small business to become large, and local business to go global,” adds Quilty. “By 2020, there will be six billion people online, two in every three of those on a smartphone.” In his view, digital strategies can help businesses grow and can “have a tremendous impact on national and global economies”.

Many Irish businesses already harness the power of digital to build strong brands, grow sales and reach new markets. Frozen food business Strong Roots has relied on Facebook since day one, building awareness among potential customers and stockists, as well as growing a community. “Our recent video series, Adventures of a Food Truck, has brought us high engagement, with over 250,000 views across three months,” says Strong Roots founder Samuel Dennigan.

Growing fast: Strong Roots founder Sam Dennigan

When stylist Blanaid Hennessy opened her first store Folkster in Kilkenny, she used Facebook to build awareness and encourage people to visit the store. A further store in Dublin’s Temple Bar and a bridal range have since followed.

Blanaid explains: “As a business, we’ve grown up with Facebook, and now we’re expanding with Instagram and stories. We love being able to show people what Folkster is all about, and have that online conversation with our customers. What they see in our Facebook and Instagram posts is a vital introduction to the experience of visiting our stores.”

BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS

Many more Irish businesses share similar stories about how Facebook has enabled them to build and maintain relationships with customers across Ireland and beyond. According to Olly Sewell, manager of Facebook’s Small & Medium Business division in the UK & Ireland, it is an incredibly exciting time to be in business. “Your audience could be down the street or on the other side of the world, and you connect with your customers where they are. And it’s all been caused by this: the phone,” he says.

“Expanding your business, whether to the next town, region or to a new country, used to mean finding new premises and new suppliers, and maybe even changing your product. Today it’s about making it easy for an audience that will love your product to find you, and for you to find that audience.”

BUSINESS SOLUTIONS

Sewell adds that Facebook is for all businesses, irrespective of their size. “An entrepreneur starting out has access to the same marketing tools on Facebook as the biggest brands in the world. We have introduced many new solutions to make it even easier for businesses of all sizes to reach the people who matter to them,” he explains

Take video, for example. People spend five times longer looking at video than at static images on Facebook. It’s accessible too, even for businesses with limited budgets. “All you need is a smartphone, some free apps and an idea of what you want to say,” Sewell continues. “The smartphone has changed the world as radically as any piece of technology in history. Mobile has created new ways for people to connect to each other, share information and buy things from businesses they care about.”

CASE STUDY: Moocall – Making Calving Safer

When Niall Austin lost a heifer and her calf after a difficult birth, he was determined to turn a negative into a positive. That’s when he decided to put his theory – linking cows’ tail movements to calving activity – to the test, joining co-founders Michael Stanley and Emmet Savage to create the Moocall calving sensor. The innovative unit alerts cattle owners to the likely onset of labour via text message and email, allowing them to be present to assist if needed.

In good health: a newborn calf with a Moocall sensor

The Moocall team has used Facebook to engage its very specific audience and educate them about how the sensor works. The response has been huge, with over 20,000 customers to date joining the Moocall herd. “We launched the Moocall calving sensor commercially in January 2015 and the reaction from customers around the world has been phenomenal,” says Niall Austin, adding that the firm now has customers in 40 countries.

“Our Facebook page says it all: customers in different countries, sharing their images and updates, telling us about their positive experiences of using Moocall to make calving safer and easier,” Austin adds.

 

5 Quick Steps to Get Started

1. Create a Facebook Page for your business – see how on facebook.com/business/learn/set-up-facebook-page.
2. Join relevant Facebook Groups to connect with your customers.
3. Get creative with your content — post images and videos of your business, product or services.
4. Download the Pages Manager app on your mobile to keep up on the go.
5. Set up Page Messaging and create templates and automatic replies to save time while you help customers.

facebook.com/business
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