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Facebook: Not just for fun anymore

Remember when Facebook was simply a great way to stay connected with friends and family? Perhaps you don’t. Perhaps you were never caught up in the “What are you doing right now?” age and could care less which comic hero your friends are most like or how many virtual drinks you have accumulated on your Facebook profile page. Nonetheless, Facebook can be a great way to stay connected, and not just with friends, but with current and potential customers and employees. In fact, companies large and small are taking advantage of Facebook’s instant grass-roots communication to promote their brands, market events, hire talent and, at times, provide real impact on their bottom line.

To get your creative juices flowing, let’s take a look at a few examples of how various organizations have approached this relatively new medium:

A small local publisher of children’s books, Megan Hearts, has been using Facebook since 2008. By using the Facebook “events” feature to announce book tour events with compelling pictures and dialogue, they have grown their fan base from just a few friends to more than 3,500. Recently, one particular event, promoted solely through Facebook, yielded sales of almost 200 books.

JetBlue uses “The JetBlue Experience” group on Facebook to create a conversation among flyers about the unique combination of value, service and style the airline offers. It uses this platform to announce plans for new areas of service and to receive candid feedback on its service. A forum for back-and-forth discussion such as this takes the suggestion box concept to another level, where each user can build on each other’s comments and hopefully get to the heart of the issue or idea.

MobWars, a mafia-style Facebook “application” (in this case, a game), allows players to build a mob, stockpile guns and vehicles, and “fight” other mobsters. If you have a hard time recruiting friends to your mob, you can earn “favor points” to buy mercenaries – you will just need to buy real-world products from MobWars sponsors (That’s advertising revenue to MobWars, with rumors suggesting upwards of $1 million per month.).

Accounting giant Ernst & Young has found, through its “Ernst & Young Careers” page, a unique way to connect with college graduates searching for employment. Through Facebook, Ernst & Young is able to engage these potential employees in a comfortable environment, discuss the values of the company, and provide direct interaction with hiring managers. The use of videos in particular offers a great inside look into a day in the life of an Ernst & Young employee.

There are a few keys to success with Facebook and other social media. First, it takes time and effort. Think of social media not so much as marketing, but as building relationships through conversation. Relationships take time – nurturing, building trust, and answering questions – and you get out of it what you put in. Because this relationship is online, you need to lighten up and show some personality to engage your audience in a dialogue that is important to them. Second, be a helper, not a salesperson. Generation Y and other social media users can smell a rat a mile away. Leave the salesperson mentality at home. Provide value first, then you and your brand will be valued and supported virally. Third, do what you say you are going to do. In social media, the single voice can boom loudly either in support or in rejection of your claims or actions. So, always follow through in order to build trust. Lastly, remember that Facebook and other social media outlets are great tools, but should be just one component of an integrated marketing plan.

For more information on using Facebook for your business, visit or call the Long Beach Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at (562) 570-4574. The SBDC has knowledgeable social media advisors and has helped numerous clients in the greater Long Beach area sustain and grow.

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