Whether you love or loathe Facebook, there’s no denying the site is a powerful marketing tool for small businesses. Need proof? Consider a recent milestone when Facebook hit 15 million SMB pages, a 2 million page increase since the end of 2012.
Small business owners aren’t just tapping into Facebook’s page functionality—they’re also driving increases in tools like the Pages Manager app, which has seen a 3 million user increase in the last three months. And in a presentation at Borrell Associates’ Local Online Advertising conference, Facebook Director of Small Business Dan Levy said 500,000 pages are now using Facebook’s promoted posts feature, up from 300,000 pages at the end of 2012.
Yet these impressive stats don’t mean everything’s rosy between small businesses and Facebook. Although more and more businesses opt to create Facebook pages, not everyone uses them on a regular basis—in fact, 70% of Facebook brand pages remain inactive, a not-so-surprising stat that points to an ongoing struggle for businesses and brands to maintain any real engagement on their pages.
Levy addressed this scenario in his presentation by hinting that Facebook is working on more self-serve tools designed specifically for SMBs to enhance their Facebook presence and get more out of the site. Although we’re curious to see what he’s talking about (and we love a good tool), the cold, hard truth is that tools aren’t a fix for low engagement. You can’t automate a Facebook presence, let alone any other social networking profile—and you can’t buy loyal, dedicated fans who will help your business thrive. That doesn’t mean there won’t be people out there trying to sell you those “sure fire, guaranteed” tools and solutions, but if you expect them to work, you’re part of the problem. Tricks and tools can help you be more effective when it comes to your social media marketing, but they’re not a be-all, end-all solution.
And the skeptics among us wonder how much of Facebook’s new self-serve tools for SMBs are yet another tactic on the part of Facebook to ratchet up their revenue. In fact, it’s a pretty safe bet there’s more interest on the part of Facebook in generating greater income from SMBs than there is for solving their problems using Facebook as a part of their integrated marketing strategy. Doesn’t it only make sense?
That being said, we very much realize that small business owners are incredibly tight on time—and for a lot of them, maintaining a Facebook page isn’t at the top of their to-do lists. But for many businesses, effectively integrating the use of Facebook into their online marketing efforts can pay off if done correctly. So, if Facebook is going to focus on improving the SMB experience and provide some tools that might make Facebook more effective for small business owners, we’re certainly interested in seeing what they come up with.
What do you think? What do you see as being the greatest need for SMBs when it comes to social media marketing in general, and Facebook in particular? We’d love to hear your thoughts.