This guide is for small businesses starting a Facebook page from scratch and for people looking for a healthy organic boost to their reach.
It’s well documented – Facebook has been increasingly tricky for marketers to master over the past couple of years or so.
A few years back I oversaw a Facebook page that grew from 10,000 to 100,000 likes in what seemed like the blink of an eye.
It’s not so easy to rocket fuel growth like that now – and that’s a good thing.
Facebook has made changes. It wants you to see more content that’s personable to you, content you’re likely to have productive, engaging conversations about.
It’s been progressively doing this for several years but now the rules of engagement are tighter than ever.
That means good content that connects emotionally with your audience will do well. Slapdash content won’t.
So if you spend time and effort crafting solid, interesting posts for your new Facebook page, it will grow quickly.
There are 5,000 words in this blog (please don’t be put off) but they are all aimed at achieving the content of the sentence above.
Hopefully I can give you some tools and advice – some practical, some strategic – for making your page a productive tool for reaching more customers.
Why a small business should start a Facebook page
Facebook is still a very relevant platform, and it will be for a long time.
Lots of people are migrating to Instagram and there are growing audiences on Snapchat that you’ll have your eye on.
But as a platform Facebook is more ingrained in society than ever. It recorded 2.23 billion users in the second quarter of 2018.
It’s still the quickest place to spread consumer content. It still has the best functionality. It does more than any other social network.
For marketers and business owners the tools it gives you – analysis, data, publishing methods and ads – are more efficient, easier to use and simply better than Instagram and Snapchat.
I’m going to assume you’re ok with the basics – ie creating the very start of the page, filling in all your details – creating a profile picture and a cover picture.
If not, the best place I can point you is Facebook’s help section itself, where you’ll find all the info you need.
Once that’s sorted, you’re ready for this blog post. We’ll start with strategy, then go practical.
Tell a story
Whatever reason you have for starting a business, you’re going to have a back story. Tell it.
Social media is not the place to hide your identity and passion. The best social media channels have vibrancy, personality and make their followers feel like they belong to a special little club.
Take this for an example – you’ve opened your first salon. You trained in the college down the road, and worked the chairs at salons around your city.
You saved and saved and saved, while all your mates were having a good time.
Finally you have enough, with some help from your bank manager, to open you’re very own salon. It’s your pride and joy.
It might not look like much, but it’s sprinkled with your personal touches – little Easter eggs that reveal nuggets about your personality and brand.
Plus, when it comes to doing hair, you are the undisputed champ. Nobody beats you on whatever’s hot right now, and you know it.
That’s your story – your personal battle to own your own stomping ground.
Think hard about what you stand for – and post about it. If your business insists on never touching non-biodegradable plastic then make that your thing and shout about it.
Think about what you have that appeals to your niche and exploit it for all its worth.
Be sure of what your business values, what its ethos is – that is the foundation of your story as much as the physical components that make up your pride and joy.
I don’t have a story
And if you’re reading this thinking ‘my story is boring’ or ‘my industry/business/service/product/whatever is too dull’ then you’re wrong.
If you have customers, or you’ve identified potential customers, then your story will connect with them.
If you think your company or sector is too dull – then great. The duller the better. Because I can bet you every time that barely anyone will be creating content for social in your sector because they are thinking the same thing.
That means you have a better opportunity than 95% of the people reading this post. Standing out as a hairdresser is really hard. Standing out as someone who is very good at helping employees pass a very specific type of fork lift drivers’ test is a lot easier.
Go make live videos of fork lift driving and exploit your niche on Facebook until the world has too many fork lift drivers.
I could only find one page on Facebook about fork lift driving with more than 1,000 followers. They make engaging content and respond regularly to their audience.
Once you’ve understood what your story is and what you stand for it’s time to tell it.
Find as many times to tell it as possible and capture it with words, pictures and video – over and over again.
Watch what works, what bits really interest people – what makes them comment and share in particular, and do more of that kind of content.
These two sentences are what Facebook is built on. Figure out what engages people, and find lots of ways to do it.
Lastly, always be positive. If you want to use your Facebook page to whine about business rates or Brexit or whatever then go start a Twitter account.
Negativity will only appeal to a subset of the human race that don’t need encouraging. If in doubt, keep it light.
Tone is often overlooked. Sometimes that’s ok because people skip straight through to posting and it comes naturally and connects with the desired audience because it’s authentic.
But you’ll probably want to put more thought into it. The tone of your posts are crucial for two reasons:
Firstly, for how you are perceived. Secondly, the right tone will give you access to the market you’re targeting.
The tone of this post is bang on its target market – it’s dripping with gratitude, sweetness and light.
Whereas this post has no words at all. The uber-cool video (it’s a screenshot, but check out their page) says it all. Words would sully it.
When planning your tone split your thinking into two camps.
One: Who is my audience, and how do they communicate? What’s the tone of the posts they share?
Two: Can I replicate that or will it appear clunky, awkward and inauthentic?
Hopefully the answer to ‘two’ is yes, otherwise you’re going to have to rethink your messaging or try harder.
My advice would be to dig deep into the kind of posts your target audience is sharing, the groups and communities they mix in and absorb as much as you can. Comment, join in and share.
By getting involved in groups you’ll find places to post your content in future.
Make a calendar and put your ideas on it
Don’t get yourself caught into making the mistake of waking up every day with the challenge of finding something – anything – to post about.
If you do this, I guarantee one of two things will happen:
- your posts will be rushed, ill-thought out, and fail to engage
- You’ll stop bothering to post
You need to post decent content every day (at least to begin with) if you want to grow your page and reach lots of customers.
That means planning. Facebook is free to use but you have to put time and effort into it to get something out of it.
Spend an hour each week thinking about what you’re going to post and type it into a calendar. It needn’t be complicated – a simple spreadsheet will do.
Make it a Google Sheet so other people can easily access it.
If you can, spend another hour or so physically creating the posts and either sticking them in draft or scheduling them up.
It’s easy to schedule a post. Just a create a post like normal and instead of ‘share now’ change the little drop down menu to either ‘draft’ or ‘schedule’.
If you don’t have the pictures, videos or links yet to schedule up your posts, don’t worry.
Half the battle is planning what they will be. This way you’ll go into your week knowing what picture and video opportunities to look out for, or plan for.
Download the Facebook Pages app
You’ll want to do most of the above on the desktop version of Facebook but make sure you download the Pages app to your phone as well.
It’s dead easy to use and it means you can monitor your page on the go and respond to comments and messages quickly.
Tell your story, then sell
When you first start you page, it’s important to introduce the narrative around your page and how you want your brand seen on social media.
That doesn’t mean your page isn’t there for selling. Just make sure it isn’t the only thing you do.
In an ideal world, you’ll always have a lower proportion of salesy posts than unsalesy posts.
In the beginning, your products will be popular and interesting. Over time though, your audience is going to get bored unless you can offer variation.
So as a rule, when it comes to selling, never put the same post/image out twice. You’ll need to come up with new ways to display your wares.
Some of the ideas in this blog will help you do that – particularly competitions.
Some basic images to get
Make sure you’ve got plenty of great pictures of you and your staff at your business and plenty of exterior shots.
Getting a pro in to do it for you isn’t a bad idea. That way you’ll have loads of pictures to use and plenty of potential cover pictures.
If you’ve got staff, or people who help our, or even just your dog – get good pictures of them.
People like to know about the personalities behind the business. Little staff profiles – a picture with their interests, their background etc – are easy posts that generally do well when you’re stuck for content.
When it comes to your profile pic, the received wisdom is to stick to your logo/branding. If you want to use a picture of yourself, go for your life.
Use simple, free tools to work smarter
You can survive with a decent smartphone for your pictures and videos.
If you can afford a DSLR camera then that’s better, but not essential. I’d recommend it though, it pays off in the long run.
Whatever the quality of your images, you need to know how to edit them – crop them right, turn them into graphics, turn lots of pictures into an easy video.
There is a whole load of free-to-use web-based software to take advantage of, plus some subscription-based worth considering.
Here’s some recommendations.
I’ve written about it before, as have 90% of people writing marketing blogs.
Canva is a web-based picture editing tool. You can perform simple editing options (it’s the quickest way to crop a pic) and add text, illustrations.
For simple jobs like displaying a grid of pictures, there’s templates to work to.
You’ll find yourself using it for a myriad of tasks. I use it for everything from business cards to YouTube thumbnails.
Set up an account and you’re away. It’s free, but there’s a premium option if you fancy it (for info, I find this handy but I manage all manner of social accounts – free will probably do you for now).
If Canva’s not quite enough for you, try Snappa on a free trial. It’s paid for but has some useful extras. There’s more templates for social media graphics and a few more editing options.
Always use original images where you can. Don’t use a stock pic of a hairdryer if you can just take a picture of a hairdryer. Even better – get someone to take a picture of you holding a hairdryer.
Eventually though, you’ll need a stock picture of something. When you do, visit Pexels and search for whatever you need, free of charge.
You can’t quite bring yourself to go all-in on video editing because you a) don’t have time to learn b) it scares you.
Sign up to Animoto for £20-ish a month and you can drag and drop your images and video clips into a slideshow and create simple videos.
The interface is really easy to use, there’s a handy blog to help you come up with ideas and you can drag text, music and effects.
Especially handy if you want to put a call to action at the end of your videos.
For example. Let’s say you’ve got a load of new stock in and you’ve taken some ok-ish pictures on your phone.
Drop them all into Animoto, put some flashy templated transitions between them, music in the background and text explaining the products – et voila.
You have a much more professional looking package (and a template to update whenever you like).
Like a charged-up slightly more expensive version of Animoto.
More templates, more effects and more editing capability – but still a really friendly interface and easier to negotiate than iMovie if you’re a beginner.
Again, you’ll find the templates are a fertile source of ideas.
Facebook ads are fabulous value.
For the number of people you reach, Facebook is cheap. Not only for the reach, but for the way you get to display your brand, your message and your content.
You can’t do that as effectively with Google.
Plus you can choose some great calls to action (or incorporate your own into your content).
The key to success on Facebook is great content, and ads is no different.
When you start your page you’re unlikely to have much to stick into an ad. Here’s what I do in that situation.
Get seven, eight, nine or 10 pictures that tell a story about your brand. Make sure you and your staff (if you have any) are in those pictures.
If you’re retail or have a physical presence make sure there’s a picture of your place.
Make sure you have pictures of your products or services. These are the basic things people want to see. Don’t make it hard for them.
At the top of your page click ‘Promotions’ then ‘Create ad’, then select ‘promote your page’.
Throw all your pictures into a slide show.
Stick whatever budget you can into it. If you can spare £5 a day for a week, do it and see what response you get.
Set the audience to whomever you’re trying to target. If in doubt, go within a five-mile radius of your business.
Make sure you monitor the comments and reactions on the ad. This is one of the bonuses of Facebook ads – they are living, breathing evolving pieces of content in their own right, unlike your average digital display advert.
Reply to everyone who comments on your ad, more than once if necessary. Turn the ad into a conversation about your business.
Set aside five minutes every day to check who has liked and commented on your post.
First respond to everyone. Then click on the reactions to see all the people who have liked, loved etc.
Facebook will give you the option to invite these people to like your page, if they haven’t clicked on the like button on your ad. Do this every day.
One thing to remember about ads
Content doesn’t magically become interesting just because you’ve got money behind it.
If you pay for ads your content still needs to be on point – otherwise your expectations will be severely dented.
Discuss the content of your ad with a few people first, don’t just blithely post.
Run offers and boost them
To spark interest in your new business and its new page, you’ll want to run offers – freebies, money off etc.
Run these on your page as early as you can. These posts are more likely to be shared than anything else, but be wary of asking people to share the posts.
One, it can look desperate. If the content is good enough, then people are going to want to share it.
Secondly, Facebook tends to take a dim view of pages that request people to share their content (that includes 2015’s ‘tag a friend’).
Instead – put some money behind the post. First post your content, then click boost post and choose who you want to aim the post at. You don’t need to spend much to reach new audiences.
Don’t be surprised if competitions generate more interest than offers, at a lower cost to your business.
When I worked in newspapers we were always pleasantly surprised at the entry rate in a competition for something ‘realistic’ (like say, theatre tickets or a lawn mower) compared to something out of reach (like a minibus).
The moral of the story? You don’t have to give away a lot to drum up interest in your brand.
If the prize is of a lower value, people tend to think they’ve got a chance. So don’t stress about giving away too much.
Of course the value of the prize will be relative to your brand. If you’re high end, then you’re going to have to let go of more value.
In terms of running it, make sure you have a beautiful picture or video of what you’re giving away lined up.
Use Animoto or Wave to explain the concept of what you’re giving away in a video if you’re feeling creative.
Post your image with an explanation of the competition and what the rules are.
Then, ask people to like or comment in order to enter (how this works you’ll need to figure out, maybe they have to type a certain phrase etc).
The current received wisdom on running competitions in this way is that it is ok to:
- Ask people to like
- Ask people to comment
But it’s not ok to:
- Ask people to share
- Ask people to like another page
- Ask people to tag their friends
Lots of people still ask people to share and tag and get away with it. Feel free to risk it but beware you could get burned.
You don’t want to end up in the Facebook doghouse with a tiny reach or even worse, no page at all.
If you’re worried about how to put together a competition, or want a tool to select a random winner then you can worse than look at Agora Pulse’s contest app.
- Decide on a reasonable prize
- Make a pretty graphic in Canva
- Boost your post
Embrace live video and stories
Once upon a time getting a Facebook Live right meant you would automatically achieve stratospheric reach.
Now the feature is embedded into the social media consciousness, Facebook Live won’t give you the uber-reach that it once did.
But Facebook will still share your posts into many more newsfeeds than any other type of organic post.
And it’ll give everyone who likes your page a notification to say they’ve gone live. This is priceless extra reach.
That doesn’t mean you should just go live on any old rubbish. A shaky hand tour around your new office with no context and nobody in it will just bomb and make you look weird.
But get it right and you’ll smash it.
Here’s some do’s and don’ts:
- Do experiment. Practice going live on your personal account, and change the share option to ‘only me’.
- Do go live often. Try to do it a couple of times a week.
- Do put yourself on camera. You’ll be at your most vulnerable and authentic. That will make people buy into your brand.
- Do actually speak to the camera. Explain really clearly and slowly what’s going on and why you’ve gone live.
- Don’t ignore your audience. If people ask questions then answer them – you’ll see them popping up on your phone so speak to people. After you finish, go into the comments and reply with text as well – a little goes a long way.
- Do invest in a little equipment if you can. Spend £20 on a shotgun mic and £20 on a stabiliser of some kind – it will make you look infinitely more pro. Prioritise sound over picture when it comes to spending money.
- Don’t forget to caption properly. When you’re done share the video to your feed and make sure it’s captioned clearly and correctly.
For more advice on getting a Facebook Live right, examples, case studies and the equipment you need to really succeed, check out my blog post on it.
When it comes to stories, be informal. Stories appear at the top of a user’s feed and display moments through a day, brought life using the stickers and fun functionality.
Facebook Stories work almost identically to Instagram Stories – which in turn are something of a clone of Snapchat.
I’ve written an in-depth guide to Instagram Stories which you should check out and use in the same way on Facebook.
Bear in mind Facebook itself believes Stories will overtake the newsfeed for the way we share content – so although it might seem like yet another platform to satisfy, it’s worth trying stories from the off.
Using Stories in tandem with your posts should make for powerful reach.
Entertain and educate
In the buzz of your page starting, you should hopefully experience the natural bounce of a new business – the audience will embrace the novelty factor.
But sooner or later you’ll need to find ways of giving value to them other than competitions and offers.
There are two main ways of doing this – entertain them or educate. Or both.
You might have a natural-born gift for creating extremely funny internet memes. Congratulations you are probably already internet famous.
Or you might have a knack for writing hilarious messages on your chalkboard.
If you can do either of the above, you will probably go viral one day soon. Like Bay View Stores in Pembrokeshire:`
You don’t have to be funny though – make a quiz, post a weekly fact, take stunning pictures, video a local event. It goes back to trying understand what your audience – your community – likes.
If you struggle to entertain, educate. The easiest way to do this is to think about what your audience’s problems are.
For example, you’re a hairdresser again, and you’ve just opened your salon and things are going great.
Everyone is always asking you how you get your hair like that so quickly in the mornings.
So you post a video how-to guide, step-by-step, of your morning routine.
If you can solve your audience’s problems, you become shareable. If you become shareable you get more page likes.
Respond to absolutely everyone bar none
You’re trying to create a little (or eventually, big) community around your brand.
One day it might be so big you can’t physically respond to everyone. But while it’s growing make a commitment to like and respond to every comment you get, no matter how banal they might be.
Respond creatively, with humour and gifs where you can. Or just say thanks. Or ‘you’re too kind’ if you can’t think of anything more creative. Appear sincere!
Make ample use of emoijis – they convey more emotion that your words often can!
Of course, if you respond to everyone, that means you have to deal with the tricky notion of negativity.
Take a deep breath. Eventually you will get a troll and they will say something mean.
Rule one: They are nothing.
Rule two: You already know how to respond. You passionately know your business and its ethos to its very core. Simply respond with a something that reflects that passion.
Rule three: People will like your response. You’ll come out of it looking even better than you did before.
Rule four: If they keep sniping at you, click ‘hide’ and then ‘ban’.
Rule five: Forget they ever existed and get on with conquering the world.
Invite to like
Every time someone reacts to one of your posts you’ll have to option of clicking on the reactions at the top of the comments and inviting your followers to like your page.
Click on the reactions above, and the window below will appear. Simply click on ‘invite’ and the user will get a notification inviting them to like your page.
I touched on it in the ‘ads’ section above, but you can do it on any post.
Not only that, but every time someone likes a comment you write, whether it’s on one of your own posts or somewhere else on Facebook, you can click on that like and do exactly the same thing.
Remember right at the start when I spoke about consuming content in new places?
If you comment on other people’s posts as your page there’s a higher probability that your comments will be liked by people who don’t already like your page.
Make little testimonial videos
The first time you receive a recommendation your heart will soar.
Don’t stop at that – show that humdinger of a review off to the world. Even if it’s from your mum.
After week one or two or month one or whatever, collect all the good responses you’ve got. They could be comments, recommendations, visitor posts – wherever and whenever.
Here’s what to do with them:
- Copy them into a document somewhere.
- Count how many you have.
- Get as many pictures as you have testimonials.
- Drop all the pictures into Animoto or Wave or whichever video editing tool you’ve plumped for.
- Copy the testimonials one by one over a picture each. Put music to it etc.
- Download it as a video.
- Post it on a Friday night at 6pm in the feel good slot and thank everyone for their support and wish everyone the best weekend in the world.
- Toast yourself and go to bed feeling amazing.
Vary your content
Here’s a rule for life – never post the same thing twice on Facebook, whether it’s a link, picture or whatever.
There’s a common sense reason for why not to do this – people will get bored with the same content and will fail to engage. That means your posts will reach fewer people.
There’s also technical reason – Facebook is clever enough to work out which pages are posting repetitive content, to help people steer clear of content that bores them.
This is particularly difficult for people running pages that involves events. For example you might own a bar and be particularly proud to have a musician that you absolutely adore playing on Saturday night.
If by Thursday you’ve posted eight times already and barely anyone is engaging with you then stop.
Instead, run a Facebook ad and target it at the kind of people who would be attracted to seeing the band you’ve booked.
How often to post
This is dependent on how much content you have. In the beginning I think you should post a lot, say three times a day, if you’ve got good content.
The crucial thing is not to overstretch yourself. You should know when it’s right to turn it down a notch and switch to once a day.
But if you’re the sort of business where it’s simple to create lots of engaging content then post more than once a day.
The key is to keep it varied – let your audience guide you.
When to post
I don’t think you should get too hung up on when to post. If it’s a good post it’ll work whenever you post it.
That said you can’t go too far wrong with the 7-10pm slot, when, as you’d expect, there are plenty of people on social media.
If you want to get technical, click on ‘Insights’ at the top of your page, and then click on Posts in the left hand menu.
The first graph will show you when most of your audience is on Facebook – in the vast majority of cases it should display the evening.
Analyse what works
Facebook is enriched with a suite of analytical tools.
Start by clicking ‘Insights’ again at the top of your page and go to posts.
The bit you should take particular care of monitoring is the posts section below the above graph.
You’ll get a big list of posts and their reach (plus other metrics).
Look at what’s worked and think about how you can create more content like that, without repeating yourself.
Ask yourself if your successful posts have a common theme – like the tone or style of image running through them.
The magic posts to look for will have achieved greater reach than the number of likes you have. This means you’re reaching new audiences (mostly because people are sharing the post to their friends).
When you’re starting out, getting your reach close or greater than your number of likes is key to growing quickly.
The bigger you get, the harder this is to do.
Equally, what hasn’t worked is just as, if not more, important.
Don’t be self-indulgent – if you’re posting content that’s dear to you in some way, but no-one cares, then stop doing it.
Equally, if you spent forever on a video or a piece of content don’t be too hard on yourself if it doesn’t work.
Think about how you might do it differently next time. At the very least you will have learned a lesson about what doesn’t work that you were going to learn some way down the line anyway.
And when your page’s audience has grown, it may be worth revisiting.
Watch competitor pages
Go back to ‘overview’ in Insights and scroll down to ‘Pages to Watch’.
Click on ‘Add Pages’ and Facebook will suggest pages it believes are your competitors, or you can manually add pages.
After you’ve added them, you can see what their best performing content is when you click on that page.
Look at how often they run competitions, what their images and videos are like and what’s popular – and what’s not popular.
This can unbelievably helpful when it comes to generating content ideas. It’s worth adding pages from other places as well.
It’s hard to come up with original content every day – so sometimes it pays to post someone else’s.
This is reason number 1,275,892 for why you need to consume content as well as produce it.
It’s much easier to find content that other people are sharing and commenting on and engaging with if you are sharing, commenting and engaging with content yourself.
It’s fairly simple – spot content or links that you think would entertain your audience and share it on to your page.
To save time, go to your ‘watch’ pages and see what content your rivals are sharing. If you’re watching pages from other towns/cities, this makes it less obvious you’re sharing similar content!
To give your page lift off, it helps if you have other marketing channels you can lean on.
Personally, if you’re selling B2C, I think you can stay off Twitter to begin with and double down on Facebook and Instagram.
But if you do have Twitter it doesn’t hurt to use it to push your page from time to time.
It helps to get Google My Business set up so you appear in search and on Google Maps. If you do this, you can set the option of displaying a link to your website to displaying a link to your page instead.
This is particularly helpful if getting a website is in Phase Two of your business development.
In an ideal world, you’ll achieve a bit of digital PR once your business has started.
Getting other people and pages to post about your pages is helpful. These people might be community or business leaders, news websites or local influencers.
Get in contact, tell them about your business and ask them nicely to post about your page.
If they do post about you, make sure you go into their posts and comment to say thank you, and reply to people who might comment about your business.
Remember, if your comments are liked, then you can invite the people who like them to like your page. It all helps!
Don’t get too consumed in it
I appreciated there’s a lot to read here. And you have a business to run, that’s priority number one after all.
There isn’t a business in the world that wouldn’t benefit from marketing on social media. To stop it consuming you pencil in a planning session or two once a week, and then some time each day to respond and engage with people.
Try not to string it out all day, and give yourself blackout time when you don’t look at it at all.
If you’re worried it’ll look like your ignoring people who might message you, then you can set up an auto response (like an out of office) advising people of when you are available to respond.
That gets around the issue of people messaging you at 3am on a Saturday and Facebook penalising you for your response time.
Any other tips or questions? Get in touch or post in the comments below.