FORTUNE Small Business:

Should your business be on Facebook?

Ask FSB's experts help small business owners cut through the social-networking thicket.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all RSS FEEDS (close)

Get small-business intelligence from the experts. Here's a chance for YOU to ask your pressing small-business questions, and FSB editors will help you get answers from the appropriate experts.
Your name:
* Your e-mail address:
* Your city:
* Your state:
* Your daytime phone #:
* Your questions:

(FORTUNE Small Business) -- Dear FSB: Is it wise for a small business to have a corporate homepage on Facebook? One of our employees mentioned it. Some say it's good marketing; others say it's not. What are the pros and cons of doing it?

- Jaci, Grand Rapids

Dear Jaci: Great question. A lot of small business owners are asking themselves if diving into the social networking phenomenon will work for them and, if so, where to begin.

If Twitter sounds like an obscure bird species and you think Facebook and News Corp (NWS, Fortune 500).'s MySpace are pretty much interchangeable, first take some time to read up on the latest social networking platforms and what they involve.

One great resource is PBS's Media Shift blog by Mark Glaser. His August 2007 guide to social networking offers a comprehensive overview with plenty of links for more information.

But that doesn't address your central dilemma: Should your company jump in or run away?

"Lots of clients are asking about Facebook as a viable marketing tool, and I tell them all that it depends on the business and what it is trying to achieve," says Eric Weaver, vice president and managing director of the public relations firm Edelman Digital.

"Facebook has a large user base and lots of traffic, and is a great tool for building a social 'mesh': the digital web of connections between you and people you know," he says.

If you are a good networker, constantly reaching out to interested parties, then you have a better chance of being able to leverage Facebook as a marketing venue.If you simply put up a page and leave it untended, it will likely stagnate and be a waste of time.

Facebook is a place to make connections, not to buy products and services, Weaver notes.

"To show up pushing business goals is a little like an Amway salesman at a neighborhood block party: it's not the right context within which to sell," he says.

But that's not to say businesses large and small haven't used a Facebook presence to boost the bottom line - and Facebook itself welcomes businesses. (You will definitely want to familiarize yourself with its ad program.) The secret is creating compelling content that offers something to an online community.

Rob Key, CEO of Converseon, a New York City consulting firm that advises companies on "Web 2.0" strategies, likens it to the JFK saying about duty - only in this context it's, "Ask not what your social network can do for you, but what you can do for it."

"It's not a supermarket," Key said. "Coming in and putting up a billboard could be counterproductive."

If you think your business has a great narrative and you have valuable content, put online where it will be found and utilized, Weaver says. Think about what medium best showcases your efforts.

"Would prospects benefit from short video clips that demonstrate product usage or a helpful technique? Place them on Google's (GOOG, Fortune 500) YouTube," he suggests. "Are you looking to show off photos of various products? Use Yahoo's (YHOO, Fortune 500) Flickr and leverage the traffic that's already there. Does your audience benefit from regular informational updates? Create a blog or use Twitter to disseminate those updates. Would your audience find interesting a talk program in which thought leaders discussed your industry? Create a downloadable, subscribable podcast, so that listeners can tune in where and when they want."

Podcasting is what gave sustainable living expert Heather Gorringe what she calls her "eureka moment."

Her company, Wiggly Wigglers, is all about making a farmer out of anyone, even if your land holdings amount to little more than a window box. Gorringe used to spend more than $220,000 per year ontraditional advertising, but a simple podcast costing her only $200 per week to produce has been her most effective effort. Now nearly all of her advertising now falls under the umbrella of social media: thepodcast, a blog, a Facebook page, and of course, a Web homepage. What started with little more than passion in 1990 has flourished into a million-dollar business, growing 10% per year and employing 20 staffers.

Alex DeNoble, professor of management and entrepreneurship at San Diego State University, said other small business owners would be well-served to follow Gorringe's model and let enthusiasm for their products drive their Web 2.0 strategies.

"You've got to do it very actively," DeNoble said. "Demonstrating expertise and passion."  To top of page

They're hiring!These Fortune 100 employers have at least 350 openings each. What are they looking for in a new hire? More
If the Fortune 500 were a country...It would be the world's second-biggest economy. See how big companies' sales stack up against GDP over the past decade. More
Sponsored By:
10 of the most luxurious airline amenity kits When it comes to in-flight pampering, the amenity kits offered by these 10 airlines are the ultimate in luxury More
7 startups that want to improve your mental health From a text therapy platform to apps that push you reminders to breathe, these self-care startups offer help on a daily basis or in times of need. More
5 radical technologies that will change how you get to work From Uber's flying cars to the Hyperloop, these are some of the neatest transportation concepts in the works today. More


Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.