Recently I read that when it comes to actual “lead-generation” on Facebook, many businesses are struggling. Retail businesses are doing great with 90% acquiring customers through Facebook, however restaurants, doctors, lawyers, and education just aren’t making the grade.
Personally, I have not witnessed this myself; in fact about 1/3rd of my customers have come from Facebook or LinkedIn. I feel those who have lost faith are just going about it the wrong way. See, there is much more to Facebook than just profiles, business pages and paid ads. It could be they are missing out because they aren't taking advantage of Facebook Groups, especially those in their own neighborhoods.
Local communities around the nation are creating these digital community pages that allow the members to discuss a variety of topics such as:
- Favorite local restaurants
- Best doctors, dentists, pediatricians
- Favorite vet or dog walker
- Local community issues
- Home based business and vendor events
- And much more…
That is just the business side of things. Think of the possibilities one may gain just by becoming a member of their community page. The true secret to getting the best out of these sites is to become a valuable asset to the group. Use your strengths; became a local expert in your community and be an informative and beneficial member of the group.
I live in the community of South Riding in Loudoun County, Virginia. We have at least ten pages alone dedicated to the community including:
- South Riding Community Page
- Dulles Area Community Forum
- Dulles South Referral Network
- South Riding Freecycle
These communities provide the neighborhood with a wealth of information from social issues like cleaning up after your dog, to personal needs like who is the best pediatrician in the neighborhood. If you’re a part of the group, and you’re a pediatrician, think of how much information you can gather. You can learn:
- Who the community likes best
- What it is about them that makes them the most attractive
- What you can do to attract new customer
- Introduce yourself
- Invite locals to give your practice another chance, as you have been actively listening to what it is they really want
I have seen so many people walk away from a business based on bad customer service alone, and when you read what it is they are really frustrated about, you have an amazing opportunity to fix the problem and invite them back.
Follow The Rules
Now this may see but there are rules. Many sites do not like business ads, but understand they are a valuable part of the group, as many of the members own their own businesses, so they tolerate them. Most sites I have run into do not tolerate:
- Posting more than once a week
- Posting negative ads about other business
- Not offering members anything of value, even if it’s just information
- Don't clog the site with ads, post, but post smart
A community site left to run amok with ads will be taken over by MLM’s and online scams, so it’s good to be vigilant about who and where you are posting. I run my own site, Dulles Area Community Forum and I have learned a lot from doing so; over doing it with ads will cost you more than it will benefit you.
Be a Community Leader
Use your skills to benefit the group and don’t be too vocal about public issues, unless that is just who you are. I express myself in many ways, and like most digital mediums, sarcasm and dry humor just don’t come off well, so just be careful what you say and how you say it. It has taken me quite a while to gain the trust of those in my community, because in my early social media life; I was quite vocal and people did not respond well.
A lot depends on where your site is, so embrace your community’s culture and you will learn what makes it tick. I have seen quite a few local leaders have very positive experiences by remaining neutral with their own personal opinions, while embracing community involvement. Especially when you show your altruistic side, help others and you will be remembered for it.
Know your Audience
Each and every group has a social structure and its own individual culture, usually one that is embraced by the actual community as well. They have local legends and lore, celebrities and well-loved community leaders. They also have trolls, negative Nancy’s and those who are there to simply serve their own needs. Take your time to get to know what the group is about and when you're ready, start posting.
Be genuine and let them know who you are, but don't push your business on them, just offer your advice if warranted. It’s a Facebook group, you will read some of the most off the wall posts, be witness to tempers flying and relationships building, but if done right you and your business can become a valuable part of the community.