“The future is private.”
That’s what Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg declared during his keynote address at the company’s annual conference in 2019.
It was a strong statement from the social network, which has been enmeshed in numerous privacy scandals over the last few years. But the point was made clear throughout the rest of Zuckerberg’s talk.
Over the next year, Facebook will focus on encrypted messaging via WhatsApp and Messenger, as well as creating “simple intimate spaces” for individuals to connect online. This means they’ll be encouraging one-to-one interactions over spending time on Instagram and Facebook’s News Feed.
This also means many businesses must change from the broadcast approach of sharing posts to something quite different. But what does that look like?
Here are a four key things small businesses can do to find success on Facebook and Instagram as this shift in focus occurs.
1. Start or join a Facebook Group.
When Facebook starts releasing new features for a particular product, it’s fair to assume that product will be a focus within the platform.
It makes sense for them to focus on Facebook Groups since membership has increased by 40 percent in the last few years. That means about 1.4 billion people — more than half of Facebook’s massive user base — are using Groups every month!
Additionally, research from Facebook shows that Groups are seeing a lot more engagement than Pages. Part of this may be due to the fact that posts from the Groups in which you’re regularly active are given a higher status in your News Feed.
If that hasn’t convinced you that Facebook has a laser focus on promoting its Groups, consider that already back in 2017, when the platform held its first Communities Summit, 300 adminastrators from popular Groups met Mark Zuckerberg and were told by Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg: “You guys are the mission.”
Prompts like the one below, which appear on Facebook Pages, also confirm the company’s growing emphasis on Facebook Groups.
How To Create A Facebook Group
If you have the time and the resources, creating a Group for your audience is a fantastic way to increase organic engagements with your Page and create a sense of community.
The practical steps to setting up a Group on a desktop computer are as follows:
- While logged in as an administrator on your Facebook page, look for a prompt on the right-hand side of your screen that you can click to create a Group. If you do not see that prompt, click on the “Groups” tab on the left-hand side of your screen and select “Create Group.”
- Name your Group to reflect the community’s focus. For example, a craft store might create a Group named, “Crafting & DIY Projects.”
- Invite the top fans of your page. These are the people who engage with every post, or the people you consider your best customers. Also invite industry leaders and influencers within your community.
- Select the privacy setting (Public, Secret or Closed) for your Group. Below is a breakdown from Facebook of what each setting entails.
- Upload a cover photo to personalize your Group. Incorporate your brands company’s colors, font and logo.
- Add details to make your Group easy to find. Click the “More” tab at the top of your Group page and select “Edit Group Settings.” Specifically, you want to:
- Create rules of engagement for your Facebook Group. You can add up to 10 rules. Here are some helpful guidelines from Facebook.
- Write a description. This should be a short paragraph specifying the Group’s purpose along with a short sentence about your business. Here’s an example for the craft store mentioned earlier:
This Group was created to help crafters and DIYers find answers to all of their crafting and DIY questions, to share photos of their projects, and to celebrate each other’s accomplishments. Craft Store Unlimited in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, serves as the administrator of this Group, and we may occasionally share craft tips, as well as upcoming events at the craft store.
- Click “Save,” and share your first post!
How To Find A Facebook Group
If you don’t have the time and resources to invest in creating and managing a Facebook Group, you can search for Groups to join that are relevant to your business.
Simply go to Facebook’s search bar and type a phrase related to your business, such as “craft projects.” From the search results, select “Groups” to find relevant options.
Click the “Join” button. If the Group allows Facebook pages to participate, you will be able to select your Page profile to join the group. Otherwise you will have to use your personal profile.
After joining – or after your join request has been approved – read the rules carefully, and begin to post and engage with other members.
Avoid self-promotion. This is an opportunity to authentically engage with others, offer advice and post helpful content (if permitted by the Group’s rules).
Remember, the point of the Group is to build community, not advertise. However, authentic participation in the Group can be an important tool in building loyalty among customers and potential customers.
2. Invest in Instagram and Facebook Stories.
It’s safe to say Stories are an effective way to garner attention for your brand and engagement from customers. That’s because Facebook and Instagram Stories have 500 million users! Besides that, Stories occupy a can’t-miss position at the top of the platform’s home page on mobile.
Here are a few tips to get the most out of the Stories feature.
- Use relevant stickers, which are located within the square smiley-face at the top of your Stories creation screen. Test the different stickers to see which ones work best with your audience. Options include:
- Location tags
- Make sure your Story does just that – tells a story! Create a story arc, like a day-in-the-life feature, or videos and posts about how a product is made, to compel the viewer to watch the entire Story.
- Include a call to action. If you have a verified account or more than 10,000 followers, you can add a link to your website. Otherwise, the call to action could direct readers to visit your profile to click a link, send you a direct message, or even respond to a poll or question.
3. Direct message your customers and clients.
Instagram direct messaging is one of the best avenues for one-to-one communication on the platform. It allows you to communicate with people directly so you can have in-depth conversations.
But remember, messages should have an authentic, genuine feel that showcases your brand voice and focuses on the person you’re messaging. This is not the time to do a sales pitch!
Here are a few tips that will help you make the most of direct messaging:
- Respond to the Instagram Stories posted by the people you follow with well-thought-out messages.
- Send direct messages (DMs) to welcome new followers. But before you do, visit their feed so you can include a relevant observation or a question about their profile in your message.
- Regularly DM someone who likes or comments on your posts. Thank them for engaging with your content and, occasionally, even offer to send them a small freebie or swag as a token of appreciation.
4. Engage with customers.
Engaging with customers on social is one of the biggest missed opportunities for businesses of all sizes for two reasons.
First, responding to customers can improve where the platform’s algorithm places your content in the feed.
Second (and most importantly), engagement helps the customer feel heard, understood and valued.
Here are a few quick ways small businesses can engage well with clients:
- Follow the Facebook Pages of your clients’ businesses and engage with the posts.
- Follow your clients’ businesses on Instagram and the personal accounts of the people you know well within the company. Then respond to their posts with relevant and interesting comments.
- Like and respond to every comment on your Facebook and Instagram posts. This can be as simple as thanking someone for their feedback or as fun as replying with a GIF, which you can do on Facebook.
- Reply to every message you receive. You can create Quick Replies on Instagram and Saved Replies on Facebook if you frequently get similar questions. But be sure to write as though you are talking to a customer.
An example of a good Quick or Saved Reply:
Hey there! Our hours are 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, but we’d recommend stopping by on Monday because we offer complimentary coffee that day. [smiley face emoji] Stop by the counter to say hello, and I’ll help you find anything you need! -Bethany
An example of an impersonal Quick or Saved Reply:
We are open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. There is complimentary coffee on Monday as well.
A Pivot to Privacy Could Be A Good Thing
It’s easy to feel like the sky is falling when platforms announce massive changes. But when you read between the lines, you can find new ways to reach customers and find success as a small business on social media.
Social media still offers an exceptional opportunity to get to know your customers and serve them better. You just have to be willing to pivot right along with the platforms.