The Five Deadly Facebook Sins
It's official: U.S. web surfers now spend more time on Facebook than they do on any other website.
Online tracking firm comScore just revealed that the average U.S. web surfer now spends about 10 percent of his or her total time online on Facebook, with Google coming in second place.
With Facebook the most popular destination on the internet, many savvy entrepreneurs are now looking for the best ways to market their businesses to Facebook's 500 million users.
But Facebook marketing isn't as easy as you may think.
If you know what you're doing, you can quickly generate a large, loyal fan base to which you can market your products and services. But if you violate the unspoken rules of Facebook etiquette, you not only could find yourself without fans -- you could also end up generating negative buzz for your business on the world's largest social network.
Here are five cardinal "sins" to avoid when marketing your business on Facebook:
Mistake No. 1: Sending Business Traffic to Your Personal Profile As a general rule of thumb, profile pages are for people, and fan pages are for businesses.
The main benefit of using a fan page for your business is that fan pages are indexed by the search engines, while most profile pages are not (depending on your settings). This means your fan page content can show up in Google, Yahoo! and Bing search results, exposing your business to tons of potential new customers who are not on Facebook.
Plus, if you add your website URL to your fan page bio, you'll have an inbound link from Facebook (a high-ranking site) to your website. This can boost your website even further in the search engine results.
Another disadvantage of using a profile page for your business is that you can have a maximum of 5,000 friends. With a fan page, you can have unlimited fans, which is essential if your goal is to attract as many fans as possible.
Mistake No. 2: Giving Your Fans the Silent Treatment Many business owners put a lot of time and effort into attracting fans on Facebook, then never engage them in conversation. This is a big mistake.
Think of your fan page as a never-ending networking party you are hosting for like-minded people. Would you invite people to your party and not speak to them after they walk through the door? Of course not.
The whole purpose of having a Facebook fan page is to engage and interact with your fans. It's a social network, after all -- so go socialize.
In this case, the party is your fan page, you are the host and the mingling is happening on your fan page wall. When people post comments on your wall, a good host will reply, ask questions and engage. Aim to create a conversation.
Do this, and when it comes time to promote your products or services down the road, you'll find your fans will be much more open and receptive to what you have to offer.
Mistake No. 3: Posting at All Hours of the Day or Night The whole purpose of your fan page is to get your message in front of as many fans as possible and to get them commenting on it, hitting that little "like" thumbs up, or sharing it on their wall feed so their Facebook friends will see it, too.
If you post an update for your fans in the wee hours of the morning or super late at night, it doesn't matter how good your content is -- chances are, the majority of your fans aren't going to see it.
Atlanta-based Vitrue, a company that manages social media marketing for hundreds of high-end brands in a range of niches, recently released some excellent data on the best time of day to publish a wall post on your fan page.
After comparing stats from 265 million fans from the hundreds of Facebook fan pages it manages, Vitrue noticed that wall posts made before noon get an average of 65 percent more engagement than wall posts made in the afternoon or evening. (Again, Facebook engagement means shares, likes and comments from your fans on your fan page wall.)
It seems most people check Facebook in the morning, most likely over a cup of coffee at the office before the day gets busy.
With this in mind, save the early-morning or late-night posts for your personal profile page. Put posts on your business fan page wall before noon.
Mistake No. 4: Posting Text-Only Wall Posts Posting text-only wall posts day after day is kind of like serving the same thing for dinner over and over. Even if what you're serving up is delicious, repetition is boring.
To keep your fans interested and engaged, mix it up by posting a combination of text, pictures and video.
More data released by Vitrue reveals that wall posts containing pictures usually get 54 percent more fan engagement than straight text posts. Video posts come in second, getting 27 percent more engagement than text posts. Text posts come in last out of the three.
So to get your fans commenting on, liking and sharing your content, include pictures, graphics and other eye candy in your posts -- and include them often.
Mistake No. 5: Promoting, Promoting, Promoting One of the reasons Facebook is a fantastic place to attract new customers is because the social network is such an open, friendly place. Most Facebook users are on the site to connect with friends and, as a result, you can market here without encountering a lot of buyer skepticism you'll find elsewhere.
Less-than-savvy business owners who relentlessly post promotion after promotion will quickly find their fan numbers dwindling. Annoyed fans can choose to hide your updates or simply "unlike" your fan page altogether.
To avoid this, observe the 80/20 rule.
Eighty percent of your wall posts should offer no-strings-attached value to your fans in the form of tips, advice or friendly banter. Once you've built up a relationship with your fans, you can talk about your products or services the other 20 percent of the time.
When it comes to marketing your business on Facebook, keep in mind that you're entering a social network, and new rules apply. Social networks are all about networking, interacting and connecting.
Start with a professional fan page, post a combination of text, video and images during the first part of each day, and focus on building relationships instead of selling. That way, you'll be positioned to grow a large, loyal fan base of potential customers.
Elizabeth Southall is the founder ofDot Com Diva. A former direct response marketing coach to Fortune 500s and seven-figure website owners, today she shows women entrepreneurs simple, ethical and fast ways to reach more customers online.