Starting Out on Facebook: Small Business Marketing Solutions or Useless Sales Pitch?

August 12th, 2011 by Douglas Thomas

facebook small business marketing

That's some brand love.

A few weeks ago, Facebook Marketing Solutions, the advertising side of the social media giant, released its new education portal for small businesses just starting out online, titled Facebook for Business.

The Facebook page for the group is nothing more than a simple sales pitch for businesses becoming involved on the site. It’s tips for publishing, appeals to outmoded user statistics, and overall tone is clearly directed at the first-time Facebook advertisers. Promoting Sponsored Stories seems to be the main goal, though the ability for a small business to achieve such a close relationship with the company behind the site is not clear at first glance: Nike, American Express, and a page that can get 100 answers to the question “Blue or purple?” are featured, but no one just starting out with limited brand awareness. However, as you delve deeper into the videos, a number of case studies can be heard by the part-time Internet marketer to help understand the basics of the varied services Facebook offers, explained in a way that focuses on what makes social media advertising different from traditional venues.

But July 27th brought a new arena for the first-time marketer. The Facebook for Business site offers a set of introductory slides more like what one would expect on the Facebook page. The Best Practice Guide and other tips take the unedited rambling of the taped live webinars from the Facebook page and put them into clear slideshows (though inexplicably as unsharable and minimally-graphable PDFs). Discussing Pages, Ads, Sponsored Stories, and the “Platform,” Facebook lays out its basic services in an all-too-simple way.

The site is clearly for someone who doesn’t muck with websites, as just one tab describing the Open Graph protocol for a new marketer would show a whole new world, integrating on-site tagging with a need to contact a Preferred Developer to best take advantage of the depth of information one can provide, shape, and offer to their clients.

It’s easy, at least for the somewhat experienced marketer, to come up with counterexamples, glossed-over topics that are the core of Facebook advertising such as effective demographic targeting, and the just-seething disdain for squares who just haven’t gotten how cool Social Media is. But I applaud Facebook for their efforts; the only other major social media outlet for business is Twitter, which starts its Promoted links at $5,000 per month and provides little information for its non-paid business partners. Google+ recently purged business accounts, asking creators of those accounts to “hold off,” and have been “focusing on the consumer experience” — words that are hardly music to marketers’ ears.

What the shortcomings of the Facebook for Business and Facebook Marketing Solutions pages really show off is that a business needs dedicated social media management, whether through an SEO firm or internally. The waters are murky and best handled by someone who knows not just the sales pitch for getting involved, but also the mechanics of the process and what little stuff can greatly improve the social footprint of the small business. It’s too hard to sum up everything that should and could be done to optimally advertise using social media just on a few webpages or through a few taped webinars — the best thing is to call Ghostbusters and let Peter and Ray and Egon worry about the ghosts so business owners can get back to directly helping their customers.