A recent study from Constant Contact found that 82 percent of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) surveyed use Facebook for marketing, while according to Socialbakers more than 37,000 businesses have a presence on the social networking giant. Obviously businesses find value in interacting with customers and potential customers on Facebook, but with the arrival of Graph Search, a reimagined social search function which serves hyper-relevant search results from the user’s social graph, the company has made it clear it wants to provide a local user experience.
Facebook adds another high profile outlet and a massive audience to the growing swell of localization — unfortunately not many businesses have kept pace. The CMO Council’s Executive Director Donovan Neale-May stated in a press release announcing a new report on the importance of localization in marketing: “According to the U.S. State Department, American businesses lose $50 billion annually in potential sales because of problems with localization, so it is clear that this localization gap has a significant lost opportunity cost to any business willing to allow 30 days to pass before driving relevant content into a local marketplace.”
So what steps should local marketers take to maximize the value of their Facebook presence? First, marketers should claim location pages and optimize their presence for Graph Search. Second devise a complementary content strategy for corporate brand pages. Local marketers should also consider using Facebook ads to supplement organic pages content.
Optimizing for Graph Search
While traditional search engines return relevant content from the entire Web, Facebook’s Graph Search returns highly personalized content from the searcher’s own personal network by tapping into a searcher’s social graph to find page posts, photos, videos, pages, places or anything shared publicly or with the person conducting the search on Facebook. In the new local-focused Facebook environment, relevance triggers customer engagement which, in turn, keeps location pages visible in Graph Search results and creates even more customer engagement. This cyclical process begins with brands emphasizing their storefront or franchise localization efforts.
The following steps provide local marketers a quick start guide to Graph Search success:
1. Take control
— Be sure to claim location pages on Facebook for each of your brand’s physical entities
— Ensure accuracy of location and contact information
— Merge or remove duplicate listings
— Explore the “parent/child relationship” for corporate and local pages
2. Engage the customer
— Build the local fan base
— Encourage customer reviews, likes and check-ins
— Publish relevant local content to spark engagement
— Emphasize photos and videos
Complementing Local Pages with Corporate Pages
Many companies spent a great deal of time creating, cultivating and maintaining their Facebook brand pages. And even with a new emphasis on local, corporate brand pages can still play a valuable role in local Facebook marketing. For one, the “parent/child relationship” provides Facebook premium advertisers with five or more local location pages the ability to list local store pages on the corporate brand page for easy access and identification. Even for those who don’t meet the requirements for the “parent/child relationship,” the corporate brand page should remain an active presence, providing globally-focused brand content, including engaging consumer-oriented photos, page posts, contests, etc.
The following examples illustrate unique ways the brand page can be used to complement local pages:
— Promote company-wide sales and promotions available at all locations
— Produce and curate content such as coupons usable by location pages for locally-focused outreach
— Publish philanthropic and community-oriented stories of locations (i.e. Did a local store sponsor a softball team that won the league championship? Share the story!)
The possibilities for corporate pages remain flush, so marketers shouldn’t abandon them as they create and use local pages.
Amplifying organic content through advertising
Facebook provides a variety of ad types for marketers, each serving a different function depending upon the advertiser’s goals. For example, within Facebook’s “Marketplace Ads” category, they offer four ad types: a Standard ad, a Like ad, an App ad and an Event ad. Beyond the “Marketplace Ads” offerings, Facebook marketers can also employ “sponsored story” and “sponsored page post” ads in which marketers can boost the visibility of existing stories or page posts for a fee. Finally, Facebook offers “Custom Audience” and “Lookalike Audience” ad targeting capabilities for enhanced ad campaign targeting.
Each ad type offers unique value to the advertiser, but local marketers should focus on the “sponsored” ad types and the use of “Custom” and “Lookalike” audience targeting capabilities.
1. Sponsored Stories
— Allow advertisers to take word-of-mouth recommendations and promote them
— Allow advertisers to reach more people by creating advertisements around a user’s activity and targeting their friends
— Shown to “friends of fans” (users who have a friend that is a fan of your page and interact with your brand)
— Always show the friend’s profile photo and name
2. Sponsored Page Posts
— Promote content posted on any owned page
— Display the same content recently posted to the timeline in an ad unit
— Allow existing fans to interact by liking or commenting directly within the ad<
3. Custom Audience ads
— Match marketer-uploaded data to Facebook user data to identify existing customers or prospects among Facebook users
— Granular targeting allows marketers to display highly-relevant ad content to users
— Facebook does not share the custom list with other advertisers
4. Lookalike Audience ads
— Used after verifying Custom Audience ad success to expand targeting to other Facebook users matching the same demographic criteria
— Can choose from “similarity” (which includes the top 1 percent of people in your selected country who are most similar to your custom audience) or “greater reach” targeting criteria based on campaign goals (which will include the top 5 percent of people in your selected country that are similar to your custom audience, though a less precise match)
These ad types and targeting capabilities offer local marketers effective ways to increase their Facebook marketing outreach at the hyperlocal level. Using sponsored stories and page posts to increase engagement for content on location pages provides a channel for increased awareness of the locations’ offerings — be they sales, in-store events or daily food specials. Using custom and lookalike audience ads to target regular customers with products complementary to recent purchases offers an opportunity to boost sales and increase the likeliness of return visits to their local stores. Many possibilities exist for local markets to use these in conjunction with their existing Facebook marketing efforts to boost the value of organic content.
Putting the Wheels in Motion
For brands with multiple locations, the prospect of managing more than a handful of Facebook location pages, optimizing for graph search, managing a corporate brand page, and handling ad buys probably seems overwhelming. Fortunately, tools can ease the burden of large scale page management; automation technology enables brands to manage multiple pages and ad buys simultaneously while ensuring brand consistency. Often, these tools include varying permission levels; so brands can empower local personnel such as branch managers to provide local content while still maintaining control through an established approval process.
When evaluating the variety of tools on the market, brands should look for one that offers multi-page updating, post moderation, compliance controls, social and advertising analytics (to measure success), and ad buying automation. Beyond this minimum standard, brands should find the tool that best suits their needs from a partner they trust.
Brands that successfully utilize automation technology to mitigate the potential stumbling blocks in creating, maintaining and optimizing local Facebook pages (scalability, compliance and resources) can boost the visibility of their locations. But even companies who choose to forego automation technology can have local Facebook marketing success through quick and thorough implementation of the steps outlined above.
Tara Thomas is the Vice President of Client Strategy for SIM Partners (www.simpartners.com), located in Evanston, Ill. SIM Partners technology empowers major brands to maximize digital marketing results at a local level. Contact Tara at firstname.lastname@example.org.