Is Facebook right for my business? How many times have you asked yourself this simple question? I get it a lot from my clients and contacts. There are quite a few things to consider, but I start with three simple concepts and work from there:

  1. What is the company’s target market?
  2. Why are people using Facebook?
  3. What would success look like?

What is the company’s target market?

A company needs to be sure of who they want as customers, and where they see future growth. For some this is easy. The local bike shop, they know exactly who the need to reach: Cycling enthusiasts, people considering improving their fitness, families, etc. But it surprises me how often a business is unsure of their target market. They try to be all things to all people and ultimately they are excelling at anything. A restaurant might say “We want people who are hungry”. That’s everybody 3 or 4 times a day. People want to make a connection with the businesses they patronize. This connection needs to be nurtured by the business owner and can only be done if the target market is defined.

Why are people using Facebook?

While the first question is largely Marketing 101, understanding Facebook is challenging for most businesses. I’ve met many people who consider Facebook a means for people to waste time (and I don’t necessarily disagree). According to Nielson , time spent on Facebook was up 700% in April 2009 vs. April 2008. Surely some of the people in this study are “wasting” time, playing farmville or running a mafia. However, there are many people who are using Facebook as a means to stay connected with distant friends and close friends. People’s relationships grow stronger, and time spent on Facebook increases. But, what does this have to do with marketing? The common thread is almost all of the time is personal. Even if they are accessing Facebook from work, it’s largely for personal reasons. The actual audience may overlap with LinkedIn, but when people are on LinkedIn they are looking for business contacts, a job or staying in touch with associates. Those same people will likely be on Facebook, but there contacts will only slightly overlap.

What would success look like?

No marketing campaign should commence without defining success beforehand. This is one of the gotchas with Facebook. Too often a company will jump in because “Everybody else is doing it” or “my kid said I need to have a Group Page”. Once they are up and running they end up disappointed. Why? Because their reason didn’t include a goal. A restaurant could have 50 followers, but is that success? Or is 500? Or more? The lack of a goal set them up for disappointment in another way. Having thousands of fans is nothing if they don’t become a customer. Success is converting Facebook fans to customers, otherwise you have a negative ROI.

This is a start.

These three questions are the beginning. They do give a business a starting point. Does your target market include people who are spending personal time on Facebook and do you have the means to convert fans to customers?