August 18, 2011
Command, Contest, Cause and Connect
“We’ve got to have a Facebook page!” That’s the exclamation of every small business. And, while many pages go live, they sit almost lifeless, as one of an infinite number of silent trees in a dense forest.
Many small business owners are increasingly recognizing that Facebook is fast becoming their number one public relations tool. But in order to sustain the life-blood for that page, they need to incorporate public relations tactics to generate traffic and build brand awareness. An easy and creative way to do this is to incorporate 4C’s to “PR” your Facebook page: command, contest, cause and connect.
Creating command of an issue or topic is central to establishing a niche authority in your industry. Apple commands the portable music market. Google is the search authority. Nike is the running show king. They all sell other products or services, but have commanded a niche. Let’s say you’re a baker, with shelves full of cookies, cakes, pies, donuts, breads, etc. Pick one of your products. In this instance, let’s take the cake!
Establish your command as the local cake authority. Some suggestions might include posting fun articles on your page about cake related stories (Kim Kardashian’s desire to have a “William and Kate” cake), contacting local reporters offering yourself up as the local Cake Boss, and posting any ensuing coverage on your page. And, while we’re talking about “cake” TV shows, post comments that critique episodes of Ace of Cakes. Encourage your fans to send in their favorite cake recipes, or have them vote for their favorite cake. Gradually, your command of the subject of cakes will begin to spread, inevitably drawing more customers to your business, who, while there to buy a cake, may pick up a dozen donuts and a loaf of bread as well. Substitute “cake” for any of your product offerings, then “command” becomes “cookie” cutter!
PR driven contests are a great way to build traffic and fans on your Facebook page so long as the contest raises and reinforces awareness about your service or product offerings. MasterCard and American Airlines, Dunkin’ Donuts and Captain America: The First Avenger, and EA Skate and Miracle Whip, all non-competing entities, recently teamed-up for co-sponsored Facebook contests.
Similarly, for a small business, Facebook contests are more successful and effective when co-sponsored with a non-competing local partner. Let’s go back to the bakery! We can indulge ourselves in pastries – almost guilt-free – as long as we keep up with our exercise. How about hitting the gym, literally and figuratively!
For example, the bakery works with a local gym for two weeks on a mutually beneficial promotion, and offers fans of the gym’s Facebook page 15% off of its whole wheat bread and gluten-free products; in exchange, the gym offers a 15% discount on products and services available at the health club to the bakery fans. During this promotion, new members of the bakery’s Facebook community will be eligible to win a month’s free supply of whole wheat bread; similarly, new fans of the gym’s Facebook page can enter to win a free one-month membership. This “out of the box” contest and unlikely pairing allows the bakery (also the gym) to spread brand awareness to a brand new audience online.
Nothing spreads goodwill like supporting a local cause, particularly one that has an active fan base on Facebook. Every major corporation and business helps support a variety of causes, i.e. Toys “R” Us and Autism Speaks, Macy’s and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Kmart and the March of Dimes. Local businesses should adopt the same big-business mentality, and not only help support a local charity, but engage your fans (and theirs) in a clever campaign to raise awareness for the cause and for you. Let’s go back to the baker who is in the food business. Inevitably, the baker is providing day-old bagels to soup kitchens, which is noble, but is it helping grow brand awareness and business, particularly via social media?
So, let’s cook-up a cause campaign! Suppose the baker embarks on a “Pie-Us” (notice the synonym for noble) campaign to help the soup kitchen. The first order of business is to partner – again, as above, two heads are better than one – with a local restaurant (preferably one that the baker works with as a vendor, or any non-competing food business) for a new pie recipe contest via the bakery’s and restaurant’s Facebook pages. The champion pie (named after the winner), prepared by the bakery, is then sold to the restaurant and served there for one month. For each pie sold, the bakery and restaurant make an agreed-upon donation to the soup kitchen. The campaign helps a worthy cause, promotes brand awareness (for all three entities), solidifies the bakery as the local authority on pies, and creates excitement and new fans on the bakery’s Facebook page.
By its very nature, social media is meant to connect. Thus, Facebook initiatives should connect your business with new and potential customers. For every new fan you gain on Facebook through unique cause programs, contests or promotions, you’re automatically connecting with your new fans’ Facebook friends, introducing your brand to scores of potential new customers.
Many businesses “preach to the choir” by keeping their posts and activities limited to bland (can we say “stale” at this point) and business-centric posts, links and comments. Moreover, they treat the page as a circular, posting endless sales and specials. This was not how Facebook was intended to be used, and this will not connect you with new customers.
A famous automotive CEO once said that the secret to success for a business was to “communicate, communicate, communicate.” Today, that word can be replaced with connect. Connect by commanding an issue, connect with local and non-competing businesses, connect contests to causes and promotions, connect your brand to new customers by connecting PR to social media campaigns on Facebook!
John Casey, a former public and media relations executive for Toys “R” Us, Sears and Kmart, is currently director of freshfluff: spread good stuff!, a PR/social media agency in New York www.freshfluff.com. Read about freshfluff’s successful PR/social media campaign for a Michigan tax business in the latest issue of Taxpro Journal.