A Facebook page for businesses

Consider business goals before setting up presence on social networking site, experts advise firms, offering five tips for them to embark on Facebook endeavors.

Businesses should consider their customers' needs and business goals before they set up a Facebook Page, experts said.

In an effort to win marketers to the platform, Facebook earlier this year launched free profiles for brands called Facebook Pages, aimed at allowing companies to engage user dialog on the social networking site.

Forrester senior analyst, Steven Noble, and NetProfitQuest media marketing trainer, Willy Lim, weighed in on how businesses should plan their Facebook presence.

1. Choose a name for your page carefully
Facebook Pages are indexed by search engines, said Lim in an e-mail interview. Business owners should list the company name, and a description of their products and services so that the page can be found easily when people search for the company.

2. Spread the word carefully
Lim said business owners can announce the launch of their Facebook Page on their personal profile wall or even their friends' wall, but be careful and not "spam" these message boards.

Businesses can also promote their page by posting messages within other related groups. "Try messaging the group administrators and officers to ask their permission to promote your Facebook page within their group. They may even be willing to promote your Facebook page for you," he said.

3. To spur growth, be interesting not pushy
Noble said that too many marketers try to get attention by "bombarding new streams with application updates and users with invites". He said that this might draw attention but will ultimately damage their brand names.

"The slower, sustainable path to growth is being genuinely interesting. Then your true fans on Facebook will happily spread the word on your behalf," he added.

4. Plan your content moderation strategy from the start
For businesses that expect their Facebook users to scale, Noble suggested investing in a third-party Facebook moderation system. He said: "Facebook's built-in tools for moderating content are fine for low-level activity, but don't scale well [for] large groups.

"Third-party tools scale well for large Facebook groups, but to install them in a group that already has activity involves ripping out existing conversations, which hurts the community," he added.

5. Create value by creating content
"If there’s one business-related activity that Facebook supports well, it's providing access to your content," said Noble. "If you invest in creating a Facebook page, invest much, much more in creating content, ensuring it's first rate and plentiful. Use the Facebook page as one of many channels for sharing this content with your community."

Lim added that the fun of social media is that it is "social". "So be creative and run some events such as contests, workshops or webinars, to engage your fans. When fans RSVP, their friends will see the news in their news feeds. Your event becomes viral and people who are not your friends may see it too, resulting in even more people joining your Facebook page," he said.

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