Facebook can help biz manage inventory, protect brand

Companies can go beyond customer engagement, by leveraging data from "likes" and allowing brand advocates to counter negative comments.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

Managing inventory and driving sales are some of the ways organizations can use the social network to improve their business, especially for small and midsize businesses (SMBs).

Facebook Like
Facebook Like

Companies can use the platform to understand what customers want and plan their inventory accordingly, said Grady Burnett, vice president of global marketing solutions at Facebook, in an interview with ZDNet during his visit to Singapore.

Using 1-800-Flowers.com as an example, Burnett noted the U.S. e-commerce site installed "Like" buttons, letting visitors like a particular bouquet or other product they would be happy to receive for Mother's Day. It then found four of the top five bouquets "liked" were best sellers.

Businesses can also leverage "fans" on their Facebook Page to be advocates for them, said Burnett.

He said many companies were previously worried of social media risks such as customer complaints appearing on their Page.

However, many organizations realized loyal fans would help defend the brand on the page, he said. Responses from fans are "incredibly powerful" to counteract negative comments as replies from the company may feel like "public relations" statements, he said.

That said, organizations should not ignore complaints made on social media but address the grieved user by answering their post or sending them a private message, he said.

Facebook advertising can help SMBs
A survey published in October found that 43 percent of SMBs spend 6 or more hours per week on social media.

Responding to the survey findings, Burnett said the time consumed is similar to how users spend their time on Facebook. A lot of SMBs start out as individuals on Facebook and use their personal accounts to promote their business, he noted.

SMBs then move on to set up a Page for their business and promote the business to their existing fans who then share with other friends.

"That's a tremendously powerful way for businesses to grow through word-of-mouth and connections of their best customers. As that happens, a SMB will spend more time on Facebook doing productive things to drive their business," he said.

Burnett added that Facebook is also working on ways to make their advertising tools easier to use for businesses. He said SMB owners' main concern is that they have no time as they often have to juggle five to six different jobs at the same time.

He believes that the simplicity of Facebook advertising tools is beneficial for SMBs to reach more customers. He said Promoted Post function allows the business to spreading a post that was written to a wider audience who is connected to their existing customers.

He added that there is a growing belief among companies in the region that social advertising is important and this is reflected in the predicted increase in social advertising spend.

Building personal relationships with advertisers
As personal relationships play a key role for businesses in Asia, Burnett pointed out Facebook interacts with advertisers in the region not just through online channels.

"We work hard to interact with customers the way they want. Some of that is face-to-face, some of that is over the phone, some of that is over the e-mail and some of them are through the product," he said.

Facebook also works with marketers and advertising agencies in the region in person in each others' offices as well as meet potential clients at tradeshows and various industry events, he said.

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