Why SMBs should support a Facebook 'brand' fan page

Research suggests very few Facebook fans are active on the Pages they 'like', but they are vital for one really important reason: they help foster long-term relationships.

As a journalist, I constantly struggle with myself over whether to really build the "brand" of my Facebook fan Page or simply let people subscribe to my personal Facebook identity, and therefore be privy to my public status updates and posting.

Right now, posting all of my professional commentary in both places is time-consuming which is why I struggle with this question. Plus, I'm still not completely resigned to the fact that my personal and professional identities should be completely entwined like some of the high-profile journalists that I personally follow.

My point for musing about this publicly is that I was intrigued by some Facebook Page statistics recently reported by my fellow ZDNet commentator, Emil Protalinski. His article, "Only 1% of Facebook Page users engage with brands," suggested that even though some Pages might have a lot of "fans" (the individuals that choose to "like" your Page), the level of engagement of fans with the average Page overall is pretty minimal. In fact, he reports that a study by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute has found that slightly more than 1 percent of the average Page's fans are "active." That means they commented on a link you posted, RSVPed for an event, mentioned your Page in a post of their own and so on.

The study followed uber-brands, which sometimes can have millions of followers. So a 1 percent number actually would be a pretty staggering number of people.

I have been thinking about this statistic every since I read it, but on Wednesday I had a conversation that convinced me that small businesses shouldn't necessarily be discouraged by that number -- especially when you consider the true value of a "fan" Page. It is to keep people interested in your "brand," not convert people.

I had this "aha" moment on Wednesday with Tim Hebert, who is the CEO of an SMB technology integration firm in Warwick, R.I. Naturally, one would expect a company involved with technology to be pretty social media-savvy, and Atrion focuses on the big three: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Each serves different purposes, and when it comes to Facebook, Hebert said the fan Page is about relationships. So, the company shares information about events, its community work, customer wins and the like.

As Atrion Networking began measuring the impact of its social media efforts, it found that the customers following its Facebook Page had a higher "vitality" score than otherwise. That is, they tend to be those who are in a long-term relationship with the company, rather than random clients.

If your small business is still struggling with why it would want to create a fan Page, there is one really good reason that it can't hurt to experiment: it will help you organization keep customers and business partners updated on important developments. It also can give your team a sense of which relationships might deserve some more investment in the "real world."


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