Guys! It's my Facebook anniversary! What? You don't celebrate yours? This marks our eighth year together (we go back further than my husband and I do). This is the story of how we met - and basically it was love at first sight.
Four months after Facebook became available to the general public I was working as a university recruiter and I received an invite from one of my recruits, a Bermudian student, to be her friend on Facebook. This was during the days when I’d get these invites often from one start-up social platform after another (hi5 anyone?) and ignored most of them. I honestly had not even heard of Facebook at that point but I had a great relationship with this student so I signed up and she became my first Facebook friend on January 19, 2007. Two days later I added my first status update – a very fortuitous one as it were - “Heidi Tattrie is becoming addicted to Facebook and her MySpace is feeling unloved”.
I started to explore the site and my mind immediately began to race with ways that we could connect with prospective students online. They were all here! Facebook had been building a database of college and university students since 2004, and high school students since 2005. In the fall of 2006 they opened it up to everyone, much to the chagrin of the “youth” users. In fact an article from USA Today in 2006 quoted Danah Boyd, a social media researcher for Yahoo, as saying "Already, the high school students, college students and corporate accounts are having a hard time dealing with each other's presence . . . I don't even want to think what will happen when Mom and Dad can join."’ Ironically my Mom was the fourth friend I added.
As I began to understand what a great relationship building tool Facebook was, I immediately envisioned a marketing presence for the university I represented. I saw ways we could build genuine connections with students; it would also be an easy way to inform them about our special events and remind them of application deadlines in real time. Emails were the closest thing to “real time” that we had then and we were pretty sure that many of those were unopened or bumped to spam. The only problem with Facebook was that there was no such thing as a business page – at this point there were only personal profiles. I figured I could get around that by making a “person” of the institution and encouraging students to friend us when we communicated with them via old-school routes (i.e. email, letter, phone).
We gained a huge number of friends – high school students loved connecting with us on Facebook and registering for events that we would create on the page so they could see who else was attending. Combined with our live chats on MSN Messenger we were way ahead of our competition on the social media curve. Eventually Facebook shut us down (apparently you weren’t supposed to create a business profile as a person – whoops! *bats eyelashes innocently*), but not much later they started adding Groups where we could create a legitimate presence and, well, once Facebook themselves realized the leverage they had in the marketing field, we all know what happened from there.
I still love social media and how it allows people to share their stories and provides constant opportunities to learn. If I'm being completely honest though, I also love the thrill of the chase. We all know that even if you're fully committed to social media, it's always out there playing the field. You've got to keep working at that relationship and figuring out what is important to it in order to be successful. So, even though we've been together eight years and counting (longer if you count those flings with MSN Messenger and MySpace), and even though I know y'all are close with it too, it's still a special day for Facebook and me. Worthy of at least a glass of champagne, some chocolate, and some bubble bath status updates...oh, have I shared too much?
Sure, Facebook is great for my personal life, but do I need it for my small business?
A social media strategy something every business should consider when creating their marketing plan. Facebook is the place most businesses start their social media presence, and with good reason. With Facebook reporting 1.35 billion active users as of September 2014 it continually wins first place in the popularity contests. Savvy business owners realize that this is where their clients are and so they understand the value of putting marketing efforts into creating engaging and valuable content. An active and current social media presence is a huge part of a customer service strategy. It humanizes your brand and connects you to your community.
The key is in using it correctly and tailoring it to your ideal clients’ interests.. Social media is - first and foremost - social; business is second. Creating a solid Facebook presence takes time and commitment to get it right so that you’re finding authentic ways to connect with your clients; expressing your brand accurately; and not stepping on any social media etiquette toes.
How do you get started if your business is not on Facebook, or you have an inactive presence? Spend some time thinking about what goals you want to achieve from your company’s social media experience, and then start building your strategy and content from there. Facebook, and social media in general, is here to stay and, rather than seeing it as yet another task to take care of, try seeing it as a great opportunity to create thoughtful, engaging content that shares your unique story with others.
Tell me your Facebook story! What was your first status? Who was your first friend? Are you still friends?
TIP: If you can’t remember your Facebook "firsts" they have a nifty tool that allows you to download ALL of your Facebook history in just moments. Simply go to the drop-down arrow on the top right corner of the your Facebook page, click on Settings, then click on “Download a copy of your Facebook data” underneath the General Account Settings box. It takes a couple minutes but then everything you’ve ever done will be there for you to waste, er, I mean enjoy, hours reviewing.
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