The Advantages of Using Facebook for Public Relations
By Karen S. Johnson
It may be surprising that Facebook has evolved into a legitimate public relations tool, but that is good news for small business owners. Like any PR tactic, though, don’t start using it without a strategy. Determine what you want to get out of your Facebook use and investigate different ways to use it. If you will be the one “manning” the site for your business, give yourself time to go through a learning curve. A Facebook presence should be just one piece of your public relations activities, so fill the gaps with other tactics.
Facebook is free. It provides you with a venue to promote your business, post special offers and build relationships with the media and your customers. The only cost is the time it takes you to post information, monitor responses and post replies. Even if you decide in your overall PR plan that Facebook has only a small audience reach for your business, the low-cost factor should not be overlooked. In June 2012, Facebook boasted 955 million users per month, with 552 million using the site every day. A small percentage of that translates into a great bargain.
What you post to Facebook is “live” immediately. Granted, it is only sent to the people who have "liked" your page, but their friends can see it and so can anyone in the public who happens by your page. If you have breaking news, such as a new product announcement or a special sale, Facebook offers a great venue for that. Augment its use with individual emails to the media or your customer mailing list in case they are not on Facebook, but add your Facebook page address to the email to encourage participation.
Be prepared for feedback on your Facebook posts. Monitor it often; it can help you make changes or corrections before investing a lot of time or money on an idea. Guide the feedback you receive with specific questions. For example, if you are considering product design changes, post a photo of the proposed changes and ask for input. Another advantage of feedback is that you can monitor if your posts are being viewed and read, so you know whether or not you are reaching your audience. Facebook sends you statistics on how many people view your page and leave feedback.
Many public relations professionals like to send out photos or other graphics with a press release. Sometimes a publication prints the photo but often they won’t, adding an underutilized expense to your PR budget. Facebook allows you to post photos that are always there. You can create an individual photo album for each product, one for your employees to add a human face to your business and an album of special events.
Public relations is about building relationships, and Facebook is an ideal medium for that if used correctly. Relationships are supposed to be mutually beneficial, so approach your Facebook strategy with an eye to what you can do for the people who like your page. Facebook is informal, so it’s okay to sprinkle in a few personal comments about what a beautiful day it is for an outdoor activity, or wishing everyone a great weekend. As in all PR, if you come across as too self-promoting, it will be a turn-off, and you don’t want negative feedback.
Based in Central Texas, Karen S. Johnson is a marketing professional with more than 30 years' experience and specializes in business and equestrian topics. Her articles have appeared in several trade and business publications such as the Houston Chronicle. Johnson also co-authored a series of communications publications for the U.S. Agency for International Development. She holds a Bachelor of Science in speech from UT-Austin.