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posted: 2/6/2012 7:00 AM

Is it time for your business to be on Facebook?

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Let others discuss the already much-discussed Facebook IPO. Here's the real question: How do you know whether your business should have a Facebook page?

There apparently are at least three get-a-page answers:

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• If you market to consumers rather than to businesses.

• If you don't have a website.

• If you understand the difference between information and advertising.

If consumers are your market, "You can't afford not to be on Facebook," says Patricia McGuinness, principal of Shoestring Business Marketing in Forest Park. And, McGuinness continues, "If you don't have a website, then Facebook is imperative for an online presence you control."

She's right, too. "People rely on Facebook" they way they once relied on the telephone to find and share information, says J.D. Gershbein, CEO of Vernon Hills-based Owlish Communications Vernon Hills. "Facebook is a very extroverted site."

Gershbein, a social media guru with an interest in neuroscience and cognitive marketing, sees the connection between the way consumers process information and Facebook. So does Brian Basilico.

"People go to Facebook for fun and good information," Basilico says. "Facebook is an extension of face-to-face networking. It's not selling. It's a mistake to treat Facebook like advertising."

Basilico is director of direction at B2b Interactive Marketing in Aurora. "Facebook," he says, "is a (marketing) tool, not an end-all or be-all."

For what today is traditional marketing, there's email, Twitter, your website, and the truly traditional newspaper and other media channels, Basilico says.

What's nice about Facebook is that you can build a community of people who in effect will do your marketing for you. Begin, McGuinness says, by inviting your friends and contacts to visit and "like" your Facebook page.

"Let your customers do (the marketing) work for you," McGuinness says. The key is to develop and share information people want, so they will share with their friends, who share with their friends and the number of people who connect with your business' Facebook page grows. So does your business -- unless you try too hard.

Facebook may be the ultimate soft sell.

Basilico, for example, works with an Aurora Realtor who posts entertainment schedules from the Paramount Theatre, whose productions coincidentally seem to be generating plenty of positive buzz.

Basilico says you can build your Facebook presence in as little as 15 minutes a day. "Start a pot of coffee in the morning," he says. "Turn on your computer, check your email and look at your social sites. Find an article or something interesting to post.

"At night before you shut down, check your emails and your social media postings. If there's something there to comment on, you may want to post then."

If you're truly at a loss for content, Basilico says that "Dogs and kids" are always good topics.

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at JKendall@121MarketingResources.com.

2012 121 Marketing Resources Inc.

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