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posted: 7/30/2012 6:00 AM

Selling on Facebook: Puppies and babies help

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Small business success on Facebook and similar social media sites in some ways mimics success in traditional marketing: First, find your positive difference. Next, exploit it.

Facebook, however, isn't traditional marketing. Instead, says Brian Basilico, "It's a paradigm shift in how people communicate.

"Facebook is not advertising," Basilico continues. "It's relationship marketing. People are on Facebook to have fun, not to shop. They want to see cute pictures of puppies and babies."

Puppies and babies may take some doing, but keep the goal in mind: "You want the (Facebook) crowd to interact with you," Basilico says. "You want to build a tribe of people who will follow your business" -- and, perhaps, repost your photo of a Mom and her toddler playing with a stuffed animal your toy store has on sale.

Basilico is director of direction at B2b Interactive Marketing Inc., Aurora. He's one of the few people I know who understands small businesses and the online world where they compete.

Here are more of his thoughts:

• Facebook and other social media are best for consumer-focused businesses. If yours is a business-to-business enterprise, LinkedIn is where you should be.

• Posting ads doesn't work. Facebook is personal and fun. Your "sales" message has to be subtle. If you're in retail, for example, create a business page, then take and post pictures of what you sell -- maybe the latest clothing fashions.

• Put a sign at the checkout that says, "Follow us on Facebook." Put the Facebook logo in your ads, on fliers, in email.

• Too many business owners hand their Facebook efforts off to a 20-year old just out of college, but that twenty-something best knows how to talk to other 20-somethings -- who may or may not be your market.

• Take a class. (Many of the suburban Illinois Small Business Development Centers, found at most community colleges or at, where a click on Business Assistance will get you headed to the right page, offer e-business seminars and classes.)

• Don't expect thousands of followers. Most businesses have about 150 fans -- but 150 fans, or customers, who pay attention to your business and, in Facebook style, recommend it to their friends can be a big boost.

• Don't expect instant success. It will take at least a month, more likely three of them, to gain Facebook traction. Other than your time, which does matter, there is little direct expense to experimenting with Facebook -- or Twitter or one of the other ways to connect with customers.

• Experiment. You won't know if Facebook will work for your business until you try. Every business has its own DNA and will have its own approach to social media. How will you know if Facebook is a good tool unless you try?

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at 2012 121 Marketing Resources Inc.

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