Facebook’s powerful free business tools

Facebook is working hard to help you promote your business, and if you’re not already taking advantage, you should be.

The website, which has overtaken Google as the most visited in the U.S., has a suite of social tools designed to help you market your business. First, it allows you to create a business page where you can tell your story, start discussions and share special offers. Unlike standard user profiles, these “Fan” pages are visible to everyone on Facebook and will even show up in search engines like Google and Yahoo.

Fan pages are a great way to touch potential customers. Once a person “Likes” your company’s page, Facebook will post updates to the person’s user profile every time he or she interacts with your Fan page, and your updates and promotions will often be included in their news feeds. This in turn will expose your brand to all of that person’s Facebook friends.

 

The Power of Open Graph

As valuable as Fan pages are, Facebook has pioneered an even more powerful way to help your business: the Open Graph. Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg explains that the objective of Open Graph is to integrate all of a person’s social information: reviews, preferences and the things the person “Likes” online. By meshing information from a wide variety of websites like Pandora, Yelp and CNN, Open Graph makes the web smarter and more personalized. It also creates a more effective advertising tool for you.

Here is a good example of a popular local brand, Cordaroys.com, that is benefiting from Facebook’s Open Graph:

I visited the Cordaroys.com website recently and noticed there was a Facebook plugin that allowed me to “Like” the Corda-Roy’s brand. I clicked the button and that information was posted to my Facebook profile. A week later a friend emailed me to ask about Corda-Roy’s after seeing that I “Liked” it. He made a purchase from the company shortly after.

But Open Graph doesn’t just help a company reach new customers; it helps it market more efficiently to existing fans. Since I “Liked” Corda-Roy’s, I’ve found that when I visit other websites that use Open Graph data, those sites tend to display more banner ads from Corda-Roy’s and other brands I have “Liked.” Open Graph is personalizing the advertising messages I receive and that’s sure to make them more effective.

 

Your Website on Open Graph

Facebook isn’t just interested in integrating social sites with Open Graph; the company wants to include your website as an Open Graph “object” as well. This means when someone “Likes” your website, your business will become part of the Facebook profile the person displays to friends. And here is another big benefit: It also means your site will be included in Facebook searches done for businesses like yours all over the most visited website in the U.S.!

Here is an example of how including your website as an Open Graph Object might work: Say a local cosmetic dentist promotes a teeth whitening special on his website and sends an email to all his customers. He includes the Facebook “Like” button, which many people click on as they visit the page. Facebook not only posts a link to the dentist’s promotion on the each user’s personal page, it also now includes the dentist’s teeth whitening special any time someone searches Facebook for “dentists,” “teeth whitening” or any other words that the dentist includes in the page.

The dentist immediately has exposed this special offer to many new potential patients and invariably that generates new sales.

Facebook continues to leverage its social community and build tools to help businesses. Be on the lookout in the near future for Facebook Deals, which will compete with the Groupon and LivingSocial daily coupon sites.

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