Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Facebook Changes Could be a Boon to Small businesses and Non-Profits

Thank you all for the feedback regarding the PR/Social Media Toolbox seminar.  Keep watching this blog or the www.cgcommunicationsonline.com website for updates on upcoming seminars and, hopefully, some webinars coming your way.

In the meantime, I passing along something very interesting that passed through my email this morning.  Something that could be a big benefit to small businesses and non-profits.  Instead of just telling you about it, here is the article from Mashable.com, via The New York Times.  It's all about location services and...well...take a look. (to read the entire article, click on the link above)

Facebook to Launch Location Features Next Month

Facebook’s move into location has seemed inevitable for some time, and it now appears that the company will officially reveal its plans at next month’s Facebook developer conference –- f8.
According to The New York Times, the social network will incorporate location in two ways: (1) its own features for sharing location and (2) APIs to let other apps — like Foursquare and Gowalla –- offer location services to Facebook users.

So, what does this really mean for you, the small business owner and non-profit director?  Well, it means a couple of things.  But before we can get too deep into the impact this new service will have, we first have to look at the tools you are already using and how you're using them.

You probably know that if you want to find people who live in your immediate area, you can go into the Facebook search function and type in the location you're searching for.  In a lot of ways, this is similar to the old MySpace function, which would give you all users within a certain radius of where you live.  You could look people up by zip code, city or country.

Facebook's locator function isn't as user-friendly and not as comprehensive.  There are some extra steps involved in the Facebook setup.  But it's useable and gets the job done...eventually.

One of the things I noticed when conducting the seminar last weekend was that many users, from both the small business and non-profit sides still don't completely understand the tools available to them on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, linkedIn, etc.  Among these tools include groups, business pages and, yes, locator services.

Why do these tools matter?  Think about it for a second.  Being online means people all over the world can see your site, review your products and services and get to know all about you.  This is great.  But what can someone in Paris really do to help your local business or non-profit?  Actually, if you're a non-profit, there IS a chance that someone halfway around the world might see your site and decide they feel as strongly about your cause as you do and decide to donate.  But more likely, they'll find a local organization doing something very similar to what you're doing.  In this way, they can do more than just give money.  They can get to know the organizers, spend time volunteering and be active within a group on a personal level.

What matters most to your oganization is what has always been the lifeblood of small businesses and non-profits; local community involvement.  People are always looking for others with like minds and interests.  Online is no different than in the real world.  You want to find people in your backyard, in your community that are likely to frequent your business, or volunteer for your non-profit.

Location services, like the groups function on Facebook and Twitter help you find others specifically in your area and sharing your likes and interests.  Combined, you can really focus your posts and outreach to those that are most likely to respond.

Now comes the new Location Services function, set to kick off on Facebook next month.  This new function will allow you to track friends, as well as others, depending on their privacy settings, wherever they're at.

In other words, let's say I'm out at a bar celebrating St. Patrick's Day.  Depending on how I set my privacy settings, my status will reflect my location at any given time.  This allows my friends to see where I'm at if they want to find me.  This can be valuable information for anyone looking for trends among specific demographics.  You can see where a specific demo spends their free time, or even how they spend their hard earned cash, depending on where they might be shopping or finding entertainment.

Certainly wading through all of this information and keeping track of each of your individual friends coudl prove to be time-consuming.  But I'm here to tell you that it will ony be a matter of time, if it's not already developed, just waiting to be launched, before a program comes out allowing you to analyze the pertinent demographic information gathered by the new location function.

But here's where the new function will really help small businesses and non-profits.  Another feature of the service will allow your organization to put your location information on your Facebook every time you post or update your account.  In other words, anyone seeing your status will be able to see exactly where you're located at.

Given the millions of Facebook users who regularly use the site on mobile platforms such as laptops and smartphones, it's a safe bet that they're on the go and more likely to make a stop at your location if they're looking for something specific, or if something you post catches their eye.

This is where your twitter feeds, linked up with you Facebook account, can have some real impact.  If you own a restaurant or a barbershop or salon, or even a small boutique, you can post deals on your profile, such as half off a haircut for the next hour, or a free drink for patrons in the bar at 4pm, etc.  By posting to your Facebook, all those mobile individuals in your area will be able to see this update and, if they wish to partake of the deal, they'll know exactly where you're at.

Clearly, I'm assuming there will still be some glitches in the new service as Facebook continues to perfect it, but the possibilities are fascinating and could truly have a positive impact on your organizations' bottom line.

As the old saying goes, knowledge is power, and knowing more about your potential customers and shareholders is vital to your success.  The new locator services function Facebook will kick off is just more information to help you focus your efforts on the right audiences.

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