Oct 26, 2011 (08:10 AM EDT)
4 Tips: Prep Your Facebook Page For Holidays

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10 Smart Enterprise Uses For Twitter
10 Smart Enterprise Uses For Twitter
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Small and midsize businesses (SMBs), like Santa Claus, should be making a list and checking it twice. But rather than sorting out who's naughty or nice, consumer-focused concerns should fine-tune their Facebook presence in advance of the holiday shopping rush.

Among the reasons: The bevy of market research showing shoppers increasingly turning to social sites before they make purchase decisions. Consider this recent study, which found 51% of consumers are more likely to buy something from a company after becoming their fan on Facebook. With the annual flurry of capitalism known as holiday shopping looming large, it's time for retailers and other consumer-focused SMBs to make sure they're ready to reap the rewards.

That means doing a bit more than putting up a page and hoping it connects with customers, according to Laura O'Shaughnessy, CEO of SocialCode, a social agency that emphasizes a quantitative approach to performance advertising, with a particular focus on Facebook. The firm recently added LinkedIn to its mix, and is considering the likes of Twitter and Google+.

Socialcode itself has an interesting SMB story. The 50-person agency was born as an internal department of The Washington Post Company, which owns--in addition to the flagship newspaper of the same name--a number of media, education, and other businesses. O'Shaughnessy said that the results of Facebook programs for the company's various brands were so strong that it began shifting money away from its Google adverting and spending more on social. Later, Socialcode was spun out as an independent subsidiary and began signing on external customers.

[A successful social media strategy is one SMB's secret sauce to compete against bigger businesses. Find out how they do it: Fast Food 2.0: The Burger Goes Social.]

In an interview, O'Shaughnessy shared these four tips for optimizing your Facebook activities in the coming weeks.

1. Set goals. The businesses that get the most out of their Facebook presence are the ones that have goals behind it. "Step one is deciding: Is my goal to drive people into my restaurant, is it to drive people into my store, is it to introduce a new product, is it to get people to buy my product?" O'Shaughnessy said. Without a clear sense of what they want to accomplish, SMBs, can't make efficient use of their resources.

2. Design a campaign with a "viral accelerant." O'Shaughnessy said the most powerful, effective Facebook campaigns place heavy emphasis on sharing. That often means developing an application, game, or a related microsite to encourage people to spread the word--no matter what the word is. "You want to make sure you're taking advantage of the sharing activities that are going on," O'Shaughnessy said.

While a development-intensive application might require a bigger budget, O'Shaughnessy noted that there are sharing-oriented things marketers can do on a smaller scale. She gave as an example a nonprofit client that found strong results simply using a light application aimed at sharing badges on Facebook walls.

"The most important thing about Facebook is really perpetuating that social sharing--getting one friend to spread, in this case, a badge to another friend," O'Shaughnessy said. "Then all of that person's friends see that action, so you get this immediate lift."

3. Make it worth the user's while. "Whether it's a big program or a small program, the thing that's important to do is create value for users," O'Shaughnessy said. During the holiday season, that could be as simple as encouraging fans to offer gift ideas for certain family members or share their unique holiday traditions, or inviting customers to a special event.

"Just getting the conversation started, getting the awareness of the event out there, is really important--starting with something customers are going to value and get excited about," O'Shaughnessy said.

4. Harness the power of social suggestions. Consider this guideline the encore performance of sharing. O'Shaughnessy stressed that any SMB's Facebook activities--no matter the goals--should always focus on fostering social sharing among fans and friends. (And their friends, and their friends ...)

"Make sure--whether it's a conversation you're having ..., an application, or a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign--that you're always thinking about capturing the maximum amount of social sharing," O'Shaughnessy said.

SaaS productivity apps are good to go--if you can get past security and data ownership concerns. Read all about it in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek SMB. Download it now. (Free with registration.)