As ubiquitous as the corporate Facebook page is today, some small businesses have still not claimed their space on the popular social network. Whether you're actively resisting the trend or just haven't gotten around to setting up a page, your company's lack of Facebook presence may not seem like that big of a deal. But it turns out that by avoiding Facebook, you could be missing out on a huge business opportunity.
Like it or not, Facebook has a huge influence on what products and services people buy, according to a study from digital marketing solutions firm G/O Digital. More specifically, Facebook significantly influences millennial shoppers' opinions of small businesses, including these consumers' decisions to purchase items not just online, but in-store as well.
Nearly 60 percent of consumers ages 18 to 29 engage with Facebook ads at least once per week before buying an item in-store from a small business. Additionally, 62 percent say that Facebook is the most useful social media outlet for researching small businesses before visiting a store in person. That's considerably higher than the 11 percent who said the same about Twitter and the 12 percent who said Pinterest is the best site for researching small businesses.
Jeff Fagel, chief marketing officer of G/O Digital, said that to succeed both online and offline, small businesses must first understand consumers' online-to-offline shopping behaviors and invest at least a portion of the company's digital marketing dollars to create precisely targeted, relevant and personalized experiences. [Here's What We Know So Far About Facebook's 'Buy' Button]
"It's all about relevancy," Fagel told Business News Daily. "In terms of what our research says about user behaviors and interactions on Facebook, it is interesting to see that local relevance trumps privacy in weighing the legitimacy of Facebook advertising.It's clear that locally relevant content influences consumers to interact with Facebook ads shared by a small business. Personalized, local ads will also be the measure of success for mobile-first technology."
The G/O Digital study discovered that by increasing the deals they offer on Facebook, businesses have the potential to make an immediate impact on their bottom lines. Nearly 85 percent of the shoppers surveyed said local deals and offers on Facebook are important in their decisions to purchase an item in-store. In addition, 40 percent of those surveyed said they think Facebook offers that can be redeemed in local stores are most likely to influence the shoppers' decision to visit the website of a small business.
To ensure that your business's digital marketing efforts are both relevant and effective, Fagel advised putting yourself in consumers' shoes.
"If your product or service is an emergency fix, consumers are going to go to a search engine to get the information they need right now," he said. "They won't wait for content or ads to be served to them. If that's your use case, put your efforts into paid/organic search. However, if people are already talking about the kinds of things that relate to your brand, [such as] lifestyle, entertainment, fitness, food, shopping, etc., you're going to have a much easier time becoming a part of those conversations through social media."
Fagel noted that many small business owners are hesitant to invest in Facebook and other social media ads because these businesses are unsure how much ROI they'll see. But when you're in stiff competition for consumer attention and dollars, it's worth it to go where those consumers are — and that's Facebook.
"Social marketing is filled with multiple unknowns, both in terms of how much time you can and should put into it, and what results you can expect to come out of it," Fagel said. "For small business owners, [success] means being able to accept and acknowledge that they may not have all the answers. And more importantly, it means reaching out to partners and tapping into technology and tools that can help keep their business relevant and sustainable."
Additional reporting by Chad Brooks, Business News Daily Senior Writer.
Originally published on Business News Daily on Aug. 14, 2014. Updated Sept. 4, 2014.