The pros and cons of using Facebook for SMEs

For many people involved in running SMEs, Facebook is the first social media tool that they turn to, because they’re already familiar with using it on a personal level. With more users than any other social network, it’s easy to see why Facebook is a popular choice. But is it always a good one? 

What’s good about Facebook?

It has the biggest audience

Facebook is the largest and most active of all the social networks, and also claims the widest demographic reach. This means that if your existing/potential customers are using social media, they’re probably on Facebook.

The appeal of a gentle learning curve

People involved in running SMEs often don’t have time to get to grips with new tools, but many of them will already know how to use Facebook. Opting to use a known platform – albeit in a different way – is definitely better than using no social media at all.

It’s good for sharing visual content

For SMEs with access to strong images and/or videos – eg to do with food, art, travel, fashion and so on, but also people doing interesting things – Facebook can work particularly well. By regularly uploading new images or videos, along with a short description, you can generate engaging, shareable content that doesn’t require a big time commitment (not as much as, say, writing a blog post).

You can customise it

There are different ways of customising the design of your Facebook fan page (as business pages are known), and all kinds of different apps that you can add to it (eg to create polls, quizzes, competitions, forms etc). This makes it one of the more flexible social media tools, with lots of scope for adapting it to suit your purpose.

It’s a stepping stone

Once you’ve set up your fan page and have become adept at using Facebook for your business, it can give you the confidence to start using other social media tools, like Twitter or Pinterest.

What’s not so good about Facebook?

It can be quite complex

Of course, there’s an art to using Facebook really effectively for business – and that takes time to master. There’s a huge amount of functionality to explore, from different apps to detailed stats. So you could argue that once you’ve got past the basics, the learning curve is not so different from that of any other social media tool.

Its reliance on images

Facebook isn’t such a good option for those businesses that don’t have access to strong visual content. It can be a real burden for SMEs to come up with an effective profile image, let alone engaging visuals for ongoing updates.

Its lack of reach

The biggest drawback of using Facebook is that every update posted on a fan page will only reach a small percentage of its followers (generally estimated at around 12%). The reason for this is that Facebook doesn’t want to give free marketing to businesses – it wants them to pay for targeted posts. Unless you have a budget for this – and most SMEs probably don’t – then you will have to accept that your efforts won’t reach all of your intended audience at once.

Jenny Brindley is a freelance writer and editor who specialises in working with SMEs to enhance their web presence. Contact jenny.brindley@gmail.com for details.

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