Small business owners and entrepreneurs gathered in Chicago's West Loop last month to hear from their peers and Facebook experts about how the company helps businesses connect to customers.
The "Facebook Fit" event was hosted at Moonlight Studios, 1446 W. Kinzie, and featured Dan Levy, director of small business at Facebook, discussing how the company provides a way for businesses of all sizes to grow through targeted advertising.
At Windy City Times, we view social media as a way to enhance our reach, and we link to articles, photos and videos of events and news we cover on our website and print publications, including the weekly Windy City Times and biweekly Nightspots magazine. We also link to special publications we do, such as the Gay & Lesbian Wedding Guide.
Because we have always been free both in print and online, we view social media as a complement to what we do. There certainly is competition in all forms of media, but for now social media provides our company with low-cost ways to reach more potential readers. We have more than 11,200 Facebook followers for WCT and 3,700 for Nightspots, plus more than 15,200 Twitter followers. Our website averages about 125,000 unique visits a month. We print 10,000 copies of WCT weekly, and 4,000 copies of Nightspots biweekly. We also have a mobile-friendly website that works on any form of mobile device, including tablet computers, and we have an iPhone app. We also have a weekly podcast, Windy City Queercast, available on the web and iTunes, and a YouTube channel for videos.
To sum it up, we use it all to cover the LGBTQ community. Some things work best in print, others online, others on a podcast or video. The Internet has freed us up to cover the community in far more in-depth ways, but our bread-and-butter are our print publications. Everything else is about marketing and branding what we do, and getting more readers for our stories.
The focus of the Facebook Fit event was on how the company serves tens of millions of businesses around the world. There was a panel of small business owners who explained how each of their companies benefited from Facebook advertising and marketing services. The range of the businesses represented a nice diversity, including: a plumbing company ( Morgan Miller Plumbing ), an event space in Streator, Ill. ( The Silver Fox ), and a specialized clothing manufacturer ( Divas SnowGear ). Each found a way to better connect with customers through Facebook.
Facebook has two main ways businesses use to promote their pages: direct ads that can target new customers, and boosted posts. Once you have your Facebook page, you also need to maintain a consistent presence through posts for customers, and this is where it can be tricky. There is a balance for a plumbing business, for example, not getting too political, but for a media company like Windy City Times, much of what we cover is very political. So there is no one-size-fits-all model for social media. Humor, however, does seem to help a lot, plus creating a more personalized approach, with photos, contests and customer engagement.
What we find valuable with Facebook is the ability to target potential followers across a wide range of categories, from geographic to political, cultural to gender, age and their likes of similar organizations. For example, we may target people who live in Chicago who also like PFLAG, HRC or the Chicago Sky basketball team.
Facebook also now allows businesses to target people through a "Lookalike" tool, finding audiences that are similar to those who already follow them. Businesses can also import email addresses to specifically target their customers who also have Facebook accounts.
The Facebook Fit event provided a nice opportunity to hear details about Facebook products for businesses, and to get a "tune-up" on things that we have already been doing.
There were also representatives on hand from Intuit, Square and LegalZoom, to help small businesses navigate other parts of their companies. Facebook is holding similar Fit events around the country.