But learning new and creative business-to-business outreach strategies for Facebook--that's a lot more difficult. So we tracked down some of the best strategies for businesses using Facebook to grow in the B2B realm.
Consider the case of ClearRisk, a 30-employee firm based in St. Johns, Newfoundland. It creates online apps for the U.S. and Canadian risk and insurance industries--it doesn't get much more niche B2B than that.
One challenge for ClearRisk is constantly adapting to changing Facebook layouts and standards, said Chris Gardner, ClearRisk's vice president of sales and marketing.
"We had to adapt our strategy when timeline came out," Gardner said. "Previously, you could make someone go to a specific tab when they arrived at your Facebook page, and you could have a link gate to make someone click 'Like' before they saw the page. But we know that every six months to a year, we have to adapt our strategy for new design, terms of service, and other changes."
One smart modification Gardner's team has made is changing one of the picture spots below the main timeline header an e-book download tab, using Hubspot's tools. It's a link, but it's not forcing visitors to click.
"It is a soft sell--we don't hard sell on Facebook. We give something of value, and we let the book do our pitch, and a sales rep follows up after the fact," he said. "Once a prospect has read the book, it's not really a cold call."
ClearRisk isn't using many Facebook ads, but Kipp Bodnar, inbound marketing strategist at HubSpot and co-author of The B2B Social Media Book said doing things that feel natural on Facebook is tricky for a lot of small businesses.
"A lot of SMBs are struggling with getting the organic side of Facebook right. They have to fill their page with content and drive appropriate traffic back to their site," he said. "Facebook display ads work, but it takes a bit of work on your part. You have to have a lot of ad variation, and you have to babysit them, see what's working and what's not, especially since click-through rates are low."
In addition to pay-per-click ads, Sarah Smith, Facebook's Director of SMB Growth described several other tools for small and mid-sized businesses managing Facebook pages. Some companies are using Promoted Posts, (explained in this webinar) which let pages with more than 400 fans increase the likelihood a particular post will be seen by an already-existing fan of a page.
Smith also suggests using Sponsored Stories, which let you highlight news feed stories about specific interactions people have had with your organization's page--increasing the chance their friends will see the interaction and come to your page.
Gardner said: "We know how much operating our Facebook presence costs us. We look at how much time everyone spends, what that costs, and we know hard ROI--how many leads we generate, the average costs per lead. Then there's soft ROI, nurturing of existing leads, keeping top of mind, being seen as thought leaders and giving value to existing customers. I like to justify our time with hard numbers, and we know we get more value than we spend, so the soft ROI is gravy. Our major objective is to be more of a friend on Facebook than a business."
Bodnar adds, "The more fans you have, the more probability you'll increase your lead generation. If you know your cost is $20 per lead, and it takes 5 fans for every lead, you can afford to "spend" $4 per fan at most."
To help companies measure their marketing impact, Facebook's Insights metrics tool now allow advertisers to differentiate between people who organically like a page, make a comment, install an app or share something, and those who come as the result of an ad, according to Smith. Facebook's capabilities change all the time, so marketers can keep up with their latest offerings at the Facebook Marketing Page, and case studies via the Facebook Success Stories page.
Are you seeing successes with Facebook in the B2B space? Let us know your best practices below.
HOWARD GREENSTEIN is a social media strategist and evangelist, and president of the Harbrooke Group, which specializes in helping companies communicate with their customers using the latest Web technologies. @HowardGr