Let’s dive into today’s biggest online platform: Facebook.

Since its inception in 2004, Facebook has evolved and grown far from its original intent of simply connecting college students. According to Statista, Facebook touts over 2.7 billion monthly active users (as of the second quarter of 2020). By far, it’s one of the most foolproof places to engage with your customers, spread the word about upcoming sales and events and build your community.

To clarify, most Facebook users have a “Profile.” For businesses, Facebook offers “Pages.” These come with different customization and reporting features tailored toward business needs. You do need to be logged into your Profile to fully create your business Page. If you don’t have a personal Facebook profile, create one as a means to log in and access your Page. A wise man once told me “Nothing happens on Facebook if you don’t add anyone.” That said, you can still benefit from a Facebook Page for your business even if you’re not interested in using the platform for personal use (although those that do may have a better grasp of the interface and features).

Facebook will handle the heavy lifting. Simply visit facebook.com/pages/create to get started.

Complete as many fields as possible. The more fleshed out your profile is, the better. At minimum, provide your hours of operation and contact information, assign categories to your business and add profile and cover photos that represent your business (typically, business pages will use their logo for a profile picture, and an aesthetically pleasing photo of their business or product for a cover photo).

If you’ve been in business but only just starting out on Facebook, you’ll need to spread word to your current customer base that they should start following you. Put up a sign at your cash register or along the side of the road, or drop a new business card in with their purchase. The right method here will vary business to business, but the goal is to let folks know about your new online presence. Are you just starting out and trying to grow your business? Then you might need to boost some posts to create sponsored ads (more on that later), or at least share content more often when you start out.

Let’s talk about content. Many folks get stuck on what to share on their Facebook page. First, as often as possible, add a photo to everything you post. (We’ll get back to why photos are so important later in this column.) But what to say? Don’t overthink it! Show off your harvest or whatever goods you have for sale. Introduce yourself, or a member of your staff, or even the barn cats (the internet loves cats – I follow a few accounts solely for photos of furry friends in the workplace).

Once you find an idea for content that seems to work well engaging your audience, create a series and re-create that post semi-regularly so that customers continue seeing content they enjoy, and you’re not left trying to constantly think of unique content ideas. For example, did folks compliment your produce last time you shared it? Pick a day of the week where you post a new produce pic and keep it going. Don’t forget to include information on where they can purchase, of course! Did Facebook users fawn over that picture of your cat lounging in the sun, or your children harvesting carrots? Consider them your new Facebook celebrity. Keep folks updated on things they care about, and they’ll keep coming back to your page.

You should know that your post is not guaranteed to reach your followers immediately. That’s what email marketing is for. Facebook is more for building your brand and developing an online community that can spill over into real life sales. The sheer amount of content on Facebook these days means most users would likely have to be online 24 hours per day to actually see everything posted by every user Profile or business Page they follow. Every time you make a post, that content is vying for a position in your audience’s News Feed (and it’s not guaranteed to show up there). Instead, your post will forever live on your Page, to be seen by any customers that find their way to your Page (which will be plenty, as the Facebook Page for a business is typically one of the top results in search engine rankings – we’ll get to search later in our series).

To help your content reach more people, here’s a few tips. Facebook uses algorithms to determine which content it feels users want to see. It knows people like seeing pictures, so posts with photos attached carry more weight. It’s more likely to show users content that other people in their network have engaged with (commented on, “liked,” etc.), so get a jumpstart by asking your friends and family to follow your Page and show your posts some love whenever they see them. You can also use hashtags – more commonly used on other social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, hashtags are still a great way to both align your content to an existing category folks might search for (like #LocalFarmersMarket), while others can be used to identify content that has to do with your unique business (#BudsandBytes, #CountryFolksGrower). Hashtags gather any posts that include that tag into one place so that users can easily view similar content from various users.

If you haven’t started your business’s Facebook Page yet, I hope this helps give you an understanding of the basics and leaves you comfortable enough to start growing your online followers. Next month, we’ll go further into Facebook, reviewing the basics of boosting posts into ads and ways to maximize the value of your Facebook Page. If this month’s column leaves you with any questions, we’d love to answer them. Send them over to Assistant Editor Courtney Llewellyn at cllewellyn@leepub.com.