Social media is a powerful tool for local businesses. It’s possible for businesses that operate on the local level to reach out to and connect with their native clientele in ways that larger companies can only dream of. It’s all a matter of reaching out and making friends. While any company can put together a fan page and encourage their friends to like and share, only local businesses have a reasonable chance at making friends with their local population. Unfortunately, finding and befriending local users isn’t always easy. Facebook doesn’t support many features that directly allow you to do this, so you’ll have to be a little clever. Here are five tricks to use that can smooth the process.
The first rule of adding Facebook friends is to establish contact first. There are reasons for which this is not an optional step. Have a few notes taken for what you want to say for your cold-opening introduction.
The first reason this is so important is because Facebook monitors your activity on a constant basis; their servers run algorithms, which derive important data about your usage behavior. If you send lots of friend requests in a short span of time without saying anything or navigating elsewhere around the site, they don’t even need human intervention to slow you down. If you want to add people without being throttled, showing a little communication is important.
It should be hand-written fresh each time, too. Copy-pasting boilerplate greetings will get you flagged as a spammer. It should also be a greeting. Trying to open up with advertising won’t get you very far and may also get you flagged. A simple introduction should suffice. Don’t try to turn it into a numbers game to the detriment of how you treat your soon-to-be-Facebook friends.
Beyond the necessity of doing this to avoid Facebook’s wrath, you should do it because it’s polite. You wouldn’t ask for someone’s phone number at a party without introducing yourself. Asking them to add you as a friend is very similar. It’s not the same thing as advertising. It can be a little awkward to get in touch with a relative stranger on the web, but as long as you are being polite the worst thing they can do to you is say no and leave you with your previous status quo.
Leverage Local Groups
The easiest way to find local Facebook users is to use local groups. If there are any targeted groups that apply to what you intend to promote, start there. Finding Facebook users that are fans of a particular local restaurant and introducing yourself as a new restaurant owner is a safe bet, for instance.
Always target your friend invites as much as you can. You don’t want to add high school students or people that have no interest in your market. It’s a waste of your time and theirs to try. If you know a particular group of people will take an interest, they are a good example of a group you want to pursue. A good barometer is to ask yourself whether they’d be interested if they received what you have to say in their physical mailbox. If you think they might take a legitimate interest, you’re on the right track.
Use the Web
The World Wide Web can be a great place to find people to add on Facebook. It’s just a matter of how you go about it. A search for local websites and forums will give you a good selection of local individuals. Using this method to find people there are two details you need to be on the lookout for.
The first is full names. Many comment sections now require full identifying names to participate. This is especially true on local news sites. Getting a list of full names put together can give you a number of local names to check on Facebook. This can subsequently give you a number of leads to follow up on in the form of their extended friend networks.
The second is e-mail addresses. Facebook allows you to search for people based on their e-mail address. In many cases it’s possible to “scrape” e-mail addresses from sites using specialized software. This is sometimes used as a tactic to assemble e-mail lists for spammers so it is important that you exercise good judgment if you decide to track down the necessary software or use this technique. However, acquiring a list of e-mail addresses from a local site or forum can give you a good list to go off of.
Connect with the Real World
If you have good local ties, the best and safest way to acquire Facebook friends is to go through a business that exists in the material world. This can be yours or someone else’s as long as they are willing to assist you. There are a few ways you can accomplish this.
The simplest is to ask them to add you on Facebook in a note on a receipt or on a custom-printed card. If you provide useful information on a regular basis this will often be enough to convince them to add you. This takes all the pressure off of you. However, this method generally has the lowest turnover.
The next step is to ask them for their e-mail addresses or Facebook friendship in exchange for an incentive. Many restaurants offer discounted or free entrees on birthdays, for instance. Most people are more than glad to sign up or accept a friend request in the interest of a free birthday dinner.
Use E-mail Lists to Bypass the Daily Limit
The last thing to keep in mind is that you have a limited number of friend requests to send per day. The exact number at which you are throttled is inconsistent. Many people report it at around 5 per 24 hour period. Results conflict on a regular basis, however. Some people are able to send upwards of a dozen or more. It is likely that this value is based on your Facebook activity, the number of friends you already have and so on.
It’s likely that you will want to bypass this at some point. Thankfully, this isn’t difficult. All you need to do is assemble the e-mail addresses of those you want to add into an e-mail contact list. This is the same sort of list you would use with Outlook or any other e-mail client. Once you do this, use the “Find Friends” page and you will be faced with a number of options that allow you to add friends based on the contacts associated with other accounts.
By following this guide, it will allow you to handily bypass the daily limit. It remains important that you still say hello first, however. Anti-spam rules do still apply if you do it this way, and it remains the most polite avenue.
These are five of the most important things to keep in mind while building up a Facebook profile’s friends list. These apply for any seeking-out and adding of local individuals. Once you’ve begun to get a local following the process grows much simpler. You can begin to simply add friends of friends; it’s easier to make new friends when you’re backed-up by their mutual friends. That’s all it takes! Be polite, be efficient and get the ball rolling.
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