Facebook Pause for a moment and think where did you first discover Facebook. Did you click on a link or perhaps a pay-per-click advert for it? Did you search for “social network” and find that Facebook had used SEO to get to the top of the search results? Or did you just somehow “know” about it?

Most online businesses use a combination of link building, search engines and pay-per-click to attract people to their website. But that’s not how the world’s most popular sites do it. Indeed, consider Google or Amazon too. Did you know about them somehow in advance, or did they materialise some way online and you clicked on a link and went “wow, that’s interesting, I have never heard of them before”.

Face facts. The most popular and most profitable online businesses have achieved their notoriety offline. They are omnipresent in traditional media, they are talked about down the pub and they are mentioned in business meetings up and down the land every single day. Their success is based on word of mouth and offline branding.

This is confirmed in recent research which shows that the only people doing well out of Facebook marketing are big, well-established businesses. Starbucks, Dell, McDonalds, Coca-Cola – they are all doing very well on Facebook. But you knew about them before they had a Facebook page. Less well-known firms are struggling to attract people on Facebook. Indeed, the study shows that the vast majority of businesses – 63% – don’t appear to be getting anything out of what they put in to their Facebook activity.

People go to Facebook to engage with brands they already know in the “real world”. If you want to use Facebook in your business the first step is to get known in the real world.

To make the most out of this social network you need offline branding and recognition. Hang on a minute, that’s just what Facebook did to achieve its success. Copying their model works – it has worked for Google and Amazon too, remember. Making the most out of Facebook marketing means spending more of your activity offline, not online.

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