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Let’s face it: many startups and small businesses are selling exactly the same product to exactly the same audience for exactly the same price. There is often little to distinguish them from all of the other noise in the marketplace.

Except their story.

Story-telling, especially telling the story of the business you have started and grown and that you are so passionate about, should be the easiest thing in the world to do, but so many people struggle with it. Why? Because they don’t understand the importance or the impact that sharing good content can achieve.

Establishing a presence online, be it on Facebook, a blog or website, is really just the beginning. Businesses need to remember why someone should visit the website, such as do you give people a reason to be engaged in a conversation on Facebook? Are you listening to your audience (which could become your customer) and do you know what they want to see from you online?

A lot of small businesses make the mistake of thinking that good content equals a sales pitch. A non-stop flow of information about your products and services, a constant ‘advertisement’ that nobody is engaging with and which is more than likely repelling potential customers at the same time.

While some content related to your products and services should form part of a business content strategy, it shouldn’t be the only part that is considered.

To ensure you are producing good online content for your business, here are five things to help get it right:

1. Be authentic: So often my advice to startups and small businesses on Facebook is you should represent your authentic self (and your business) in all of your communications. People will either love or hate you, but in the end they will know exactly what they are going to get from you.

2. Be planned: Your content strategy has to be just that, planned. Not just a series of random updates thrown together when you have a spare few minutes. Plan your updates ahead of time and you can even schedule posts on Facebook to make it more efficient. You can still respond to questions and comments but if you have a strategy in place and schedule posts to support it, your audience will be engaged and may actually be waiting for your next post.

A great example of this is Aussie children’s party supplier, Tumbletown Mobile Play Centre. Not only are their posts authentic and aimed directly at their target audience, but because they are frequently on the road, they schedule their posts to go live while they are out of the office.

3. Be receptive: How many small business owners can honestly say that they know exactly what their audience wants to hear from them online because they’ve asked them? Not many. And it’s the simplest thing in the world to do. The easiest way to establish an engaged audience is to provide the sort of content that that audience actually wants to see. Go ahead, ask your Facebook fans what they want to see more of on your page, you might be surprised.

A good example of this is an online retailer that sells fine European merchandise and Italian home furnishings. When they reached 1,000 fans on Facebook (mostly from updating their page with beautiful photos of Italy and Europe that people loved), they asked their fans what they wanted to see more of. The answer was photos, videos, travel deals, and an online store selling beautiful European merchandise. This helped to form their overall content strategy.

4. Give back: Posting special offers or discounts is a great way of offering your customers even more value. You can start by offering a discount to people that mention Facebook when they come into your shop. Or, if you’re looking for more reach, Facebook Offers make it easy for you to distribute your promotions to an audience beyond your fan base. And they make it easy for people to redeem your offers, too — when people click to claim your offer they get an e-mail reminder with all the necessary details on how to redeem it.

5. Evaluate your content: What bits of content really worked and what bits of content really flopped? And how will you do it better next time? I am a big believer in not starting something unless you are going to measure it. It just makes no sense, especially given the time constraints that most small business people are under. When implementing something different in your business strategy, the easiest way to ensure you are tracking the success of your content is to add a column in your content plan and record whether or not it worked and whether you would repeat the same type of content in the future.

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Nick Bowditch

Nick Bowditch

Nick Bowditch is the Partnerships Manager and Small Business Lead, at Facebook Australia & New Zealand. At Facebook he works with its small business community to help them grow and thrive online. His work includes running workshops for SMB owners that equip them with knowledge and skills so they can better use Facebook to grow their business.

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