Exposure. EdgeRank. Engagement.
The "Three Es" of Facebook marketing represent the promise that's fulfilled by putting in an effort on Facebook. At the national or global brand level, these make absolute sense. On a local business level, it's a trap.
It isn't that Facebook itself is worthless to local businesses. It's that the real bang for the buck (in the form of money or effort) comes directly from mentions by local people and not from exposure of the Facebook page itself.
Every day, people do business locally. They go to the grocery store, pick up a bite to eat at a restaurant, go see a movie, get their hair cut, or pick up their dry cleaning. They have favorites based on service or products. They have regular destinations based on proximity or convenience.
Rarely (if ever) do people going about their daily tasks get asked to post to Facebook. This is the biggest Facebook mistake that local businesses are making.
Many are putting in the effort to put up nice banners and post interesting content that is intended to reach the local masses. This effort is a complete waste of time if they aren't getting the mentions from their customers.
"We need to evolve past our perception of Facebook, Twitter, etc., as just a destination and instead view it and utilize it more as an avenue towards attainable business objectives," said Jeff Cryder of Cincinnati Ford.
The "attainable business objective" in most cases is mentions. When a branded Facebook page talks about their soup of the day, they reach a handful of people in most circumstances. They might have 1000, 3000, or even 5000 people who "liked" their page but because they aren't getting much interaction out of it, the message isn't reaching a ton of people. In an average scenario, only 3%-7% of the followers even see it on their feed.
In the same scenario, imagine John Doe telling his waiter that he loved the soup of the day. The waiter, prompted by his or her boss, asks John Doe if he wouldn't mind hopping on his iPhone and telling people that he enjoyed it, even taking a picture of his empty bowl as "proof."
John Doe, the tech-savvy 18-88-year-old that he is, whips out his smartphone, snaps a picture, and posts on Facebook that he just had a soup at ABC Super Soups that would make Jerry Seinfeld drool. It reaches 45%-70% of his 140 friends, family, and coworkers. Five of them "like" the update. Three leave a comment, with one of them acting as unofficial brand ambassador talking about how she absolutely adores her mushroom and wild rice soup that she gets at ABC Super Soups every Thursday.
Imagine this happens two or three times a day.
This isn't to say that maintaining a strong Facebook page isn't worth something. It's important to have a place where your customers can go to directly interact with you. Getting ideas, receiving feedback, and answering questions and complaints is the best use of a local Facebook page. The exposure component comes through your customers themselves and what they post about you on their walls.
If you have a local business and you want to get involved with social media, having a strong page is good but it won't help you build your business nearly as much as getting your customers to talk about you. People know what you think about yourself. They want to see what others think about you.
That's where the real benefit of Facebook can be seen.