There is a lot of chatter about Facebook for businesses, particularly small businesses like local bike shops. Large organizations have money to hire creative staff and digital media managers, but an LBS, club team or cycling advocacy group will often struggle from a lack of experience, resources, time and money. We plan to change that.
We’re not going to discuss ads here (that is for a later article—and yes, they do work). A little bit of effort is required, but it’s only a little and the basic tool, Facebook, is free. The goal here is to smooth out your Facebook strategy and give you some tools to throw the hammer down on a very, very powerful marketing platform.
But first, a few starting points. You may not know it, but this is the foundation of your Facebook strategy:
Set intentional and serious goals for your efforts. It’s just like going on an interval training ride; approach it with purpose and you’ll see results. Facebook is a platform built for sharing and telling stories, of which you have no shortage. Images and video rule the landscape. Be a part of the community, off and online. Same as the weekly ride, if someone from the shop isn’t leading the ride, it will fizzle out because you aren’t taking part in it. Like anything, cycling included, if you don’t take it seriously, your level of performance will be low. That doesn’t mean you need to work really hard at it. In fact, it’s a lot easier to lead the pack on Facebook than it is to close the gap after being dropped.
Broadly speaking, as an LBS, cycling advocacy group or club/team, you want butts in saddles and rubber on the roads and trails (or track, if you’re lucky enough to have one). That means more people on weekly rides, commuting and so on. To get there, you need a community that is energized about riding. And you need to be the source of that energy.
Without going too far into marketing theory, what you need is inbound marketing. Inbound marketing doesn’t mean being an annoying, interruptive salesperson. It means giving people what they want—sometimes they don’t even know they want it!—and letting them come to you because you’re the place for more great content. As it turns out, this type of marketing is longer-lasting and creates a stronger loyalty base.
This raises two questions: 1) What do they want? and 2) How do we deliver it?
They want stories, tips and tricks, new tech, and fun times. Look to some of the organizations that are doing really well on Facebook already: see the scorecard here. Start by following them and sharing their content (more on that in a moment).
For the delivery, Facebook is the way to go. There are nearly 2 billion users and they spend an average of an hour every day to get away, relax and share stuff that they care about (like cycling, of course). What this means is that Facebook is something that you should be taking seriously.
So let’s meet them where they are and give them what they want, in a way that they can understand and enjoy.
Your shop, advocacy group or club/team should be sharing content from every cycling-related organization that it can, three times a day, every day—at the very least. Follow Pages like GCN, Cycling Weekly, Cycling News, Velosurance, Bicycle Magazine, Slow Twitch and others. When something is awesome, share it, say something about it in the post, and tag the source and anyone else who may be interested.
This part of the strategy is called content curation, and it’s an easy way to hit the three-a-day minimum without a ton of effort. And to make it easier, we’ve put together a scorecard of nearly every bicycle-related Facebook Page, here.
You should also be making your own fun and informative content. This is called content creation. And it doesn’t have to be a big, expensive production. In fact, we often see an inverse relationship between the amount of time put into the production and the result. Just take fun pictures or a video with your smartphone on the weekly ride and share them. Use a bike-mounted camera and grab some great action video. Take video from around the shop—maybe have a mechanic do a quick tutorial. Host a spin session, record it and share it as an on-demand workout. Take a note from GCN and do some local Top 10 Videos; Top 10 Routes; Top 10 Pit Stops, Top 10 Hills, etc. The ideas are endless, and you’ll probably be able to come up with some more. If not, let us know and we’ll lend a hand!
You take part in the local rides―maybe you host one or two already—or have an annual race. This is the start of a great community. Offline, you should be helping people, especially youth, who can’t get into the sport for whatever reason. Be an advocate in your community for better roads and a better relationship between cyclists and drivers. The bigger your community gets, the more drivers will be cyclists or, at least, know someone who is.
Online, you should be taking part in the community too. Engage with people in the comments, share and like posts, and make a few comments yourself. Use ActionSprout to take action in your community with polls, petitions and donations to grow your cycling community and improve roads, or to build that velodrome you’ve always dreamed about (that’s a personal goal for me). Facebook is basically a continuous conversation and you should weigh in on things now and again to show that you are real and listening to your community’s concerns.
Facebook, like cycling, is often a slow build. You may get a bump right from the start, but then things will level off and grow more slowly. The trick is consistently posting interesting and good, quality content. If you slack off in the winter, you’ll feel it in the spring when you’re getting dropped. Facebook is no different; it can be discouraging at times but there is help. Use tools like ActionSprout to stay consistent on Facebook. It’s just like using a trainer to stay tip-top all winter.
This part is where we come in. We have free tools so that you can find the best content every time, among other things. Sign up for a free account here. Once inside, you can follow your favorite Pages in the Inspiration tab (like those in the scorecard mentioned earlier). Then all you have to do is share three posts a day. Look for the ones with the highest above-average performance percentage—the higher, the better.
The Final Sprint
Facebook is a serious marketing tool. Our job is to help you to use it. Keep an eye out for a free training session in the next couple weeks, where we’ll go into the mechanics of all this. It’s one thing to say that you need to do this or that; it’s another thing to know how to do it. In the meantime, set up a free account and have a little fun with it!