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    How Building a Facebook Following is Like Growing a Garden

    By Adrienne Burke | Yahoo Small Business

    photo: Jenny's Edibles & Blooms

    Organic gardener Jen Irving has spent the past few years growing her hobby and passion into a small business. Each winter, she nurtures vegetables, herbs, and flowers from seeds under grow lights in her Falmouth, Mass., kitchen. And after the last frost, she transplants those that thrive to her garden. As she honed her methods and perfected her growing system, she ended up with more healthy seedlings each spring than would fit in her own yard. At first she gave away her surplus. Eventually, she started selling the extra seedlings for a few dollars each.

    It turned out there was quite a demand for her locally grown heirloom and classic varieties. So she built a shed on her property to expand the operation, partnered with landscape designer Paul Miskovsky, the owner of a nearby greenhouse, and set herself up in business as Jenny's Edibles and Blooms. In spring 2013, Miskovsky planted her seedlings to win an "edible plant gardening" award in at the Boston Flower Show. The following Memorial Day weekend, she sold hundreds of seedlings to gardeners in her Cape Cod community out of the greenhouse.

    This spring, she has 60 varieties of vegetables, more than 30 types of herbs and greens, and nearly 50 kinds of flowers—in all, more than 7,000 healthy seedlings—to sell in 5 weekends in May and June.

    To get the word out last year, Irving (an old friend of this reporter) built a website, pitched lawn signs, and took out an ad in the local newspaper. But it wasn't until last week that Jenny's Edibles and Blooms finally created a page on Facebook. Irving wasn't sure why she needed a Facebook page, how to set one up, or what she would post there. She didn't even have a personal Facebook page and wasn't sure what the value of social media could be to her business. "Now that it's up, people are coming and I don't know where they're coming from or how they're finding the page," she says. "When people find me on Facebook, it's crazy. But I don't know how to get more of them to come."

    That's where her story is much like so many other small business owners'. And that's where a UK company called Simply Business found a need it could fill for its customers.

    The company, which provides insurance policies to small businesses, recently released a free online resource, the Small Business Guide to Facebook. Simply Business retained the Distilled agency to create a simple and logical flowchart that offers Facebook newbies a step-by-step guide for utilizing Facebook in business, with steps for Getting Started, Goals and Measurement, Engagement, Page Management, Facebook Ads, and Advanced Tips.

    "We’re for the small and the brave businesses," explains Simply Business marketing and communications specialist Jasper Martens, "and one of our brand's values is to champion small businesses who want to market their business better."

    The Small Business Guide to Facebook could certainly go a long way toward helping. For instance, users who answer "No," to the question, "Do you know why your business needs to be on Facebook?" are provided a link to an article offering 11 "mind blowing" reasons why. No clue how to set up a Facebook page, how to select page administrators, or what to post? Click through the flowchart to resources such Social Media Examiner's setup guide, examples of winning pages, an Inc. article about why you shouldn't leave social media branding to interns, and Mashable's list of Facebook posts that build engagement.

    Other resources teach you how to write "likable posts," maximize traffic, deal with complaints, integrate your Facebook page with your company website, optimize your page for search, improve your newsfeed, and dozens of other useful bits of advice.

    Especially for highly organized business people like Irving, whose years' worth of data on temperatures, conditions, and plant behaviors let her know precisely how to seed, how much light to provide, and when to transplant every last species, the Simply Business flowchart could make building a Facebook following as straightforward as growing a garden.

    Simply Business offers this step-by-step online interactive guide for building a business Facebook following

    Yahoo Small Business Services