Why Brands Have An Eye on Facebook
So much has been written about Facebook, yet many brand strategists are still in the dark about how to use this omnipresent social networking platform to reach consumersnot to mention calculate its ROI and initiative strategies.
With more than 200 million active users and counting, Facebook has proven to be a powerful and convenient way to reach consumers where they already are. “Many consumers are already sharing information regularly on Facebookthis is just one more way to quickly share information in a place where they are already spending time,” says Michael Donnelly, director, worldwide interactive marketing at The Coca-Cola Company.
Many brands are guilty of creating a Facebook presence, gathering “friends” to gauge awareness of the community...and the buck halts there. Adam Ostrow, editor in chief of online social media guide Mashable.com, says it’s because the initial path to maximum reach wasn’t clear. “Until recently, Facebook was a confusing platform for brandsit wasn’t clear if the best way to go about marketing on Facebook was through groups, pages, or even just a regular profile,” Ostrow says. “But with the most recent upgrade to pagesor “public profiles” as they’re sometimes calledit’s become clear that pages are where brands need to be. From there, it’s up to the brand to use traditional marketing tactics, like promotions and good communications to make those fans stick.”
The folks at Facebook have assembled a marketing page to help brands find their way around the platform’s ever-expanding myriad of tools. “Features such as psychographic and demographic information allow advertisers to precisely target their audience, but still maintain user privacy,” says a Facebook spokesperson. “Additionally, up-to-the-hour impressions and click tracking let advertisers quickly fine-tune ad campaigns by updating bids and changing budgets whenever they please.”
Donnelly, who spearheaded Coca-Cola’s successful Facebook initiative, says it’s much like having a ginormous focus group at your fingertips: “The ease of creating content makes it so that we get very high engagement, far beyond typical page views. It also gives us a great platform to listen to the feedback we receive from our consumers. Every time we post photos, videos or status updates from the page, our fans are quick to tell us what they think. Their feedback is shared with their network of Facebook friends, exposing them to our fan page,” Donnelly says.
But creating a brand presence on Facebook can present challenges of a larger scope to the novice social marketeer, the first being the conversational element integral to its very structure.
“Facebook helps marketers interact with people in the same way that people interact in real life. But it’s not enough to broadcast a message to the masses: As the web becomes more social, users will expect to interact and engage with brands in the same way they interact with each other,” the Facebook spokesperson says.
Some brands, like Starbucks, have embraced the opportunity to reach consumers with messaging that reads more one-on-one than broadcast. “In many ways, the coffeehouse is the original social network, so social media is a natural extension of who we are as a company,” says Alexandra Wheeler, director of digital strategy for Starbucks. “Facebook helps us get a pulse on what is important to our customers. We can have a real dialog with them about the values and ideals that they share with us.”
So how does a brand, particularly a brand with a considerable legacy, pare down the broadcast messaging that works for traditional online media to create the kind of singular voice where this kind of dialog might take place?
Starbucks used Facebook to reach almost 1.5 million “friends” to raise awareness of their brand while raising money for AIDS. “We posted an event inviting customers into stores on World AIDS Day (12/1/08), where $.05 of every handcrafted beverage was contributed to the Global Fund. It became the most viral event in Facebook history. So not only were customers excited about the brand, but they came together on one day to do something good,” Wheeler says.
Instead of tapping viral marketers experienced in social media to create that singular Facebook voice, Coca-Cola took a unique approach and hired two fans of the brand, Dusty Sorg and Michael Jedrzejewski, to create the Coca-Cola fan page in September of last year. “When Facebook asked us to administer our page, we saw it as an opportunity to maintain its fan club spirit. In the first several weeks the page experienced explosive growth, quickly making it the largest brand page on Facebook.”
This team takes full advantage of Facebook’s tools to keep their viral audience engaged. “We are constantly working to highlight content created by our fans that will be interesting to other fans, sharing status updates, photos and videos. Recently, we’ve begun using status updates to invite fans to share their Coca-Cola experiences. From time to time, we update our fans through Facebook’s update features and they react differently to videos, photos and status updates. We continually learn great stories from them that we may not otherwise be aware of,” Donnelly says.
In the quick-shift world of social marketing, Facebook promises a direct line to your target consumers. “The Internet has long promised two-way interactive marketing,” concludes the mysterious Facebook spokesperson. “We see the future of marketing as one where brands create an ongoing, two-way relationship with customers and prospects whether they are driving demand for new or existing products.”
Just be sure to stay flexible about how your Facebook-geared initiatives are executed. “Facebook does make frequent changes to its product, so it’s hard to project if something you plan six months from now will really be applicable to the toolset that Facebook will be offering,” Ostrow advises.
“Facebook is constantly improving, sometimes with little advance warning. This makes it important that we stay on top of these changes and are hypersensitive to how those improvements impact the page and our relationship with our fans,” seconds Donnelly.
What about ROI? Does Facebook offer a measurable return? “It’s hard to say,” Ostrow says. “Certainly, the key metrics to pay attention to for the time being are how quickly you’re adding fans to your page, how often those fans are interacting with your brand, and how that page is ultimately influencing your business, by way of more leads or referral traffic to your website.”
Ultimately, finding new and improved ways to make new “friends” on Facebook is worthy of a slice of your brand development budget. Just be sure to update your status frequently.