In the minds of most modern-thinking executives, Facebook represents a milestone marking this new era of “conversation-based” marketing. Its well-engineered database of users looks scrumptious. Its socializing mechanisms look so simple by design, yet are so successful at gathering communities. To most brand managers, Facebook looks like a fresh pool on a hot summer day.
The problem is, they can’t swim. They’re willing to get in, but only if they can wear their inflatable girafe first. Because to them, Facebook looks like a humongously large public pool. You can’t really measure how wide it is. You can’t really measure how deep it is. Water might be warm, but who knows. But hey — look! There are lots of people in already. And, man, do they look like they’re having a ball. So our brand managers tell themselves: “Well, maybe if I grab the ladder, take a deep beath and try going in butt first…”
Freeze frame. This is the point where most businesses are at. “Trying Facebook”. Dipping a butt. Using the side ladder.
The truth is, to fully grasp the Facebook experience, you actually have to take a plunge in the pool. You have to let your brand become part of the network to see how it reacts, to organically integrate its culture, understand its intricacies, and finally have it work to your advantage. But of course, you have doubts. Or maybe just questions. Now I couldn’t be so prententious as to say I have all the answers you need, but allow me at least to give you a few pointers of mine, drawn from experience and observation, to put you in the right state of mind.
#1 – Hit Facebook. Now. You don’t wanna dry up while it’s so hot out there. At least you need to get a feel. Experiment. Facebook costs nothing to try. For example, some Starbucks fans built a simple group page titled ‘Addicted to Starbucks’. It’s basically just text in there. People are auto-contributing to the page just because they like it. Now serving 75,000 fans and counting. All qualified, genuine Starbucks ambassadors. What you need to know is, maybe the ‘Addicted to Starbucks’ page creators aren’t really ‘just’ Starbucks fans, but actual Starbucks company reps. If that’s the case, is that ethical corporate practice? Does it respect the Facebook guidelines on political correctness? Or is it okay because such a method of community building is fitted to the Facebook user experience? I leave this to your judgement.
#2 – Build a fanpage, not a group page. Simple tip you say, but some people still don’t know that you cannot add applications or get statistics for a group page.
#3 – Show off. Facebook is not a platform built for people to connect. It’s a platform built for people to show off, and be acknowledged by peers. People use Facebook to communicate their own moods, ideas and intents — and have their friends watch them. It’s all very voyeur-ish. If you want to stand out, think about creating an application or ‘call-to-action’ group that has people joining because they get ‘show off value’ out of it. I remember a popular Facebook “Cause” group titled “Foundation for the Preservation of Swedish Underwear Models”. If a company like Axe had created that group, their brand would’ve benefited from its popularity. If you’re a young collegiate male, the irony of joining such a group is a cool thing to show off to your Facebook peers.
#4 – Your Facebook fanpage is like a t-shirt. It’s gotta be cool. It’s gotta have flag value. People won’t buy it if they don’t want to be seen into it. Every Facebook user knows that the Facebook Newsfeed can kill a reputation or love life faster than lightning. Unless you take privacy measures, it shows your network of friends everything you do. Try joining a “Believers of the Jedi Religion” group and watch your amigos speedwalk away from you at your next cocktail. Don’t forget – make sure that you put out something that helps people show off – not something that’s there to sell. The Facebook crowd loves brands, but hates peddlers.
#5 – Use Social Ads wisely. Social Ads are Facebook’s idea for the seamless integration of advertising into user conversation, thus spreading an announcer’s communication organically, or “virally”. You could advertise your brand, product or micro-website using Social Ads, but the better way is to use them as a conversation fuel: if you choose to build a Facebook application as part of your brand’s Facebook experience, use Social Ads to advertise it. It calls out to users in a non-commercial way, they get “show-off” value out of installing your (creative, well-though of) application, and they get to experience your brand.
#6 – Think long-term. If you want to use Facebook as part of a one-month campaign, and then leave the whole thing adrift, chances are you will be disappointed with the results. If you decide to build something valuable in Facebook, think it so it may autonomously outlive its intended life. Allow people to appreciate the idea, experience it, and take the time to spread it around by themselves. It can take weeks, it can take months. Just have a plan to regularly assess results and re-adjust your Facebook presence or applications if needed.
#7 – Nurture your Facebook. Consider this a segue to point #5: An idle page is a boring page, especially when you’re off for the long-term. Your Facebook persona (be it a brand, application or product) needs to breathe, talk, do things. Constantly recruit more people. Have people recruit more people, and give them reason or motivation to do it. Make your Facebook presence an active collaboration between you and your community.
#8 – Be a ‘friend’. Have you noticed? What people add the most in their Facebook profile, is other people. They can be friends, they can be strangers. Now chances are, people might indeed already know your company, your product or your brand. Or maybe they don’t. Either way, they might add your brand if it can talk to them in a human voice. If you want the exclusive privilege of gathering “fans” of your brand , you must approach them in an authentic way and you have to be generous with them. Give them incentive for “talking” with you. Stay away from heavy gimmicks and commerce in Facebook: stay on the human level. Be a friend.
#9 – “Odd” is culture. Show how cultivated you are. You might have observed on YouTube or other sites that the posts getting most views always feature low production value, and high creativity. Any weirdly funny, strangely clever or otherwise odd idea that you can relate to your brand’s universe, particularly if it’s a long shot (think Mentos and Coke), may get your brand an additional chance of being adopted by the Facebook crowd when word gets around. No one will talk about The Great (Your Brand) Contest, but everyone will talk about the Great (Your Brand) Frozen Turkeys on Skateboards Race.
#10 – Leverage your Facebook presence in traditional media. Funny, I haven’t yet seen a business actually advertising its Facebook presence, as part of a convergent campaign. Having a web-centric campaign is common practice now, but I have yet to see a Facebook-centric campaign, where every traditional media effort converges towards creating a Facebook community.
#11 – Target interests, not socio-demographics. In the field of influence marketing, we like to talk about ADN: an audience defined through similar codes or interests and not through age, gender or location. Facebook communities can be quite diverse: You may have tweens interested in social activism, as you may have seniors interested in video games. Granted, they might not be stereotypical representants of their kind, but they share a common ADN with the more ‘expected’ audience. This is true for any web-centric campaign: build on whatever brings people together, rather than what differenciates them.