Facebook is a marketing fad and fantasy. Its growth in members, daily use, and search frequency make it the place to target discrete customer groups or desirable segments and earn "early adopter" social media bragging rights. However, Facebook isn't a cakewalk.
In fact, few brands can or will report measurable results in awareness, preference, or sales as result of Facebook campaigns. Most users are in a test-and-learn mode experimenting with the nuances of the Facebook platform and trying to fit this channel into an integrated brand message or marketing strategy.
The first critical understanding is that Facebook is an empty pipeline, not an on-going party. While zillions are joining and using Facebook, they aren't interacting with you or your brand -- yet. Marketers have an affirmative burden to create connections and traffic to energize brand interactions. Just like print, radio, or TV, you have to find, engage, and develop a unique audience for your brand on Facebook.
There is no plug-and-play community. It's not a silver bullet. Setting up a page or buying an ad flight merely gives you access to the masses. How you get them to connect, opt-in, and feel good about your brand is your problem.
To help leverage this channel for optimum impact, here are five key considerations to improve your Facebook campaign from a wide range of sources.
Develop a posture and voice
Social media is about interacting with customers and prospects. If each brand has a distinct personality, it needs to be present on Facebook. Before doing anything, you have to figure out how your brand personality will be presented and what kind of posture and voice to take in this channel.
To figure this out, ask yourself this: If your brand went to cocktail party, how would it act? Is your brand an extrovert madly working the room or an introverted wallflower coyly batting her baby blues at selected hotties? What would it say? How would it dress? What opening lines would it use or not use? Who would it schmooze with? Who would it avoid? The answers to these anthropomorphic questions should be your best creative guide.
Pick a page type
Brands can have "group" pages or "fan" pages. Each has distinct properties and technical capabilities. Facebook set it up so neither is ideal, so putting your brand on Facebook means making an initial critical choice of page type.
Groups have friends, which means your access is limited, and messages are delivered to friend's "home" pages. Businesses have "fans," and this means anyone can see your page, but messages are delivered to the Updates page, which people check less frequently.
Each type of page connects to other applications, notably traffic-building apps like "Causes" or "Events," with specific limitations. The current thinking is that fan pages offer more flexibility and options for marketers, but that could change as Facebook refines or changes its infrastructure and gets savvier about marketing through more daily interactions with brands and agencies. This is a fluid situation worthy of careful investigation and consideration.
Create strategic and media context
A Facebook page doesn't exist alone or in a vacuum. To be effective, it has to be part of your brand's online ecosystem; the web of distributed messaging that is strategically placed online to intercept and interact with your most likely prospects and customers. Before you create a presence, you have to determine what the page will link to and what the overlap of information, messaging, and outreach will be among your Web assets.
Figure out what job your branded Web site will play. Where will e-mail, text, mobile, or banner campaigns direct or deliver the responders? What will content you place on YouTube or Flickr deliver? How will it relate or not relate to the Facebook audience? Will you use Wikipedia, MySpace, Friendster, Baidu, or LinkedIn to reinforce or extend the message and the brand promise to specific segments or target subsets, or will it be used as a straight frequency extender or as an exclusive platform for a specific message or offer? Also, how will you drive traffic and get your message to the intended audience? Will you use Facebook ads or other ad vehicles to build your following?
Once that is determined, you can assign unique objectives and content to Facebook as part of a larger marketing effort. This should be geared directly to brand goals and targeted by psychodemographics.
Social media is about entertainment, information, and interaction. What do you want to say, and how do you want to get it across? Remember that huge numbers of users come to Facebook to fill time gaps, relieve boredom, or catch up with friends and family. Your content has to fit into that mind-set to be successful.
Will you create unique content or functionality or link viewers from your Facebook page to somewhere else? How long will the content be live? What is the editorial calendar or refreshment cycle? What is the experience you want customers to have, and what feelings do you want prospects to have? This is not about crafting an ad; it's about putting yourself in the user's place and shaping the experience to direct a call to action or to prompt an emotional takeaway.
The most effective tactics we've seen so far include contests, requests for user-generated content (photos, stories, and opinions), games, widget/badge downloads, polls and surveys, special offers and coupon downloads, and early or exclusive access to information or special pricing. Some brands have used spokespeople or brand iconography to link Facebook marketing to the master brands. Others have created unique, stand-alone content exclusively for this channel and this audience.
Watch, react, and count
In order to determine if Facebook "worked," you need to have clear expectations and objectives for a campaign or a branding effort. Are you counting fan sign-ups, downloaded coupons, collected comments, games, survey responses, or something else?
The Facebook community is active, vocal, and can react strongly to commercial activity on the platform, so be prepared to answer questions, follow up on complaints or customer service issues, and respond to random unscripted comments about your brand. By watching, listening, and reacting, you'll be prepared to tweak the approach, the offer, or the content to better engage and mobilize the Facebook faithful.