The Facebook Factor

I wrote this article which appeared in the December 2011 issue of the Irish Marketing Journal (IMJ)


Finding your brand’s voice on the world’s largest social network

We’ve all come across them, those ‘zombie’ Facebook Pages that were set up by well-intentioned marketing folk or business owners, but that now exist only as silent monuments to their creators’ social media aspirations. Initially they were approached by their owners with great gusto, albeit perhaps with little direction, but as time passed and the expected benefits weren’t forthcoming quickly enough, they were abandoned.

So how do you, as a business owner or marketer, avoid falling into this trap?

For many, a change in mindset will be necessary – there will be a need to move beyond the ‘Like’, to set realistic goals and most importantly to begin to think in terms of how to grow and sustain meaningful engagement with the target audience, based on your business and communications objectives.

Set measurable objectives

All marketing activity must be linked back to a business objective and social media is no exception. Is it your intention to use Facebook to boost awareness of your brand and to help attract new customers? Will it be a platform to engage with existing customers, to build loyalty or perhaps as a customer service channel? Or do you plan to join the growing number of companies that are selling through Facebook shops?

The perceived low barrier to social media entry has sometimes enticed brands to jump in without setting measurable objectives. There is a cost though, so if doesn’t add value to your customers or company, then a re-evaluation of your social media strategy is required.

Develop a Content and Posting Strategy

A documented content plan and posting strategy will act as a roadmap to your social media success. Spending time developing this plan will help to ensure that you consistently produce relevant and engaging content, thus avoiding situations you are forced to hurriedly muster up topics to post about – a very common pitfall.

For example, it’s important to include in your plan a significant number of posts that have been crafted to encourage dialogue with your fans. Dialogue and interaction are fundamental to maintaining a good Edgerank score. Edgerank is the algorithm that Facebook uses to determine what posts people see in their news feed. What this means is that if people do not interact with your posts, over time they will be less likely to see them in their Newsfeed and you effectively become invisible.

What is your Facebook Personality?

It is important to develop and use a consistent tone of voice and personality when you are posting on your Page. The type of question that you should be asking yourself is “What would my brand sound like if it were a person?”. It’s important to also consider your positioning, target audience and existing brand guidelines etc.

Give People a Reason to Like You

This may seem like an obvious point but it’s sometimes overlooked – for example if you are very close to a brand, product or service might you assume that others are as interested in it as you. With so many Pages vying for peoples’ attention on Facebook, it is vital that you give them a good reason to ‘Like’ you. Is your content funny or entertaining? Does is feature promotions and competitions? For example, during the last World Cup, Pizza Hut Delivery (client) offered their Facebook fans free Pizzas for every goal scored against France. Will your Page be seen as a helpful resource? Can you offer exclusive content to your Facebook fans as a reward for ‘Liking’ you? Several major international brands including Jameson Irish Whiskey (client) and Heineken have, for instance, used Facebook to preview upcoming TV adverts.

Adding Value with Apps

The potential of Facebook for marketers can be expanded beyond its native functionality by the use of custom applications. These have become fairly ubiquitous in recent times with both the quality, functionality and usefulness varying greatly. Aside from the draw (and some would argue time-wasting ability) of the likes of Farmville and Mafia Wars, savvy brand have been using Facebook apps to create meaningful experience for their customers. Recently Intel attracted the attention of millions of users around the world with its ‘Museum of Me’ Facebook Connect App which pulled in photos and content from users’ Facebook profiles and presented them in the form of a virtual museum. Such was the viral popularity of the app that over 1 million hits were achieved in the first week with no separate paid-for advertising.

Facebook apps are also the preferred way to run competitions on the Facebook platform without breaking Facebook’s strict rules prohibiting the use of ‘native functionality’ to run competitions. For example, Dundrum Shopping Centre (client) use their ‘Dundrum Delights’ CMS based competition app as a cost-effective way of growing and engaging their fan base.

The potential of Facebook to create value for brands and customers alike is undeniable. However success will depend on forward planning, knowing your audience, creativity & technical know-how along with some good of fashioned hard work.


Facebook Shop ImageA big trend in 2011 has been the implementation of e-commerce on Facebook. App based stores have been springing up on the Pages of many local and global brands, proving how closely social media can be linked to actual sales. With over 2 million Irish Facebook users, it makes sense for both brands and consumers that this convenient facility is available. In many cases brands offer their Facebook customers exclusive ‘Facebook only’ discounts or promotions to reward loyal followers.

Proctor & Gamble were first off the mark with their Pampers Facebook Store which offered consumers the facility to buy baby nappies through an f-commerce app.

Closer to home the mobile phone network Meteor, living up to their ‘Your Social Network’ tag line, were the first mobile provider in Ireland to embrace F-commerce. ICAN was asked to develop Meteor’s Facebook shop late last year. Consumers can now view a range of Meteor phones & compare specifications before going on to complete their purchase directly from the Facebook page. Transactions are completed via Meteor’s online store ensuring safety & security, but the purchaser never has to leave Facebook. And, they are given an extra €10 credit free as an incentive for using the shop! In addition to purchasing handsets, people can use Facebook’s share functionality to post updates (with images & comments) into their News Feed to tell their friends what they’ve found thus exposing new potential customers to the Meteor brand through their friends’ social graphs.

In a highly competitive marketplace, this functionality undoubtedly gives Meteor a competitive edge and it is also great news for the consumer, they are now able to post details of a potential purchase to their news feed and ask their friends for feedback or advice.

For brands, the benefits of f-commerce, aside from direct sales, can be measured in terms of a deeper understanding of their users purchasing habits, more engaged fans and increased word-of-mouth. Expect to see a lot more Irish brand adopting f-commerce next year.

Facebook Ads
There are over 2 million Facebook users in Ireland – this equates to over 65% of the entire online population. With a potential reach of this magnitude it’s no wonder that Facebook Ads have become so popular with Irish businesses of all sizes.

Facebook Ads are usually paid for on a cost per click (CPC) basis and aside from demographic targeting, the ads can also be targeted on a hyper granular level. For instance you can target users with particular interests, users who like certain pages, friends of users who already like you page and you can even show ads to your fans on their birthday. This all results in very low wastage for advertisers as the ads are seen only by relevant people and paid for only when one of these people clicks on the ad.

Facebook has released a number of new ad formats of late, one of the most powerful being the Sponsored Story. The power of this type of ad stems from the ability to bring social context to the ads by highlighting word-of-mouth recommendations. For example, if a user checks-in at a Place or Likes a Page, the Page owner can amplify this event by using Sponsored Stories to display the event to the user’s friends, not in the News Feed (where is could be easily missed) but in the Ad space in the right hand column of the Facebook Page. The user’s friends are much more likely to interact with the ad because of this implied recommendation.

A study from Nielsen shows that on average, people are 68% more likely to remember seeing an ad with social context than without, twice as likely to remember the ad’s message and four times as likely to purchase.


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