Much has been said about Twitter’s ability to build brands, spread messages and create interaction. But Facebook’s business pages have been around much longer, are a lot more flexible and are part of a much larger platform too. Coca Cola’s tweets, made up of slightly creepy greetings to followers and public Coke drinkers, for example, are read by fewer than 30,000 people. The company’s Facebook page, which is filled with videos, active discussions, ad campaigns and all sorts of other goodies, has been liked by more than 5.7 million people.
Creating that kind of following though takes more than a well-known brand and about ten spoonfuls of sugar in every can. It also takes a smart use of the functions available to marketers looking to build their market with Facebook. Here are five brands that are getting it right:
One of the most valuable strengths of social media marketing is that companies aren’t just broadcasting their messages to their market. They’re letting their market talk about them among themselves. That’s something that EA Sports 2010 World Cup Edition uses to the full. The company, which is known for its computer sports simulations, was expected to bring out its new management game on consoles. Instead, it chose to use Facebook as a platform, providing a way for the site’s users to face off against each other.
Users can buy “packs” of players for about $1.50-$3 each but the revenue is unlikely to be the main reason that EA have opted for Facebook instead of Nintendo. Console games are more likely sell for around $50 each and points earned during the game can be used to pay for more team members. Rather than looking at cash for this simple game, the company is using Facebook’s horizontal networking — and its $300m purchase of app developer Playfish — to keep people talking about the company and maintain its awareness during the soccer World Cup.
The Facebook page for its main product is pretty effective too.
Electronic Arts’ new game is powered by a smart app, something that requires plenty of time and money to create. But businesses don’t need to go to that expense to create an effective Facebook presence. Dunkin Donuts doesn’t offer anything on its Facebook page that isn’t available to any other business wanting to make use of social media. Its wall though contains plenty of posts by keen fans, the admin staff have bothered to fill in the details on the info page — something not done by every business (we’re looking at you, Benetton) — and its events widget lists all sorts of local happenings that might interest customers.
Where Dunkin Donuts really excels though is in the steps it takes to reach out to its fans. Users are offered a “perk” for enrolling in the company’s app. Maurice, a talking coffee bean, offers a measure of fun. And most importantly, submitting a picture to the page’s wall puts users in the running to be chosen as a “fan of the week.” It’s a simple way to make customers feel that the Facebook page is about them, and not about the company.
A challenge for companies considering using social media to push their brands is the site’s demographic. Facebook started at a college and it still looks like a poor choice for firms looking to target markets whose members are middle-aged or older.
When Australian marketing firm Soap Creative was hired by multinational company Unilever to promote its local tea brand Bushells however, it chose to focus much of its digital strategy on Facebook. Without spending a dime on promotions, the page has quickly built up a following almost 20,000 at a rate of almost 1,000 new fans every month.
The company attempts to get around the reluctance of older Facebook users to engage actively on the site by promoting its presence as part of the conversation that comes with a cup of tea. According to Ross Raeburn, one of the people responsible for the campaign, Soap Creative has seen the self-moderation, community ownership and brand participation that they’ve come to expect from Facebook. The wall is active, the company is learning information about its customers missed by annual focus groups, and Bushells has succeeded in deepening the sense of brand loyalty held by its customers.
Not all the most effective commercial pages on Facebook are pushing big brands or run by professional marketers. Chris Meyer is a professional photographer who advises other photographers about the benefits of Facebook marketing. The site itself has used him as a case study for the rewards its ads can bring after a $600 spend generated over $40,000 in bookings. But it’s not just his paid ads that are bringing results. His studio’s business page also has a surprisingly large following and an interactive wall filled with comments from customers and friends.
There are no secret tricks here. Chris Meyer doesn’t use an interactive app or even post videos. He just makes regular posts that are upbeat, human and which engage with his followers. It’s a strategy that might not work for companies so large that they struggle to present a human face, but for very small businesses, Chris Meyer’s friendly contact is a good model to follow.
And finally, it’s also possible to make good use of Facebook’s pages without attempting to earn a dime. Amnesty International uses its Causes tab to publicize its fundraising efforts, the results of its recruiting, the level of its “karma” — a way of thanking supporters — and to list the causes it supports. Its YouTube plug-in makes sharing videos with friends as simple as sending an invitation and a Twitter feed helps to add instant news. Mostly though the page shows how Facebook can sometimes work as a broadcast system and the first step in a viral campaign. Amnesty adds the clips and offers its opinions on human rights issues, and its followers then share them with friends.
If there is a problem with Amnesty’s use of Facebook though, it’s the address. Facebook.com/amnestyinternational leads to the Belgian branch of the organization, a page which isn’t publicly available and which has posted little content. If you want to make the most of Facebook, it does pay to be open — and get your name right.
Facebook’s business pages then can be hugely valuable but the way they’re used does depend on the type of product or service you’re offering, the demographic of your market and the kinds of tools best used to engage and interact with them. There’s no one strategy that can bring results; only a number of tools, and a willingness to press some virtual flesh.