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3 "Apparent Truths" to Facebook as a Marketing Platform

Facebookstar1 Recently Rohit asked a bunch of folks about our top choices for overused or misunderstood terms. Who knows what publicity play he's got in mind for that one (could be for his upcoming book).

One of mine is "Facebook Strategy" - as in brand manager to agency: "make sure there is a facebook strategy in the plan...."

How can marketers productively "engage" (that is my euphemism for "doing something productive without spoiling the ecosystem or pissing people off") inside Facebook? It is not quite the wild west of MySpace where marketers can create fake character pages or real brand pages and no one really cares. In Facebook, our social graph works based upon our identity. We are not anonymous- for the most part. Marketers read the paper, they have feed readers. They know Facebook is growing 300%. They know it's deemed "cooler" than MySpace by most yet still has the mass subscription that makes it feel like the new mass media.

In it all, some smart people are trying to figure out how best to leverage Facebook. That means get results that meet expectations for brands and be of-use to those (myself included) who are actively in Facebook.  From our experience and the observation of smarties like Jeremiah Owyang, Nick ONeill and others here are some apparent truths (it's way too early for 'rules')

1. Traditional advertising alone inside Facebook is not the answer
As Nick puts it in AllFacebook:

"Facebook's performance as an advertising channel is still under debate. I have previously reported that Facebook has horrendously low click-thru rates. That is still the case but perhaps click-thru rates are not what should be measured."

2. Facebook Applications (e.g. Widgets) are more interesting for advertisers but, as my friend Cap says, designing and building apps is not in every advertiser's "wheelhouse."

There is a whole new class of developers focused on creating applications for different social networks. They are poised to develop for Open Social but the realities of that cross-social network standard are still being worked out. So they create for Facebook, for MySpace and for lesser populated social networks or services (e.g. my blogging platform, Typepad features a collection of widgets). Examples of these apps from sponsors include:

ABCNews has an app on Facebook. Apparently they are not so happy with it's performance. Nick's pov?

"That's not as much of a result of a poor performing advertising campaign as it is a result of a poorly designed Facebook application."

Developing a great app requires thinking less about "delivering on the brand" and more about how can you be of-use to people such that they install and use your app. we are working with some developers focused on app developoment. There is a lot of great work being odne and some indescriminate work, as well. Like a lot of social media, it takes a bit of brand (and developer) humility to be successful.

3. Get experience with an integrated marketing approach that leverages all of Facebook
While we know that simple ads may not perform inside Facebook the way that advertisers are used to, there are several choices for how marketers can engage. Time to try a mosaic approach. It will be a while before we can predict what collection of co-dependent activities work for different brands, now is the time to try some different recipes. Here are the ingredients that I can think of. Let me know if you have any more.

Facebook "Pages" - I put quotes around it to distinguish it from creating a user profile. But wait! It's not that much different. Here's what I like about them in Facebook's own language (remember, this is their ad sales page so the language is, oh so romantic)

"When your fans interact with your Facebook Page, the actions they take are automatically generated into social stories. These stories are published to News Feed, which friends may see the next time they log into Facebook. The stories link back to your Facebook Page, inviting more people to interact with it, which generates more social stories and drives even more traffic to your Page."

Social Ads - are contextual ads targeting users based on their preferences. they are best used in conjunction with Pages. I love how easy Facebook makes it sound:

"Creating a Social Ad is quick and easy. Simply write a creative, tell us who you want seeing your ad, and decide where you want to drive traffic. You can buy ads by number of clicks (CPC) or by number of impressions (CPM)."

Straight-up advertising - you know, display advertising or banners
Groups - Form a group around your brand or topic related to your brand. Again, this works only if your brand or someone from your barnd has a presence in Facebook via a personal profile or a brand Page.

Facebook Beacon - well, enough has been said over the past two weeks as Facebook was raked over the coals and then achieved the inevitable redemption by doing the redemptive act (i.e. "I'm sorry..."). Is it inherently insidious or did a dark arts-usage just take over the headlines? I believe Facebooks accomodation was to make the functionality require explicit opt-in from the user. Their description still talks "opt-out" but regardless, here is the promise of the service:

"Facebook Beacon enables your brand or business to gain access to viral distribution within Facebook. Stories of a user's engagement with your site may be displayed in his or her profile and in News Feed. These stories will act as a word-of-mouth promotion for your business and may be seen by friends who are also likely to be interested in your product."

Applications - this is the fun stuff from the My Starbucks app to the Epicurious recipe of the Day. Marketers can create little applications or widgets that do something useful or delightful that users can embed in their profile pages.

Use these things together to get the most bang for your buck. But always think of the end user - what will they find useful or delightful.


Jeremiah's got some great observations from his stint at the Web Community Forum. Sounds like he's going to generate some interesting reports and videos on teh subject. So, stay tuned as we all learn more.

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