Facebook 2012 – the Year of Engagement +1

Alex Smith
Alex Smith Account Manager, Punch Communications

Posted on January 26th 2012

Facebook 2012 – the Year of Engagement +1

Facebook from the perspective of brands has evolved significantly over the past few years. 2009 was when the majority of brands and their respective digital PR or social media agencies leapt into the Facebook environment and started experimenting with the platform as a marketing tool to reach millions of new eyeballs, but in reality it wasn’t until 2010 that brands realised a need to acquire a fan base before it could actually market to them effectively. As such, a digital land-grab occurred in Facebook, whereby brands launched acquisition activities as a means of increasing their fan base and as such the number of consumers they could effectively market to through Facebook. 

The year after, most brands had established their audience on Facebook and started to turn their focus to engagement, whilst shortly after the beginning of 2011 the implementation of Facebook’s relevance algorithm, EdgeRank, started to take effect on brand pages. The algorithm, which dictates which content will appear in which users newsfeeds, gradually started to punish those pages that didn’t engage their audience on a regular basis, meaning that if a user doesn’t engage with a page’s content it would be served to them less and less until eventually they see no content at all.

This made engagement difficult in some regards, although in many cases the core audience of a page who were fans from the outset and always enthusiastic to engage usually do so on a consistent basis. This is of course in addition to those who respond to brand page activities designed to stimulate engagement and battle against the effect of EdgeRank, which incidentally also had a visible impact on acquisition on brand pages too. Facebook then seemingly compounded matters following its F8 conference in September 2011 by implementing Timeline and Ticker, both of which have influenced brand page visibility, some for better and some for worse. Also announced at the conference were new applications designed to showcase user activity through specific actions such as reading (The Guardian) or listening (Spotify); these apps will have a lasting effect on brand pages moving into 2012.

This year looks to be shaping up a little differently now. With EdgeRank dominating brand page content and Facebook changing the focus of activity and applications through timeline and actions respectively, it’s fair to say that brands now need to work harder than ever to engage their audiences. The cynics’ point of view is that Facebook is trying to direct brands towards its engagement advertising products such as sponsored stories ($4 billion forecast in revenue last year, WOW), whilst many brands are also likely to be pursuing ideas of how they can themselves own an action as a means of tapping into the new focus of applications and generating engagement and brand awareness by having a meaningful impact on users’ lives within Facebook.

Either way, this is almost engagement +1 – beyond the realms of the like and the comment (although they are still equally as valuable vs EdgeRank) we have much deeper integration that, if executed correctly, could firmly cement brands in the center of consumers’ lives, should they like a brand enough to use their apps. From the perspective of brands this will, in the best-case scenario, result in brand awareness turning into advocacy and conversions. However, as always with Facebook, there are so many unknowns that only those campaigns showing true innovation will be the ones that succeed.

Alex Smith

Alex Smith

Account Manager, Punch Communications

Geordie digital guy @ Punch Communications, big fan of football, guitars, The Independent, and Final Fantasy. http://www.twitter.com/alexsmith10
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Posted on January 26th 2012 at 7:52PM

You're right on when you say brands have to show true innovation on Facebook nowadays to succeed. Fortunately there are a lot of tools available out there to help brands do this. A business page these days is more like a mini-website than a fan page. Here's a great article on what it takes to create a custom Facebook tab that actually works on Facebook. http://smartblogs.com/socialmedia/2012/01/25/5-traits-of-a-great-custom-built-facebook-tab/