Putting a Face on Social Networks: Corporate Facebook Pages
Last November, our jobs either got a whole lot harder or easier. That’s when Facebook announced it had opened its network and let businesses target their users with advertising. At that point, Facebook was no longer your son’s or daughter’s network.
As a result, users can now be friends with brands and branded sites can be engines for social interaction. And we corporate professionals are forced to ask ourselves:
When it comes to launching a social networking site, should we create our own from scratch or should we piggyback onto Facebook’s network of users?
Corporate Facebook pages and customized social networks serve different audiences and somewhat different purposes. They both however are intended to engage customers in a conversation and leverage the power of the network to have users virally spread the word.
What do creators of customizable networks think?
As to the pros and cons of using a white label vs launching a company Facebook page, this is not an EITHER/OR. Micro-communities launched on sites like Facebook are best thought of as outposts where you can billboard to a larger more diverse audience, and lay the bread crumbs for bringing them back to your own branded community that runs within your domain and can be customized specific to your goals (not the goals of Facebook). It comes down to who owns the audience, how specifically you want your brand reflected throughout and how important it is to be able to orchestrate the community relative to the specific goals of your business. Subject to time, resources and clarity of purpose, both approaches serve a purpose.
Robby White at ONEsite addressed the issue of control:
“If you are trying to interact in an external environment by having a Facebook or MySpace page, then you are losing out on the ability to control the users for monetizing or branding.”
To Tony Stubblebine, ceo of CrowdVine Social Networks, it’s a matter of whom you’re appealing to. “Not everyone has Facebook. People not raised on Facebook don’t spend much time with it…For professionals looking for a specialized community, my gut feeling it is not for them.”
And so it seems that if you want to benefit from sheer numbers, its demographics and cost efficiencies, Facebook may be the way to go. If your need is privacy and control, a customized network is a better choice.
So what companies are successfully using Facebook? Companies as diverse as Paramount Pictures, Lush Cosmetics and CBS Sports are using Facebook to reach their target audiences. While some may argue that these companies are merely monetizing social relationships, these Facebook pages will fail if they are not informative or entertaining, engaging and true to the brands they represent.
In most cases, it is still too early to determine if these efforts are a success or even what constitutes success. But in speaking to a Facebook representative, the effective use of applications is a key driver for traffic.
I spoke with three companies who have successfully tapped Facebook’s social network. Here are their stories.
Karen Raskopf, senior vice president of corporate communications at Blockbuster, wrote:
We view this alliance with Facebook as an innovative way to cultivate relationships with millions of Facebook users by enabling them to interact with Blockbuster in convenient, relevant and entertaining ways. This is beyond advertising. This is about Blockbuster participating in the community of the consumer so that, in return, consumers feel motivated to share the benefits of our brand with their friends.
As one of the most-trafficked websites in the United States, we believe this alliance gives us a valuable opportunity to engage in an on-going dialogue with a tech-savvy audience, increase our brand relevance, form long-lasting consumer relationships, establish digital relationships with millions of media entertainment fans, and importantly grow our membership base, both in-store and online.
There are three main components to Blockbuster’s effort to engage Facebook users in community-driven, movie-focused experience. 1) the newsfeed Beacon; 2) the Movie Clique application 3) the Blockbuster Business profile.
In the case of “Movie Clique” app for example, once it is installed, it enables Facebook users to have a great new way to dialogue about movies and other media entertainment. Through Movie Clique, powered by Blockbuster on Facebook, users can search thousands of movie titles, create lists of must-see movies, share movie ratings and reviews while staying updated on new movie releases and promotions.
Brenda.Raney a Verizon Wireless spokesperson wrote:
The decision to create a corporate presence on Facebook was driven primarily because our customers were using Facebook. It is important for us to talk to our customers where they work and play so Facebook is one more avenue to reach our customers. One of our strategic goals is to create more interactivity for Verizon Wireless customers who are also Facebook users.
Currently, Verizon’s Facebook page has two applications: Text to friends is the primary one. A recent one allows customers to go to the Verizon Wireless profile page, download a Keith Urban video and send it to friends. Friends who want the song, can hold their Verizon Wireless phones up to the computer and use SongID on their Verizon Wireless phones to purchase the song directly on their phones.
Brenda also indicated that marketing has the primary responsibility of managing its Facebook presence. Corporate communications also has a presence on the page for mobile phone reviews.
Petro Kacur, senior manager, marketing communications at Coca-Cola described how Sprite has successfully used Facebook to reach its 18-24 year old target demographic that also happens to be the sweet spot for Facebook users.
“We’re always looking for innovative ways to reach core Sprite drinkers that are relevant to them. Our Facebook app allows them to stay active online and remain connected with friends. Launched last November, Sprite’s Facebook Sips application has a natural viral component. Users can create a character and interact with friends.
It’s a natural fit for socializing. It inspires interaction and is also tied to product purchase decisions. Under each 20 oz Sprite cap is a code for a specialized feature that can be added to enhance a user’s Sips character. Sprite has some experience with social networking. Its Facebook page is part of an evolution that includes MySpace, Second Life and mobile applications that let users stay connected via mobile phones.
It’s still too early to determine if Sprite’s Facebook foray is a success.
“We are still testing, learning, and seeing what catches on, what doesn’t, and how they are using our Facebook app. What’s important is to determine if the Sips application remains relevant by giving users a reason to go online and stay engaged. It can’t just be trendy. We can’t force a fit. It must fit in what we know about the target user and be true to the Sprite brand.”
A FaceBook Primer
For companies that are looking to create a company Facebook page, I strongly recommend you read Justin Smith’s posting, which is filled with useful information about available tools and features.
Pages are more customizable than groups. You can add HTML, Flash, or even Facebook applications to your pages to extend their functionality and the depth of experience users can have with your brand.
Pages get more prominent “Bumper Stickers” real estate than groups on the profile pages of your fans.
There is no limitation to the number of fans in your group that you can message
Facebook has taken an active role in cracking down on Pages not created by authorized agents.
Strategy for Success: Ask the Following
In my own opinion, to restate the obvious, Facebook clearly has a role to play in a social media strategy. In preparing your Facebook strategy ask yourself the following questions:
What is your strategic reason behind creating a corporate presence on Facebook? How does it tie back to your corporate web site or custom social network?
Have you created other social networks? How do they compare in terms of functionality look and feel, and content to your Facebook presence?
What applications are you planning to use? How do they tie back to your brand and the strategic purpose of the site?
What department will be responsible for the Facebook page? Marketing, corporate communications, product, or a combination?
Will you have someone monitor and refresh content? How often?
What is your competition doing?
How will you measure success?
I am curious to hear about your Facebook stories or companies you think have successfully used Facebook as a social networking platform.
Let me get back to you.