Fostering strong and vibrant online communities is a key goal in any social media program. Social media allows businesses to harness the power of consumer referrals in ways not seen before. This isn’t new news; industry analysts and companies have recognized this for a number of years and the number of companies using social media to expand their consumer base and brand loyalty has grown exponentially. While more and more companies are launching their own Facebook pages, few utilize them to their full potential as Jeremiah Owyang of the Altimeter Group pointed out recently in his presentation on The 8 Success Criteria for Facebook Page Marketing. Owyang’s research revealed that most brands lack a concrete and well-defined strategy and fail to fully utilize Facebook’s features to build word of mouth among their customers. Owyang also lays out the key steps for successful Facebook page marketing, including:
- Set community expectations
- Provide cohesive branding
- Be up to date
- Live authenticity
- Participate in dialogue
- Enable peer-to-peer interaction
- Foster advocacy
- Solicit calls to action
This is great advice and is part of the key strategy for any Facebook community we enable our clients to develop, but it overlooks a couple of key issues that indicate where and how you engage. Without addressing these issues, businesses may end up with a false sense of possibility of the activity they can create on Facebook. Not all brands possess the sex appeal, business model & resources that the Fortune 500 companies Owyang researched do. So how should these brands use Facebook? Here are some points I would like discuss with the social media marketing community and the Altimeter Group when answering this question:
- Is Facebook marketing right for everyone? The implication from Owyang’s presentation is that because Facebook is where most people are already at and where everyone’s going, all brands should be engaging their communities on this platform. But is this true for Business-to-Business (B2B) brands? If your customer is not a single consumer that can advocate for your brand, but rather another corporation or a non-profit or a school district or a municipality, is Facebook a platform that you can reasonably expect to grow your business or should it be approached as a tool to expose your corporate culture and role in your industry as a thought leader? At Extanz, our experience indicates that Facebook must be one of a number of platforms used to reach your community in the B2B sector and resources should be spread across blogging, bloggers relations?, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube.
- If a business doesn’t have the resources to be designing custom applications to foster advocacy and interaction, are third-party applications a tool brands will find success with? Our use of third-party apps for our clients varies dramatically according to clients. These apps typically request access to your page information and the right to use the results of your participation. While for certain demographics this is not an issue, in other markets, community members may be completely unwilling to allow the access and participate via a third-party app. Sometimes they are staunch protectors of their privacy, other times they are web-savvy enough to understand the access these apps are gaining or they are web-challenged enough to be intimidated by the technology.
- If the sex appeal isn’t there for your brand, either because it’s not a well-known brand or it’s B2B or it’s not an industry people generally engage around or it’s a brand with a community that demands privacy, will the community engage? Our experience says yes, but it requires a strategy that is not discussed as part of the 8 Successful Criteria produced by Altimeter. So, I’d propose we add a criterion: Be a resource for your community and activate around the community interests, not just your brand. Provide them substantive and useful content e.g. industry news, tips for their lifestyle related to your service or product, cutting edge developments or trends, local news that is important to the community etc. Do not just provide updates about your brand and company news.
Social media and Facebook marketing are unquestionably an integral component to online marketing and branding for most industries. The key is ensuring you lay out a strategy that carefully balances your business objectives with the needs of your constituent community as they can be quite different before you dive in rather than simply industry standards as your strategy.
What are your thoughts on the above issues? Does Facebook work for B2B marketing? Should third-party apps be presented in a way that insinuates they would be useful and necessary to Facebook marketing strategy for all brands? How have you engaged communities that don’t automatically want to talk about your brand?