The value of Facebook as a marketing communications channel is now indisputable. Brands are beginning to increase their advertising investment in the platform, some as much as 10 times last year's spend. Additionally, companies are focusing more effort on engaging with their Facebook fan base through constant communication and highly interactive content. At the same time, many other brands are struggling not only with bringing their customer base into the Facebook ecosystem, but also with engaging those fans once they "like" the brand.
Note -- Facebook is now calling fans "connections." Since most of us still haven't latched on to that term, we will refer to these connections as "fans" throughout the rest of this article. And besides, an article entitled "3 reasons your brand doesn't have more Facebook connections" just sounds detached and kinda lame. Moving on...
In almost every instance, brands enter the Facebook world with the expectation of having lots of fans. They see the ratio of fans-to-customers as a method for measuring success. I'm not saying that fans are the only, or even most important, metric for success at Facebook. But it is important for brands to recognize the true power of Facebook lies in its reach. The more people (fans) you have sharing your content at Facebook, the greater your reach. So fans are important. Very important.
It's amazing to see how some big brands have far fewer fans than others. It's not always directly related to the size of the customer base. There are consumer brands like DirecTV with tens of millions of customers -- and less than 100,000 fans. Conversely, there are brands, like Tiffany & Co., that serve a much smaller clientele yet have five times the number of fans. In performing diagnostic evaluations on dozens of Facebook pages, for brands large and small, I have come to find that there are three main reasons why some companies struggle to acquire fans.
Reason 1: Lack of awareness
Many brands fail to generate clear and obvious awareness of their presence at Facebook. The general thinking among many brands has been that by simply placing a button or link to "become a fan" on their website, they have met the requirement for effectively promoting their Facebook page. This is hardly the case. One small Facebook icon at the bottom of your website doesn't cut it anymore.
Brands should market their Facebook page in every available channel they can. This includes their website(s), landing pages, email communications, print communications, advertising creative and any other area where it is appropriate. While you don't want to clobber your customers over the head with the pitch to become a fan, you should integrate a Facebook call-to-action into your overall marketing communications plan.
Social Plugins are also a very important part of connecting your customer base to your Facebook page. As a Facebook user, social plugins let you see what your friends have liked, commented on, or shared on sites across the web. As a brand, social plugins allow your customers to not only connect with you, but also share that connection with their network of friends and family. Customers can become a fan, comment, "like," and recommend your brand and your content without ever leaving your company website. Social plugins can be added to your website with just one line of HTML.
Reason 2: Failure to convert
For most digital marketing professionals, conversion rates are a very important metric. We measure traffic to a landing page, as well as the resulting sales, and are constantly tinkering with content and copy to improve the ratio. Still, most brands aren't looking at visits to their Facebook page and how many new fans are converted from those visits. Marketing your Facebook page is just like marketing one of your products. Conversion is key!
Landing a potential fan on your wall -- which is the default landing spot for all Facebook pages -- creates a missed opportunity for your brand. Facebook allows a page administrator to designate alternative landing tabs for new fans to hit when they visit your page. The best opportunity to maximize fan conversions is by bringing non-fans to your Facebook page by way of a custom landing tab.
Your Facebook landing tab should welcome new visitors and give them a clearly defined call-to-action to become a fan. Landing tabs can be complex or simple. Some offer exclusive content when you become a fan, and others promote a contest or sweepstakes. And some manage to do it all. In each of these cases, landing tabs help increase fan conversions by offering clearly communicated benefits. Landing tabs act as a bridge between the brand and the potential fan. Build a solid bridge and watch the fans cross over in droves.
Reason 3: An ineffective content and communication strategy
This is the one area where I spend a lot of time counseling brands. Facebook offers a lot of unique ways for companies to engage their customers. The entire premise of the Facebook platform is built on sharing of information, content, and opinions. The brands who are succeeding in Facebook understand that the more they engage their fans, the more their fans are likely to engage with their brand.
From a content perspective, it's important to listen to the voice of the fan in order to maximize the likelihood of engagement. This means creating and serving up content experiences that your fans want. Simply repurposing existing content and distributing it within the Facebook platform offers little reason for your fans to engage. Assume that your fans have already seen your YouTube videos and are already following you at Twitter. If your entire Facebook content strategy is delivering a feed from your YouTube channel and Twitter page, then you need to spend more time understanding the unique benefits that the Facebook platform gives brands.
Whether it's the inclusion of discussion boards, notes, stories, photos, questions, videos, reviews, events, or custom applications and tabs, Facebook can deliver more customer interaction with your brand than most brand websites can. Best of all, nearly all of this functionality comes standard with any company page.
Perhaps the area where brands struggle the most to connect with their fans is the News Feed. Simply put, your company can publish copy and content via your company page and have it distributed to all of your fans by way of their news feeds. Most brands overlook the power of this amazingly simple and highly effective communication tool.
Many companies push out news or content and just expect that their fans will respond. That's a pre-social communication strategy and not very Facebook friendly. If you want your fans to interact, start asking for their opinions. Post more often. Two to three times a day is not out of the ordinary. Ask for opinions. Respond to as many posts as you can. Remember, every time a fan responds to or "likes" your news feed item, that information is shared with their friends. This is where the amazing reach benefit of Facebook comes into play.
Make the news feed a place where your fans can engage with you in a lively and fun conversation about your products or services and the benefits they offer. You want to keep the conversation focused, but don't be too afraid to veer off a bit and make it fun. Check your fan counts and your insights report to make sure you aren't turning the fans off -- they will "unlike" you or remove you from their news feed if you post irrelevant content or post too often. Continuously work to find the right blend of content, communication and frequency in posting your news feed items. Pound for pound, the news feed is the greatest tool you have for maintaining a lasting connection with your fans.
Whether your company has been on Facebook for a couple of years or is just starting out, there are clear pathways to success for brand marketing on the platform. But it requires time, resources and a solid strategy. It doesn't come quickly, cheaply, or through "viral voodoo."
Still, you can avoid these three main pitfalls by creating awareness of your Facebook page in most of your marketing communication assets and channels, by effectively converting potential fans into actual fans, and by giving your fans content and communication that matters most to them. Put the focus on the fans first and you'll wind up building a solid and effective marketing channel that you can leverage time and time again.
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