With its recent F8 announcements, Facebook has again one-upped the world as we thought we knew it. Brand marketers need to start looking at Facebook as a much deeper and broader solution than one that purely amasses a fan base. As Facebook rolls out new functionality, brands have the opportunity to act immediately in a variety of ways. In addition, it's important for brand managers to re-imagine their brands by leveraging social enhancements.
Brands need to be able to take immediate advantage of features such as the "like" functionality, but they also need to be visionary in how they can build their brands for the future and become truly social. While I encourage brands to take part in these new advancements, we also need to make sure that we keep an eye on the Facebook future and build with this future in mind.
So, in the quest to make your brand truly social, uproot your assets and think of new ways to infuse them through Facebook integration and by adding key social layers to the brand experience. Look toward the future and start evaluating the role that Facebook can play at retail, on the ground, and across every channel your brand touches. Not all opportunities will be a fit, but one thing is for sure: If you only look at Facebook as a place to have a fan page, you are missing the greater offering and will likely be sitting on the sidelines when the future arrives.
Let's take a look at some of Facebook's new and evolving functionalities, as well as what they mean for your marketing efforts.
A new form of social currency is on the rise
Facebook is moving toward a currency system through its upcoming App2User platform that will allow brands to sync their loyalty and rewards systems to offer users Facebook Credits. Since August, Facebook Credits has been in beta testing, allowing users to make in-game purchases and more. However, the platform will deepen by aligning with brands' loyalty and rewards programs and allowing users to redeem their rewards for Facebook Credits. We've heard buzz words such as social CRM and loyalty 2.0 thrown around, but this truly merges the old-school loyalty world with the new-school social world.
So what does this mean for marketers? It would allow consumers to redeem their loyalty points for virtual currency, and would likely be a much cheaper redemption for the retailer versus having to stock inventory and fulfill physical rewards. In-game advertising has received backlash because many brands have seen a surge in unqualified leads. However, the recent news around Facebook Credits and App2User allows for a more sound solution for marketers. So if you're an avid Target shopper but prefer to spend your rewards on guilty pleasures such as Farmville items, now is your chance.
Making your website more "likable"
As many of you have heard, Facebook has truly scaled its platform and opened up a world of socialization outside of the Facebook walls. Currently tens of thousands of companies are integrating the expanded "like" features on their websites. From Pandora to Yelp to CNN to BuzzFeed, their web content is now becoming highly social in nature. I first became intrigued by this concept of social news when I noticed what dozens of my friends were reading on HuffingtonPost.com by connecting via Facebook Connect.
Facebook's "like" functionality opens a much deeper world than purely seeing what everyone is reading. It will likely play a huge role in influencing shopping behaviors among web purchasers.
Imagine having your circulars (yeah, I just said that) or catalogs brought fully to the digital space and infusing "like" functionality across all of them to create social conversation and trending, and also seek out the most popular items among your peers. Around the holiday season, retailers could truly leverage this functionality and hopefully rid the world of crappy holiday gifts. While something tells me that Grandma might still knit a cat sweater, they would probably be super popular these days in the Facebook space.
Facebook Mobile is huge -- how are you leveraging it?
More than 100 million Facebook users, out of the total 400 million user base, connect to Facebook via mobile. Although, unfortunately, there was no big announcement on location-based functions during the F8 conference other than a small nod to a project called Presence, there's no doubt that once this is realized, mobile will be a huge area of growth for Facebook, as well as a strong social glue to the consumers at retail and on the streets.
As iPhone and other smartphone user bases continue to grow, Facebook mobile usage is something to watch. Users who have Facebook mobile applications installed on their smartphones are twice as active as the average Facebook user. The future of Facebook mobile and location is undefined at the moment, but the true benefit would be for Facebook fans to be given offers from retailers. With recent talks of Facebook's location feature scheduled to launch in the next month, mobile will be a game changer for the Facebook platform
Imagine if you were fan of Target on Facebook and entered a Target store. You could access your Facebook application, and a geo-locator would recognize you were a fan of Target and also recognize your current location. A special offer would be pushed to you, and the opportunity to share this message to your friends would be available. This is just scratching the surface of what's possible. Additional data could be pulled directly from your profile, and offers could be customized to you directly from Facebook. Ultimately, if Facebook could crack this opportunity, it would limit the need for a user to download each stores' independent app. They'd simply fan a brand on Facebook for a chance to get fed unique location-based offers. Now tie back the loyalty programs we brought up earlier, and you can start to see how this picture will play out in the coming years.
The true beauty of Facebook Mobile will be realized once geo-location is unveiled.
Use the formerly known Facebook Connect for deeper utility
Look at sites like Simply Hired as inspiration for ways to create more utlity for consumers across the Facebook platform. The site allows you to access your Facebook friends to see available jobs that are connected to their networks. It not only pulls from their current network but also pulls from past employment. So, if you're looking for a job, you can sort through your friends to see if there is a position available at their company. It's a brilliant use of what was formerly known as Facebook Connect.
Brands should understand that the increased access to Facebook data will enable them to potentially provide more pinpointed utility to their targets. Imagine if Axe deodorant created a Facebook app that pulled data from Facebook to enable a guy to find all the single girls in his network, and send them a custom message during Valentine's Day via a custom video message.
Consider capturing and streaming content via Facebook
Maybe we take that a step further and integrate that message via a live stream to the ladies on V-day. Well, OK, that might not even be needed -- but one thing that brands should keep an eye out for is Live Streaming. Facebook's Live Streaming was first popularized when Obama took office.
Channels such as Ustream are available to live stream content directly on the Facebook page. Major live events such as Coachella and F8 have recently been effective in streaming live content through the Facebook platform. The ability to stream through Facebook can offer fans rewarding, exclusive content. Sponsors of festivals and concerts have started to lock up streaming rights, and will likely start to ensure their fans are consuming this content. The ability to chat with other viewers is also a strength here, so unlike TV -- which to date lacks an online social element -- a Facebook Live Stream can connect you with others on the Facebook network to chat.
Rewarding your biggest fans on Facebook
Dunkin' Donuts has achieved strong success across Twitter and Facebook by rewarding and spotlighting its ultimate fans through photo contests and promotional contests. Now a larger opportunity has become available to leverage third-party applications and custom solutions, through which brands can reward their most active and engaged fans.
By using such applications you can encourage fans to interact with your content, and in return be able to "unlock" Facebook tabs, receive premium content, and be rewarded with perks. For many brands, the challenge still remains as to how to engage fans past their walls. However, infusing some gaming mechanics and hooking in a rewards or loyalty system based on participation would be welcomed advancements to the space.
It is important to recognize these fans because you want to ensure that if you post video, photos, or other content, you are aware of which fans are consuming and sharing this content. The ability to bring in points and rewards for participation will increase fan participation with brands. There could also be exciting opportunities to leverage Facebook Credits through this type of fan reward and interaction.
In the end, marketers need to take stock of their existing inventory, assets, and traditional tools and see how they can leverage the flurry of Facebook functionality that has become available. Brands need to stop thinking about Facebook as purely a place to amass a ton of friends and look at it as a complement to their entire business model.
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