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Facebook's new functions (and how to leverage them)

Facebook's new functions (and how to leverage them) Doug Akin

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.

Doug Akin is chief engagement officer at Mr Youth.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

<P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">Doug Akin has always been a fast-talking born-and-bred NY charmer with the gift of persuasion. So persuasive, in fact, that he was even able...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: seyi akinde

2010, May 28

their is more mileage for brand when you chose to advertise using facebook, in Nigeria we are leading in the four front to educate brands on the value they will get ,while leveraging facebook.

in Nigerian consumer behavior are changing to advertising , the consumer are getting more sophisticated and want a better platform to engage them this make facebook a solution to the problem .

we are encouraging brand in Nigeria
Seyi Akinde
TSS Marketing Company Ltd
[email protected]

Commenter: Doug Akin

2010, May 18

Lonny - interesting point, people are inclined to be more trigger happy with a keyboard than they would be in real life with regard to promoting something. If you look at sites like Glue.com its all about liking a ton of items across a range of categories. Ultimately, I think we could start to see people get "Like Happy" and carelessly start liking everything they have a mild interest in just bcs the button is there.

What becomes of the data and patterns will be determined. For now privacy seems to be the surging topic and potential data abuse. The likelihood is that people will approach the 'like' functionality with caution due to all the privacy madness.

Commenter: Doug Akin

2010, May 18

Peter: well worth exploring. i definetly see the need for more brand marketers to embrace a 'Reviews' tab on their FB Pages, and encourage user reviews. This could even extend to a Dr. who encourages his patients to post reviews on his page. With regard to Yelp, Citysearch and the likes being crushed by FB reviews, i think it would take considerable time.

Yelp has a strong and pretty loyal user base, + they have their coveted Super Reviewers. Similar to an eBay power seller. It will be tough for those core reviewers to jump ship to FB anytime soon.

Right now, Facebook seems to be going a similar path with their Community Pages, but any strong review functionality is still early stage. In the near term the power of the like button is being integrated into Yelp and its much more of a casual click vs writing a full review.

Commenter: Peter Anthony Gales

2010, May 18

Important considerations for all brand marketers and web entrepreneurs. The scope and scale of the power FB is accumulating makes Google seem small by comparison.

Am curious to know how you see the future of review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Zagat reviews?

Specifically, do you see FB replacing them? Seems with the ability for users to "like" any page on the web, they will also have the ability to accumulate, sort and filter that information in ways that could make current review sites irrelevant?

What would they need to do to stay relevant and add value?

Commenter: Lonny Dunn

2010, May 17

I like this piece. Social Networking and Social Media are about consensus in concentric circles and the areas where those circles overlap is your middle ground, your keywords, your concepts and ideas which reach across arcania of ideas to find the audience. When Facebook Introduced the like feature, it realized it would be spinning this off into the ether across a blogger or article writers piece or onto our desktop thru multiple channels.

But is FB really finding patterns, rythyms, and sociological data about real people? Or the online identity they have created for themselves? Is some aspect of our lives moving over into the realm of fantasy along with the "like" button? Do we even really like what we just read? or are we just blasting out code because we can, and we like it?

I tweet at http://twitter.com/ProDevNetworker

Commenter: Richard Bramwell

2010, May 17

The moment you referred readers to The Huffington Post, my eyes glazed over, my concentration was lost, and my belief in marketer's reliance on Capitalism, diminished. THP is radically Left... which means they oppose every element of any purposeful marketer's intent... the opportunity for their client to profit.

THP hates those clients, yet you think they offer a lesson in marketing. Well, so did Leni Riefenstahl, for Hitler.

Your actions (because of your ideas of what is right) only achieve the destruction of all upon which you rely, long term. Both you & your clients need to make your smartest choices WITHOUT a bureaucrat deciding those choices for you. As soon as the bureaucrat makes your decisions, you will see that he DOES NOT HAVE YOUR BEST INTERESTS IN MIND.

Stop drinking the Obama Kool-Aid. Get a conscience. Market for individual success, not for the collectivist cries of Leftists.

Facebook has collectivist elements, because that is how its members work. Lead them to thinking for themselves, or join with Josef Goebbels. That is how sickening your article is, to those who care about individual peoples' lives.

In other words, "get a moral compass".

Commenter: Liz Zedo

2010, May 17

Great recommedations Doug! I would add that brands should take advantage of the Facebook self service platform, which allows advertisers to buy ads directly from the site, and use this to cross-promote relevant messages about their campaigns in real time. Doing so could increase engagement on fb by followers.

Elizabeth Kulin
Marketing Manager
ZEDO, Inc. Advertising Technology Partner for Publishers