How big has Facebook become within marketing circles? So big that some might argue it's the No. 1 channel associated with social media marketing in general. Bigger than Twitter, bigger than YouTube, bigger than blogging (and much bigger than Google+ -- for now), it would seem that every self-respecting marketer is already squeezing everything he or she can out of the Facebook platform.
Yet I'm amazed to see that many brands are still failing to leverage all that Facebook has to offer. In this article, I'll examine six particular facets of Facebook that are often overlooked -- but shouldn't be.
Facebook is a truly global entity, with more than 70 percent of its users residing outside of the United States. Yet surprisingly, many global brands have failed to create even the most basic of Facebook pages that cater specifically to the countries and languages that are representative of their global consumer bases.
Moreover, the few brands that have taken a step in this direction fail to create intuitive navigation on their main Facebook landing pages and tabs that makes it easy for international consumers to find the content that was specifically created for them.
Couple the ascendance of smartphones with geo-location-based networks like Foursquare, and you end up with some fairly powerful and targeted marketing ammunition. And yet for some reason, brands have been very slow to leverage Facebook's own version of Foursquare, such as geo-location functionality. This is particularly surprising considering the impact geo-social marketing can have on brick-and-mortar brands.
The mobile web is here, and geo-location is destined to be one of its foundations. Platforms like Facebook are providing the tools (APIs, etc.) that allow brands to fully leverage the hyper-targeting available via this facet of the mobile web. However, it seems as if brands have been very slow to invest the necessary resources that would help them reach their full geo-location potential.
Social shopping and e-commerce
Despite the stupendous growth of Facebook (fast approaching 1 billion global users), brands have struggled to tap into this population in a manner that generates direct e-commerce sales. More specifically, while brands have had success engaging with consumers in a way that eventually leads to an online sale on their core websites, they've had a much tougher time getting consumers to transact directly through the Facebook interface.
Some might say that this lack of e-commerce appeal has to do with the mindset of users on Facebook (i.e., they're not in "buying mode"), and others feel that Facebook's platform needs to take steps to facilitate transactions similar to Amazon (e.g., "one-click" purchasing or something along those lines).
Still, the bottom line is that many brands haven't even tested the waters yet, which is likely a mistake since early adoption can often provide a long-term competitive advantage as more and more users become accustomed to the Facebook shopping experience.
Direct consumer interaction
A lot of brands have a content strategy for Facebook. They might even have a detailed content calendar that lays out the specific type of content they will post as well as when they plan on posting it. That's a great start, but it's not enough.
Facebook is a social network, which means that it's geared for back-and-forth conversation. Therefore, brands should be prepared to directly interact with consumers who visit their wall and leave posts or comments. And it's not good enough to only do so in cases where the consumer content is customer-service related. Brands should empower their social agencies and stakeholders to draft rules of engagement that allow for interaction on all sorts of topics. It's this deepest layer of interaction that allows brands to create a genuine human presence on Facebook and other social networks.
That touch of humanity is typically repaid with increased commentary, increased sharing, and increased engagement in general. It also leads to that treasured asset that we refer to as a "brand advocate."
Facebook ads geared toward interaction
Facebook ads have become a mainstream media-buying option, and therefore, most brands that invest in display media have already begun testing and investing in Facebook's ad formats. Unfortunately, many of these ad buys are geared toward driving direct response (a lead, a transaction, etc.).
While some are having success in using Facebook ads as a direct response medium, many are not. If your brand happens to fall into the "not" category, we suggest shifting gears and considering campaigns that foster engagement ("likes," wall posts, comments, shares, etc.).
Since Facebook ads are relatively inexpensive and the low click-through rate affords a lot of free branding impressions, this approach can be a great way to grow consumer Facebook page engagement at a relatively low cost.
The demographics-targeting capabilities offered by Facebook's ad platform make it a great tool for fostering engagement. This is so because ads can be geared toward Facebook users who are likely to want to engage with the brand but might simply not be aware of its presence.
Facebook as a nexus point for multiple business divisions
It amazes me to see that some companies still struggle with deciding which business division owns Facebook; should it be marketing, PR, customer service, or sales?
Frankly, it doesn't matter. The key is to ensure that Facebook (and all other social efforts) are infused into the DNA of the organization to ensure cooperation -- instead of competition -- among the different business divisions. This is one of the true keys to long-term success in the social realm.
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