Three phrases we are all familiar with are "'Like' me," "Become a fan," and "Click here to 'like' us on Facebook." And, as marketers, these are all words we have used as part of our Facebook strategy. As Facebook exploded in growth, marketers initially focused most of their social bandwidth on building a Facebook audience. But now what? Once you have an audience, what do you do next? This article takes an in-depth look at how to redefine your Facebook strategy to build a tighter connection with your audience that will ensure growth and maintain ongoing engagement.
Evolution of a facebook strategy
For the most part, marketers have followed a similar path in building their Facebook strategy.
As Facebook emerged as the social media platform, marketers focused all of their attention on building a presence. Creating a page was the goal, and that quickly evolved into tabs, apps, and polls. New businesses were created to service this need.
After building a presence, marketers focused on getting consumers to engage with their Facebook pages. The race to drive fans was in full effect -- and it still is for many marketers. The most common social success metric still is fan size -- the number of fans a brand or page has. Marketers have done a great job growing these audiences by leveraging Facebook media, customer relationship management tactics, search, and display.
This is the next step that most marketers need to take in their Facebook marketing evolution. Now that scale has been achieved for many marketers, it is time to begin connecting with this audience to create sustained social engagement. For the most part, Facebook audiences remain a relative unknown. For instance, we might know that someone is a fan, but we don't know much about who they are or what they do. To take the next step, marketers need to encourage their Facebook audiences to connect with them -- a deeper relationship than "liking" a brand. This requires a fair value exchange that rewards a fan for taking that step and rewards a marketer with a richer data set to engage the social audience. Measuring "connected" fans against overall fan growth is a new metric every marketer should be implementing and evaluating on a regular basis.
As marketers, we need to resist the urge to create and execute our social strategy in a silo. Integrating the new insights driven by your "connected audience" is a crucial step in taking your Facebook strategy to the next level. The real opportunity is to leverage this new connection with customers to power better marketing opportunities across other marketing channels and media, such as email, search, site, and mobile.
We all know that targeting our Facebook audience with rich, relevant content will drive better ongoing engagement. Taking the necessary steps to build a richer social-audience data set will arm marketers with the information necessary to achieve smart targeting. Then, use the data to match content format and messaging with the right audience.
Sounds great. But how do I do it?
Here are a few tips to help you move forward on the Facebook evolution timeline. It's important to note that this isn't something that happens over night -- it takes time and discipline to improve, often requiring changes to technology, data capture, and organizational responsibility. But, in terms of results, the reward is worth the effort.
Extended journey experiences
Move beyond the "point-in-time" consumer app experience. Move away from sweeps to drive fans and from contests or posts that drive generic "likes." Instead, start creating unique experiences that motivate consumers to engage because they want to be part of the experience itself -- not because they want to win something. This should be in line with your existing value proposition, and the value comes from participation.
An example of this is 1800Flowers' use of birthdays to drive ongoing engagement. Fans who connect with this experience receive birthday reminders for their friends with upcoming birthdays. This appears on their website when a user visits, and a reminder email is triggered to remind fans that they have friends with upcoming birthdays. This creates engagement over a period of time and is in line with 1800Flowers' value proposition -- giving friends a birthday gift.
Contact and content strategy
Start putting more thought into how you communicate with your Facebook audience. Building a focused messaging strategy will help prioritize three core areas: targeted content, message type, and brand-driving content.
Targeted content: Right now, most Facebook strategies are one-size-fits-all -- every fan gets the same message. By building the "connected audience," it's possible to target the messages with more relevant content. For example, if someone "likes" jeans, target them with jeans-related content. These targeted posts can serve as a nice complement to your existing Facebook brand building campaigns.
Message type: A critical success factor is also mixing up the types of messages you send to this audience. Polls are big right now, but the more polls sent every day, the less effective polls are going to be. Creating a contact strategy that mixes up content type (polls, videos, votes, etc.) will help drive more sustained engagement.
Brand-drivers: Integrating content that goes beyond selling a product but is still in line with your audience's interests is an effective way to drive ongoing engagement. Not every message should be about your products, sales, or business. Gilt.com effectively integrates relevant, brand-driving content into its Facebook messaging strategy. It incorporates pick-of-the-day content with other material that itsaudience is interested in -- like iPads, technology, celebrity fashion, Academy Awards, travel, etc. This refreshing break from the "norm" helps maintain ongoing engagement.
Leverage the Facebook Open Graph
There's more to Facebook engagement than managing the newsfeed and wall posts. According to a recent ClickZ study, 74 percent of consumers ask their social networks before making a buying decision. If that's the case, three out of four of your potential customers leave your website, go to Facebook, ask their networks, wait for a response, and then go back to your website after making a buying decision. This is a disjointed consumer experience. A better way is to leverage Facebook Open Graph to integrate your site and social audiences -- putting social networks on your site and allowing your customers to see what their friends "like," want, share, and buy. Since consumers trust their networks more than any other source, this is a very powerful way to insert the most relevant content at the optimal time.
For example, Estee Lauder's brand Smashbox is doing a good job of integrating itssite and social audience. As a visitor to its "social shop," you can "wish" for a product, "like" a product, and "share" a product. In addition, you can see what your friends are doing as well.
Test and learn plan
Social is still an evolving media that hasn't fully established its role in the overall marketing strategy. Because of this, it's important to prove the value of social in measurable areas, and then use those insights to expand with a more focused approach. Right now, marketers continue to experiment with different initiatives, but often times these test cases do not align with our brand goals -- or don't even align with each other. As a result, we tend to ineffectively invest money in these experiments and get sub-optimal results. To drive better insights and actually accelerate the growth of social, it's important to develop a test-and-learn plan that organizes test cases, determines metrics for success, and ensures that these initiatives align with our marketing goals in order to make smarter investments and more informed marketing decisions.
Social measurement (ROI)
The historical inability to measure social performance is limiting the growth of social. If we can't measure results, we can't prove ROI, and that limits the budgets assigned to social media. Data, tools, and technology are available to help us change this situation. We can now measure at a more granular level and begin to correlate social behaviors with actual revenue and value-driving behaviors. Here are some key metrics we should begin integrating into our social media framework:
Connected fan growth: Track the percent of your overall fan base that has connected with you on a deeper level than a Facebook page or product "like." How many fans have connected with an app and gone through the terms of service process? Measuring these segments of your fan base will help you get closer to targeting and segmenting your social audience.
Social activity segments: Understand how recently or frequently your social audience has engaged with your social strategy. This is a critical component in knowing how effective your social strategy actually is. Uncover the size of your active base (fans that have engaged frequently in the last month), your lapsed base (those that haven't engaged in last three months), and those who are one-and-done (fans that engaged once but never came back again). Understanding these simple activity segments will help you tailor your marketing strategy accordingly.
Connected fan value: Do your connected fans drive more revenue than your non-connected fans? How does this compare with overall customer value? This metric will provide clarity on the value contributed by your social audience, and it will help drive investments in social accordingly.
Social value drivers: "liking," commenting, and sharing. Beginning to correlate these behaviors with overall value enhances social-strategy decisions.
This is all easier said than done. But there is a tremendous groundswell in evolutionary marketing tactics around Facebook. Maintaining the status quo will leave you behind the pack in a very short period of time. Savvy marketers are staying current with the pace of social change and integrating these new opportunities into their overall marketing strategy. So, get out there and move beyond "likes" to start making connections.
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"Like symbol -- internet social" image via Shutterstock.