There's no denying the power Facebook has had on businesses. You've probably recognized the increased use of that unmistakable Facebook icon on company websites, print ads and commercials, as well as the rise in custom-designed Facebook pages. But with the push to gain fans, many businesses are finding themselves unprepared to handle the "engagement" that comes from asking people to '"like" a business page.
Facebook is becoming the Borg -- you had better embrace the collective and make the best of it, or it will find your brand and build its community. Companies need to apply the same business sense, crisis management, and strategic planning they would to any brand messaging, marketing campaign, or customer-service protocol. Perhaps even more forethought is needed when it comes to social media, as customers will "talk back" and companies need to be prepared.
This is especially true when it comes to customers posting their ideas, suggestions, concerns, or problems on your wall. If your business is primarily communicating with customers via wall posts and you have a large fan base, you run the risk of coming across as unresponsive, or worse, not listening if a response is not timely.
One other missed opportunity I've been noticing is the high number of businesses not using Facebook to leverage their corporate brand. Here's a perfect medium for communicating with present and future customers that what you have to offer is worth purchasing, and too many companies don't seem to know how to use this social-media tool to their advantage.
To illustrate this further, I've selected three companies who I think are failing when it comes to marketing on Facebook: Tesla Motors, Netflix, and Goldman Sachs.
Every automotive company lays claim to being different than their competition, though few are. Tesla is different and this could be their golden opportunity on Facebook -- unfortunately it's missing the mark. Consider that Tesla is a high-end, zero-emissions car company that already sold out of its newest car, the Model S, before it even appeared in showrooms.
As an innovative, pure electric car company, Tesla is different from traditional automotive manufacturers like Audi and BMW that want to be positioned as more eco-friendly. This exciting company has an inspiring story to tell and you'd never know it on Facebook. Nowhere can its customers or potential customers read about its backstoryand nowhere does Tesla reinforce the reason it exists. By relying solely on its audience's wall comments for engagement, Tesla is missing the opportunity to share its unique niche and differentiate itself from its competition.
Lesson: Keep in mind that posts on your Facebook wall are just a starting point; posts are not a brand driver.When it comes to encouraging fans to get more involved with your brand, simply posting on your wall isn't enough. You need to engage them so they're interested in your backstory and they want to understand why they should buy from you.
Recommendation: This is an easy one, as Tesla already has the assets for a deeper engagement with its fans. By adding tabs to its page it could use this space to differentiate itself from its competition. Tabs would also allow Tesla to align its brand messaging through its back-story for both current and future fans and customers.
The example of a failure to communicate has to be Netflix and its CEO Reed Hastings. When Netflix announced its decision to raise rates and change its service, enraged customers took to the digital airwaves. In response, the company posted a cheerful comment thanking its fans for their feedback. That same day, its fans fired back leaving over 11,000 comments.
What businesses like Netflix need to keep in mind is that its Facebook wall is not the vehicle for addressing and rectifying current business challenges. This is primarily for two reasons: One, if you don't have a large team to respond to posts your brand message will come across as either unresponsive or as not listening, especially when you have an enraged active community. And two, when you have a large fan base that posts on your wall frequently, any response will likely get buried if it's not addressed immediately.
It's been more than five months since their initial attempt to "positively reassure" its Facebook fans, and Netflix still hasn't recovered. What it has found out is that fans don't forget and angry ones won't forgive. This can be seen in a recent post in which Netflix asked fans what movie or TV show is a Thanksgiving tradition? What it got was over 1,000 comments, many sharing a similar sentiment as Carlsbad Caverns, who posted "I think Christmas will be spent shopping for a new streaming service."
I cannot help but wonder if somewhere in that organization there's not an executive wishing that the backlash of negative posts would just stop. By not addressing concerns in real-time, Netflix leaves its disgruntled fans and customers no alternative but to continue to voice messages of irritation and distain for this once golden company.
Lesson: Respond, respond, respond. As the news of falling stocks, financial challenges and competition from Comcast continue to plague Netflix, the company misses the opportunities to use its Facebook page and tabs to reassure its current and potential customers of its abilty to rebound.
Recommendation: Plan and coordinate all messaging. When a problem arises for your company, develop a strategic response to your fans. Segment your Facebook tabs so that your fans have a designated place to post ideas and suggestions, a place for problems and concerns and a place for your company to share corporate news and related press releases. This will show that you are engaged and taking action.
In the current market, if a darling existed in the investment banking world, it might be Goldman Sachs. However, even with Warren Buffet's $5.6 billion blessing, it has some major image problems and are viewed as the poster child for corporate greed. So what's Goldman Sachs' brand messaging on either Facebook or Twitter? There's nothing. Taking a wild guess as to why it is inactive on Facebook, I'd say it's because the company may be hoping to buy the rest of Facebook, allowing Goldman Sachs to take it down itself.
All kidding aside, perhaps Goldman Sachs is paralyzed with fear to get involved on Facebook and it just don't know what to do. In an extreme situation like the one it is in, I would suggest taking a page from Coke and putting up "house rules" on the site, preceded by moderating the hell out of its wall.
This company is a perfect example of a brand that has just given up. And in its absence, an entire very active and very un-moderated community has grown in Facebook.
Lesson: Doing nothing doesn't eliminate problems -- it only perpetuates abuse and untruth about your business and allows it to circulate on Facebook.
Recommendation: With over 12,000 "likes," Goldman Sachs should contact Facebook to claim this page and start the uphill process of rebuilding.
Negative feedback can yield positive results
Businesses love positive word-of-mouth feedback however, negative comments are more beneficial because they're a means for helping your business take action and grow. Several studies have shown that user feedback can lead to an increase in sales of 23 percent, and this included items with poor reviews. ClickZ suggests negative reviews are a 'gift' for a business because it provides an opportunity to listen and respond to unsatisfied customers.
People follow brands to connect their offline experience with an online experience, according to a survey done by InSites Consulting. Sadly, 65 percent of complaints and questions go unanswered on Facebook by U.S. retailers, according to a Conversocial study.
Common reasons for failure
What we're seeing is two common themes of why leading companies are failing on Facebook. The first is limited executive support. A chief officer needs to prioritize social media and encourage a proactive digital engagement. The second reason for failure is due to a weak strategic social strategy. For many companies, social media is relatively new and with executives frantic to show their company's digital savvy, these leaders may abdicate their roles in favor of relying on the so-called experts for advice. The problem is that there aren't enough experts with real-world business and social-media experience since the field is still new and evolving.
The bottom line
Businesses need to get over their fear and embrace social-media opportunities, like Facebook. Resistance is futile. Executives need to support and invest in educating their teams so that they become their company's social-media experts. After all, there's no better endorsement of your brand than the people who work every day to carry out your company's brand messaging.
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