Welcome to Part 3 in our series on “How to be Social.” Part 1 covered the basic rules of social interaction for brands. Part 1.5 looked at a recent incident where a brand didn’t follow the rules, and the consequences of that decision. Part 2 was an intro to Twitter. Today we tackle Facebook.
Just as Twitter is complex in its simplicity, Facebook is simple in its complexity. I am not going to go through all the feature sets for Facebook. There is far too much to explain everything in detail, from groups, events, developer tools, inboxes (inboxi?) and updates to Farmville. Yet in all its complexity, Facebook is so simple to use, that even your mom has an account. The reason is status updates, which I will get to in a moment.
Like Twitter, Facebook is a microblogging platform. Unlike Twitter, the relationship between you and the audience is much more personal. Let’s start with an average user . . . me.
I have a relatively modest 198 friends on Facebook. I know all 198 people personally. Are all of them REALLY friends? No. Maybe a quarter of my Facebook friends would I consider real friends, and maybe 10-20 would be close friends. The rest are acquaintances, colleagues, and former classmates. But the one thing all of these people have in common is that they are people who, for one reason or another, I want to remain in contact with to varying degrees. Colleagues and friends for their opinions, classmates for nostalgic reasons, etc.
Here are some of the basic parts of Facebook:
Status Updates: Status updates are little posts users make. Unlike Twitter, the post can exceed 140 characters. Also, any significant action you take on Facebook will likely result in a status update. If you post a link, photo, or video, it will show up as a status update.
The Wall: Your wall is a collection of your interactions on Facebook. If you make a status update, it shows up on your wall, and in your and your friends’ news feed. If you upload a picture, or video, it will appear on your wall. Lastly, friends can leave little messages for each other by writing on each other’s wall.
Tags: Tagging generally occurs on photos that a user and their friends are in, however, when you make any post, or upload content (photos or video) you can tag your friends. Tagging someone will notify them that this content is of interest to them.
Fan pages: Brands, celebrities, politicians and side-dishes can all set up fan pages. Fan pages are like user profiles for companies and organizations. Instead of becoming a friend of a brand, people become fans. Fans of a brand will receive status updates from the brand in their news feed.
We all communicate with each other, for the most part, through status updates. Status updates are micro posts that any user can make, and anyone who is a friend of that user can comment on the status. If you are a “friend” of a user, their status will show up in you news feed. The news feed is an aggregation of all your friend’s status updates. As you can imagine, the news feed can get quite cluttered, especially if you are friends with a Farmville addict. So Facebook conveniently splits the news feed into two categories. “Most Recent,” which is every status update from all of your friends, and “Top News” which is news that Facebook feels is most relevant to you based on your interests, interactions with that user (or engagements) and if the status is active (has a lot of comments).
Comments = Community
So this is what separates Facebook from other social media platforms. The commenting mechanism allows a user’s friends to join in on a thought or conversation. Multiple people can comment on someone’s status (or photo, or video). If you comment on a status, and then someone else comments on the status, you will be notified. Just as if you make a status update, and someone comments on it, you will be notified. The result is a series of small conversations, stories and debates that unfold in people’s news feeds and on their walls. These conversations are powerful social interactions. Even the simplest comment on someone getting a hair cut or not being able to sleep, so they write an article about Facebook, turns into a real conversation, and connections between friends can really be felt.
Facebook, beyond other social media platforms is capable of creating an emotional connection between users. This, in my opinion, is the reason for Facebook’s success. As our lives become busier and more complex, our desire to be connected to people and places still needs to be met. Facebook provides a convenient venue for us to do so. But people don’t just want to be connected to people, places, and events, but brands as well.
The first thing a brand needs to do after setting up their page is acquire fans. One way to do this is through promotions. At the risk of being accused of navel gazing, a great example of a Facebook promotion was one of Grip’s own for the summer launch of Bud Light Lime. When Bud Light Lime was being introduced to Canada, they wanted to generate a brand following even before the beer was going to be available. What we did was set up a Facebook fan page and application. In this application, a user would start a virtual party. They would then encourage their friends to RSVP to their party. If a party’s RSVP list grew to 300 people or more, that party would be entered into a draw for you and all your guests to host the real party. In order to enter, you had to become a fan of Bud Light Lime. This promotion generated more than 80,000 fans.
Another way to acquire fans as a brand is through altruism. Starbucks does a great job of this. The mission statement on their fan page is this: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” That being said, their techniques do boil down to promotion, but in a different way.
Here’s a good and recent example: Starbucks has an ongoing promotion geared to not only sell more coffee, but to save them money and forests all at the same time. Buy a travel mug, get 10 cents off of your coffee purchases. On their Facebook page they promoted a one-day event where if you brought in your travel mug, you got a free coffee. All in the name of making a difference. Starbucks has more than 144,000 fans in Canada. That is a lot of brand stewards.
Side note: Starbucks continues to impress me with their social media policies and business practices. They do not hide the fact that they are trying to make money, but they are also actively trying to make money in increasingly more socially conscious ways. They also have a candor with their brand stewards that consistently feels genuine. In the world of social media, this is a powerful advantage.
So you have a bunch of fans. Now what? This is a question a lot of marketers ask themselves. Especially after a successful promotion. The answer is to engage and mobilize. Engagement is keeping a dialogue with your fans. There are several ways to do this, the most obvious way is again through status updates. Making regular status updates on your brand page can spark conversation among your fans. Your fans will also post things to the brand wall. It is very important to contribute to these conversations in a meaningful way. Whether it’s sharing the brand’s opinion on events, or commenting on the posts that fans make on the wall. These interactions need to be genuine, which is hard to fake. Brands that have a successful fan page should always have an engagement manager that has a real interest in the brand, product and community. This will ensure maximum engagement. Strong engagement equals strong stewards.
Now you have an engaged group of brand stewards. These stewards will be more likely to be long time customers, and be great brand advocates. So how do we mobilize them? Stay tuned for Part 4. :D