Establishing Brand Presence with Facebook [Jonathan Seely]

April 29, 2009

Establishing Brand Presence on Facebook

Facebook, initially created as a personal social network, has in recent incarnations become popular among marketing professionals for its potential for brand exposure.  With a growth rate of 600,000+ users per day the potential audience for brand exposure is staggering, to say the least.

Facebook has two primary outlets for creating a presence for your brand: “Groups” and “Public Profile” (formerly “Fan Pages”).

Facebook Groups

The first and oldest method, Groups, have almost existed from Facebook’s 2004 inception.  Groups work exactly as their name would imply.  They serve as a medium for a community of people to express a common interest.
Groups have received little change in functionality or appearance since their initial deployment.  Features are limited to a basic discussion thread for users, and a “wall” for users to write on.  While these features are important, they do not provide much value to users outside of the ability to communicate on a rudimentary, primitive level.

In addition to the limited (and limiting) features of Groups, the landing page a user is greeted with is relatively sparse and stagnant.  Activity within the group from administrators and other users is not accurately reflected, as discussion threads are somewhat hidden and users must scroll down to view wall postings.

What this amounts to is that users are not actively invited to engage with the group.  There is no call to action, and no invitation to share information—both of which are vital to the existence and growth of any online community.  Users must be invited to connect with your brand, and must be actively invited to participate.

Facebook Public Profiles (aka, Fan Pages)

The newest outlet for brand presence is Facebook’s Public Profiles.  Originally called Fan Pages, Public Profiles have evolved drastically and dramatically from their inception several years ago.  Originally, Fan Pages copied much of the functionality of Groups, with little differentiation or added value.  Since then, Public Profiles have undergone at least two major functionality changes,. The latest change giving Public Profiles most of the same features and appearance of a personal Facebook profile.

The key differentiation between Fan Pages and Groups can be summed up as dynamic vs. static content, which comes largely from the ease of information sharing.  Fan Pages immediately greet users with a call to action. Users land on the Fan Page wall, greeted with a text box, link-sharing features and a call to action that simply reads: “What’s on your mind?”  This actively encourages users to share links, thoughts and comments.

One of the other key features of Public Profiles is content and activity showing up in user news feeds.  This keeps the user actively engaged and encourages return visits to the Fan Page.  Groups do not have the ability to publish “status updates”, which limits communication from administrators to messaging, which is far less engaging.  Through status updates, administrators and fans can share links, videos, notes and just about any other online medium.

Public Profiles also allow for the integration of Facebook Applications, as with any other user profile.  This opens a realm of possibilities for user engagement, as there are applications for games, quizzes, photo sharing and tons of others.  At this time, there is still some kinks to be worked out as applications often do not fully work with Public Profiles, but given the potential I believe it will not be long before the issues are fixed and a whole host of applications become available for use with Public Profiles.

Administrators also have the ability to import RSS feeds from a blog, which is then published as a note, which in turn shows in user news feeds and once again engages users and actively reminds the user of both the brand and the blog.  Let’s face it: not everyone subscribes to blogs, so importing your blog through a Public Profile is a great way to notify users of new blog posts.  Users also then have the ability to copy and post the note to their profile through the “share” feature if they want to share it with their friends.

Profile administrators will also appreciate the “Insights” feature.  Insights works much like Google Analytics to track Public Profile traffic, but also provides valuable demographic information.  Administrators can view the male/female make up of their fans, as well as age ranges.  Administrators can also track video views, picture views and other media views.  This, in turn, provides excellent data on what most attracts and engages users thus allowing administrators to optimize content for maximum traction.

Public Profiles are Good, but not Great

As much potential as Public Profiles possess, they are not without their drawbacks.  Administrators and fans alike are still not notified of “comments” left on wall postings, requiring administrators to check pages frequently for new activity and comments.   The inclusion of Public Profiles in user news feeds is a major step in the right direction, and indication activity notifications may be forthcoming to user news feeds.

Groups are Dead

Given the direction Public Profiles have been heading through the past few updates, it is safe to say that Facebook Groups are dead.  The lack of updates in functionality leads me to believe that Groups will either no longer be supported or may be relegated to “maintenance mode”—a concept akin to life-support in the online world.

Brands looking to create a presence would be wise to create a Public Profile as it provides far more user engagement and more potential for viral growth with every upgrade to functionality and features.  With a potential audience of over 300,000,000 users, and growing exponentially daily, brands would be wise to establish a presence, given the low barrier of entry and high potential for return.

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Suggested Reading for 2/26

March 3, 2009

Twitter

40 of the Best Twitter Brands and the People Behind Them [Mashable]

+ 140 word interviews with 40 of the best brands on Twitter.

8 Useful Tips to Become Successful with Twitter [Smashing Magazine]

+ Title says it all.

50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Business [Chris Brogan]

+ Mr. Brogan shares 50 ways businesses can use Twitter

16 Examples of Huge Brands Using Twitter [Search Engine Journal]

+ SEJ takes a look at 16 of the largest brands on Twitter and how they are making it work for their purposes

Everything Twitter

+ Blog reviewing the latest Twitter apps and news

Facebook Fan Pages

Why You Need to Make a Facebook Fan Page for your Website NOW! [Search Engine Journal]

+ SEJ explains why your website needs its own Facebook fan page

Best Practices for Facebook Fan Pages [Radical Trust]

+ A comprehensive multi-part series detailing the best practices for effectively leveraging Facebook fan  pages

Guide to Facebook Fan Pages: Destinations vs. Collaborative Conversation Spaces [Marketing Profs]

+ A guide to making your Facebook fan page a conversation space and not merely another destination

Facebook Pages Help Guide [Facebook]

+ Complete how-to guide for setting up and administering Facebook fan pages, straight from the source

All Facebook

+ Up to the minute blog providing news & insight about Facebook and Facebook apps


GRSML Lunch: Engaging Your Clients & Customers

March 3, 2009

One of the most lauded aspects of social media is its potential for fostering customer interaction.  Social media provides marketers with multiple avenues to engage their clients and customers, as well as monitor reputation and brand.  Currently, there are two primary tools for customer engagement: Facebook Fan Pages and Twitter.  Each provides a unique way of interacting with the general public. Both can provide leverage, but it is important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of both of these popular social media applications.

Twitter

As anyone who watches CNN or any major news broadcast can tell you, Twitter is all the rage these days.  Twitter, in a nutshell, works similarly to Facebook status updates—with one key difference.  Users have the ability to reply to ‘updates’.  This makes Twitter a great way to provide dialogue between a brand and its customer base, but it does not come without its potential problems.

Advantages

+ Two-way messaging: allows for conversation and interaction

+ Ability to search for specific words or phrases: useful in brand/reputation monitoring, market research

+ Can be used to build a brand or persona for a business: puts a human voice and personality behind a brand

Disadvantages

– Opens up avenue for public criticism: be prepared to respond and know how to respond effectively

– Can be time-consuming: frequently updated accounts are more likely to attract followers and spark conversation

– Identity crisis: do we create a corporate Twitter account or a personal account?  Do you speak as yourself or as a corporation?

Facebook Fan Pages

Another popular method for businesses to engage their customer base is Facebook’s “Fan Page” feature.  Like Twitter, it is a free service that allows businesses to create what is essentially a corporate Facebook profile.  It works similarly to your own Facebook profile, but with a few key differences.  And once again, just like Twitter, there are advantages and disadvantages to Fan Pages.

Advantages

+ Multi-media: ability to feed a blog through the page, send “updates” to fans, add photos, create events, etc.

+ Potential to go “viral”: as users become fans, the action will show up in their friend’s feeds hopefully attracting more fans

+ Large audience: Facebook is growing by 700,000 users a day

Disadvantages

– Does not promote dialogue: generally more one-way and informational than conversational

– Time consuming: publishing notes is involved and requires manual HTML formatting

– Fans are not automatically notified of new content: little incentive for return visits

Ultimately, Twitter is the winner for promoting true conversation and interaction.  Don’t get me wrong: Facebook Fan Pages do have incredible potential, but need some tweaks and updates to fully realize the potential that exists. Its clear both forms of social media have their place in the business world.   Both services provide a way for your customers to interact with your business and feel as though they have a voice and someone who is listening on the other end, which ultimately encapsulates what social media is all about.