Facebook Marketing Primer

welcome_3Facebook has some true marketing potential for some companies. The question is which companies, and what’s the right way to use Facebook?

Several recent posts have contested Facebook’s value as a marketing vehicle for companies, including the Buzz Bin post, “Beware of Facebook Frenzy.” In many ways, these posts are realistic reactions to contemporary media and A-List bloggers positioning Facebook as the social media panacea.

Facebook is not right for every company. But it does offer some companies a great way to market themselves. It always comes down to the community. Is the company’s target community on Facebook? If so, then perhaps Facebook is the right place. Here’s a look at some of the methods a company can use.

We look at three forms of marketing on Facebook: Applications, community development and advertising.

Applications

When this post was written, there were approximately 4,000 applications available for Facebook readers. Facebook’s open policy towards applications has caused a flood of companies seeking to attract Facebook users and tie into their web site or service. Examples vary greatly, but some successful applications include the Amazon bookshelf and the Twitter application.

In summary from Facebook Frenzy, Kyle Flaherty, and Ike Pigott’s post last week, the application marketplace — stimulated by Facebook’s open API — has become extremely crowded. Sub-communities within Facebook are over-saturated.

Applications must hold great value for community members. If there is no substance to the applications, or if the actual core community is relatively small (thousands as opposed to millions), the application faces great challenges. There are also great successes available to companies who do this right. Consider RockYou’s success: 15 million new users through Facebook in three months (as documented by Robert Scoble).

At this time, B2B companies and organizations should hold off on Facebook. Applications work best when there are mass buyers across multiple verticals that may be interested in what the organization offers. Given the core audiences involved and increasingly low conversion rates on applications, think hundreds of thousands.

The application must give the community great value. Invest in developing a creative experience that will compel people to spread the application virally. But before you do that, measure cost against 1-2% conversion ratios and decide whether a different social media campaign would better serve the organization. Investing in a social network like Facebook should be a well thought-out decision.

Community Development

Networking within Facebook seems to be a great way to develop “reasonable results, and make some great contacts.” At the same time, with Facebook’s popularity has come a great flurry of friending.  This has created over saturation for some people who won’t simply friend community developers upon request. In many ways, friending comes down to basic networking skills.

A grassroots community developer can use the groups and event functions to create great discussion areas for its Facebook public. Advocacy and charitable groups on Facebook seem to do this best, waging wars on high oil prices, ethical treatment of animals — without PETA, breast cancer, and heart disease.

To date, many companies have relied on applications, not community groups to market themselves. That may change as companies realize that Facebook offers a great way to aggregate community members in one place to communicate and engage with them. For example consider Target’s success with its groupAffiliate marketing seems to work here.

The key — as with all social media marketing outreach — is creating valuable information for community members, non-intrusive updates, and an open approach that enables community members to say whatever they want. Negative feedback should be viewed as an opportunity to engage Facebook members in a dialogue about their needs and concerns.

Tinu Abayomi-Paul created a PDF on best practices for Facebook marketing. Tina writes a great deal about ways to intelligently network within Facebook, and create savvy calls to action within profiles and groups. This is great reading for community developers.

Advertising

Chris Webb wrote a pretty inclusive post on the weak power of Facebook advertising. No need to reinvent the wheel. To sum it up:

I can point to several reports that seem to show traditional advertising models don’t seem to be working on Facebook – at least not in its current form. Facebook is working on a more focused system for advertisers, and those results remain to be seen. Perhaps more focused efforts will have better results.

Moving forward, advertising will likely have continued low click-throughs. Facebook is best leveraged for marketing via community development and applications.

20 Replies to “Facebook Marketing Primer”

  1. Insightful write up, Geoff. The only thing I’d add is that there are a couple of companies, VideoEgg and fbexchange among them, which are using the application platform to build an ad network (with Facebook’s blessing). In fact, VideoEgg’s interface has worked so well that Google’s new ad overlay is exactly like it. This is trackable media

    I’ll be testing some of these formats in the next few months and will let you know what my experience has been.

  2. Thanks for the heads up on those updates, Jane! You’ll have to blog your findings and let us know.

    Raz, I really appreciate you dropping by and letting me know that. I really try to write these to be of service to readers, so it’s good to know we’re hitting the mark.

  3. I agree about the idea that B2B companies should hold off. While I love Facebook, I’ve been saying/thinking for a while that many of its applications make is appear to be ‘too silly’ for B2B marketing and business development. I think there’s an opening for a hybrid of LinkedIn and Facebook. One that takes the best of both.

  4. Thanks for the mention. I agree with Jane, this is a good wrap-up. There definitely needs to be more coverage of what Facebook actually does, rather than the “is it good/is it bad” kind of press because the latter leads to a lot of pre-judging. You can’t know whether Facebook will expand or enhance your personal or company horizons until you get on there and link up with someone who “gets” it.

    At its worst, its simply another way to communicate, and just as some prefer email, phone, blogging, video, or in person for certain functions, so will Facebook be suited for certain personal connections or marketing through relationships.

  5. Jonathan: LinkedIn has great potential to do great things in a B2B sense.

    Tinu: Right on. It is just a medium, a very successful one at that.

  6. Geoff

    LinkedIn seems to be dropping the ball a bit here. Facebook is getting a heckuva lotta hype. Some legit, some not. But LinkedIn could make their interface a bit more robust and diverse IMO. Do you know if they plan to?

  7. I sure do… One LinkedIn IPO valued at >$100 million. http://linkedinipo.com/

    Imagine what a cash flow influx of that size could do for application development and architecture changes. That may be why Facebook has such a sense of urgency to dominate the world…

  8. Great one Geoff,

    As a side item, I’ve been wondering if people who proliferate themselves across social networks too much actually undercut the the communication value of their own blog.

    How much Steve or Robert can we read? Every post? Every twit? Every thought across the vast expanse of cyberspace. Hmmm … it seems to make more sense to narrow the focus of the communication and then proliferate it to lead back to somewhere, at least as far as B2B is concerned.

    Best,
    Rich

  9. Very helpful tips Geoff, I agree that not every company is a good fit for Facebook
    but frankly it is very early to decide what work and what doesn’t. I do hope that you are correct regarding “Applications must hold great value for community members” We are a trying a new application approach a blend of fun and value in Travel and I hope that it is the right mix, will let you guys know in few weeks.

  10. Just came across this older posting–good stuff. But Tinu’s “best practices” for Facebook looks like one of those fly by night deals selling Viagri or get rich schemes. Is this guy/woman real?

  11. Well summed up! Now I know the real value of Facebook. While in Facebook I’m just doing the werewolf thing.*grin* but now I know that it’s more than that of been bitten by a werewolf. It’s a place of thousand opportunities.

    -Jan

  12. I think “reasonable results” sums it up pretty well, at least in my own experiences anyway. I would say they have really good retention too, so one’s efforts in marketing on the Facebook network is pretty good equity in the social network field, for now anyway.

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