Posted by Dan Malachowski, Product Marketing Manager
With more than 400 million users, Facebook is now the number two trafficked website in the world according to compete.com. Only Google commands a larger audience. Facebook’s massive user base can no longer be ignored by marketers; but some are still not convinced that Facebook advertising should be a staple in every brand’s marketing mix. The Financial Times recently quoted WPP’s Martin Sorrell as saying, “[i]nvading these [social] media with commercial messages might not be the right thing.” Sorrell stated that unlike TV, Facebook is a “personal phenomena” akin to “writing letters to our mothers” that is unsuitable for commercial marketing. Yet Sorrell overlooks that fact that Facebook’s audience—which now includes our mothers—is open to marketing messages within the platform. In fact, Performics’ 2009 Social Marketing Study found that twenty-seven percent of consumers are receptive to advertising offers communicated through social sites. Twenty-seven percent of Facebook’s audience is 108 million people, which happens to be more than the 106 million U.S. consumers who watched this year’s Super Bowl.
Facebook is a branding and selling channel bigger than the Super Bowl that can be well-suited for commercial messages. Facebook marketing tactics do differ from search, display, or offline advertising tactics, but are similarly grounded in (1) gaining exposure to your target market and (2) engaging that market with the right message at the right time. Here are a few tips for leveraging Facebook’s commercial marketing opportunities:
1. Fan Pages
Setting up a Facebook Fan Page is as simple as logging into Facebook and starting a page for your brand. Be sure to claim your Facebook vanity URL (e.g. facebook.com/yourbrand) so that your consumers can easily find and “friend” your Fan page. If your brand’s vanity URL has been taken by someone without valid rights to that URL, reach out to Facebook to reclaim your vanity URL via Facebook’s username policy.
Once your Fan Page is set up, you have to build your fan base. Razorfish’s 2009 FEED Report noted that forty percent of consumers have friended a brand on Facebook. Consumers are open to friending you—so just ask them. Promote your Fan Page on your native website, your blog, or in other promotional materials like product emails, newsletters, print ads, or TV ads. With Facebook FanBox, you can add your Fan Page content feed to your website or blog for free to help generate more fans. You can even utilize Facebook’s paid advertising opportunities (see below) to run ads asking consumers to friend your Page.
Your Facebook fans are valuable. According to Performics’ 2009 Social Marketing Study, once a consumer becomes a fan of a brand’s Fan Page, that consumer is:
Your fan base is essentially a group of consumers who have raised their hands and said: I like you, I am open to messages from you, or I am interested in what you sell. Therefore, you can leverage your Fan Page to update your fans about promotions, upcoming events, or new products. You can do this by posting the content on your Fan Page itself or sending direct messages to your fans, which will appear in their Facebook inboxes.
Performics’ 2009 Social Marketing Study uncovered which messages are most likely to resonate with consumers on Facebook:
Owning your Facebook Fan Page with your vanity URL is not only a great way to connect to consumers who want to engage with you, but is also critical to your brand’s reputation. Because of the massive growth of social networking sites, vanity URLs are extremely valuable. Thus, cybersquatters, spammers, impersonators, and even your own brand fans will try to claim your Facebook vanity URL if you have not already claimed it. Although Facebook takes precautions against vanity URL “jacking,” some jackers have managed to slip through the cracks. For instance, Sarah Palin’s Facebook vanity URL was jacked in June 2009 and the fake page gained 600 friends and remained active for two months before Palin got Facebook to shut it down. When a brand’s social network URL is jacked, someone other than the brand owner controls the brand’s message on Facebook. A user searching for a brand on Facebook could then come across a Fan Page that may look like an “official” page, but is really a gripe page, parody page, or page controlled by that brand’s competitor.
2. Ancillary Natural Search Advantages
Search engines rank Facebook Fan Pages highly for brand name searches. For instance, a March 2010 Google search for Chicago-based t-shirt retailer “Threadless” shows its Facebook Fan Page as the ninth-ranked search result. The Fan Page’s URL, title tag, and page content—which all contain the brand name—contribute to the Fan Page achieving the high search ranking.
Search engines strive to connect searchers with sites that satisfy their needs. Because Facebook pages satisfy consumer needs in unique new ways, Facebook pages within the search results are here to stay. Marketers should take advantage of this by employing Facebook Fan Pages to dominate more valuable search engine results page (SERP) real estate. The engines will only display two results from your native site per query, but your Facebook Fan Page allows you to gain an additional result. This extra result could prove extremely valuable in managing your SERP reputation, especially if a few negative results happen to sneak onto the first page for your brand name query.
3. Facebook Connect
Implementing Facebook Connect on your native site allows users to log-in to your site using their Facebook account instead of registering for an account on your site or logging in with an existing account. Site owners can then easily access the Facebook profile and social graph information of people who use their native site. This valuable information enables site owners to improve the user experience on their native sites through personalized messaging or more relevant content. Facebook Connect also enables users to share your native site content with their Facebook friends, thus reinforcing the viral nature of Facebook. This allows advertisers to deliver their native site content message beyond their general native site user base.
Facebook Connect made its biggest splash during President Obama’s inauguration when CNN.com allowed users to log-in to their native site using their Facebook accounts. Users could then interact live on CNN.com during the inauguration:
Add Facebook Connect to your site.
1. Facebook Social Ads
Facebook Ads are text and image-based ads that appear in the right hand rail of Facebook users’ profile pages. They are bought on a CPC (cost-per-click) or CPM (cost-per-impression) basis and are triggered based on demographic and user profile information like gender, geography, age, and profile interests:
Performics has seen Facebook campaigns perform much like search Content Network campaigns, with lower click-through-rates (CTRs) and lower conversion rates than paid search. However, Facebook advertising performance is often better than paid search on a cost-per-lead (CPL) basis due to lower CPCs. Facebook is also effective at driving new to file customers at a very low CPM. The average CPM we see through Facebook campaigns is $.40, compared to $2 or more through traditional display campaigns. As a result of the large audience of 400+million users and the inexpensive impressions, Facebook ads are also extremely effective for new product launches, awareness efforts or branding campaigns.
2. Facebook Applications
Facebook applications help brands engage with their audience and build fan bases. For instance, Moxie Interactive created an application for the Marley and Me movie where Marley fetches movie or gift ideas for a user’s friend based on the friend’s profile interests. The user is able to pick the friend for whom they want to find a movie or gift and Marley goes out and finds it:
The app encourages viral sharing with “tell your friends” and “add to profile” buttons. In addition to encouraging users to interact with a brand, applications can also generate leads. For example, Papa John’s pizza uses sweepstakes apps to capture names and email addresses while—at the same time—keeping its brand top of mind with consumers. Tools are also available to track user interaction with applications.
With all these unique advertising opportunities—in addition to the fact that consumers are open to commercial advertising messages on social sites—Facebook is clearly a viable selling and branding channel. For instance, Performics saw a 3:1 ROI using Facebook Social Ads for t-shirt retailer Threadless during a promotion. Brands should look to harness Facebook’s extraordinary reach and targeting capabilities by integrating both free and paid Facebook advertising opportunities into their 2010 marketing mixes.