By Dave McAnally, Natural Search Supervisor, Content Solutions
I’ve been helping some of our clients develop strategies for how to integrate social media into their overall search goal. With larger brands with many stakeholders, that’s not always an easy thing. You see, some creative agency owns this, another one owns that, there’s a legal team that will have hives if you mention ‘brand’ and ‘keyword’ together and so on.
Then on top of that, I’ve noticed the prevailing uncertainty with social media in general with big firms is that many aren’t really sure what benefit Facebook provides. It’s not like a Fortune 500 brand can build ‘friend contacts’ one at a time and expect any reasonable success metric. It’s funny too because I would hazard a guess almost ALL of our clients have some sort of inherent understanding of an intrinsic value engaging in social media, but they need help to coagulate those thoughts into a solid mission statement for these endeavors.
So I wrote a blog post about “how big brands can really take advantage of Facebook.” I picked on Facebook because it’s the fastest growing entity and is structured in such a way that makes it easy to engage users. Then I read it back to myself and found it to be rife with a lot of tactics and not a lot of strategy.
So rather than bore you with details about ‘joining groups’ and ‘identifying like-minded users’ and all the other details that are readily available, I thought I’d share some observations. The following are some common characteristics large brands seem to possess that are having lots of success with Facebook:
- Facebook doesn’t begin the conversation, it enhances it – If you’re a new or low profile brand looking to increase awareness, Facebook can be a great way to do it. But it comes with extreme diminishing returns, and this goes double with brands that are already well established. Brands that seem to generate interest and report success with Facebook do so with the understanding that most of their users are already on Facebook. Ergo, the goal isn’t get new people to come around to your neck of the woods. The thinking appears to be that Facebook is a way to build on an existing relationship. These are the kinds of brands that are actively promoting their Facebook Fanpages on their other web properties. They don’t wait around for a user to happen upon them on Facebook (which they’ll most likely never do), they engage them on their home turf. I’m talking about links on the thank you pages of shopping carts, links on promotional microsites to the FanPage, promotional incentives that land on Facebook and so forth. Integration isn’t some conceptual idea-it’s absolutely imperative to the overall strategy. They don’t operate their Facebook endeavors in a bubble, but rather as a tool to maintain engagement.
- They are non-interruptive – Think about all the times you have non-marketing oriented folks tell you why they are on Facebook. I’ll bet more often than not, you hear something to the effect that “it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends and family”. At its core, Facebook is a communication medium. As a marketer, you ultimately either enhance or diminish its effectiveness. Brands that are successful with application development promote interaction and community. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds, but the top apps certainly suggest community interaction is essential to adoption. Application development should help your users communicate or interact rather than diminish that ability.
- They integrate multiple social mediums – Perhaps I’m overstating this, but trying to silo your social endeavors diminishes engagement. But we all know silo-ing an operation is part and partial to large organizations with many moving parts. Be that as it may, we should remember users don’t silo their personal operations. It’s not like people exclusively either use Twitter or Facebook. They may be using both. Larger brands that appear to be successful in social media act the same way. The messaging across all mediums is consistent, and they promote the mediums across each other.
- They don’t strive for 1:1 communication, but they are active – Anyone who has worked in a social media program can attest to the fact that social media users have a keen eye for BS (for lack of a better expression). They know when they are being had, as well they should since spammers have run rampant in this realm since the word go. Fortune 500 brands don’t attempt to create 1:1 relationships A. because it’s not feasible and B. It would appear fake. Rather, they maintain communication (even if it is updating status) but do so without passing it off as something it isn’t. Depending on the brand in question, this can be via newsfeeds, content creation/updates, sales promotions, all in the service of enhancing the relationship with the entire user base.
- They use Facebook to create evangelists – Badges, apps, fanpages…all of these things are ways to turn your existing base into your own built in brand evangelizing army. For a large brand, the value to having a ‘friend’ on Facebook isn’t that one friend…it’s the 120 or so friends that friend happens to have. This is where the real power of all social media arises. Facebook is an excellent branding tool because these users WANT to tell their friends what they are interested in if you let them. This principle appears to be at the core of any successful large brand campaign on Facebook. As stated above, the rub to this is that you must be conducive to the ebb and flow of the communication already taking place. When the apps, badges and so forth become interruptive (in whatever capacity that may be), the communication experience is diminished.
This is just an initial list, and there’s definitely a whole lot more going on behind the scenes. The crux of a successful Big-Brand Facebook Campaign always seems to be that it continues a relationship that was already established in order to create evangelists.
Well I’m off to Disneyworld to run a marathon I’ve woefully underprepared for (save for the carb loading thanks to the holidays). Send the dogs if I’m not back by Tuesday and don’t break anything while I’m gone!