This is a cross-blog post from Network Solutions Solutions Are Power website that I guest wrote. Originally posted on SolutionsArePower.com on April 21, 2010.
For companies interested in getting into the conversation on social networks and going where their customers are, the one area to definitely consider is Facebook. One of the most popular social networks, the one advantage of going onto Facebook is that you’re able to interact with the customer’s profile and also create your own presence. A couple of years ago, Facebook did something quite ingenious…rather than just setting up an account and having company employees respond to customers using their personal accounts (or even making up new accounts – which apparently is against Facebook’s policy), now you can create what’s known as Facebook “fan pages” or business pages, as they are sometimes referred to as. Basically you’re establishing a Facebook entity where it’s your corner of the social network that your company can use to promote your own brand and get better acclimated with your customers.
FACEBOOK FAN PAGES, GROUPS & PROFILES? I’M CONFUSED.
Before we get any further, it should be important to note that Facebook does already have multiple options for people to make their presence known, including profiles and groups. So what’s the big deal about using a Facebook fan page? Well I’ll explain…if you have a brand like Coca-Cola, Kohl’s, American Airlines, etc, you don’t really have a individual that represents your brand, like you would with Mashable (which has Pete Cashmore), Mr Clean or another company that has a imaginary or real spokesperson that people can readily identify and associate with your brand. So unless you meet this qualification, then the best bet is to go with a fan page. Moreover, you’re probably going to want to curate more than 5,000 fans to your page, right? Setting up a profile won’t satisfy your needs since there is a limit on the number of fans you’re able to have on your profile. Score another point for the fan page. Now what about groups? I think of Facebook groups has more customer-created and not something that a brand would necessary create. Look at the types of Facebook groups out there – in fact, just do a search for “I hate” and you’ll see some interesting ones like “I hate Hannah Montana” or “I hate the new Facebook” or even “I hate Coca-Cola”. Think of these Facebook groups as your communities that you, as a brand, should look into and evaluate whether you should be involved. But it’s over there that you won’t be able to manage what’s being said – they’re a unionized group and you’re only there as an observer…
WHAT YOUR FAN PAGE MEANS TO YOUR BRAND.
So if you’re not allowed to properly play in their playground, then may I suggest Facebook fan pages? Set up shop on Facebook and essentially create your own “profile”. It’s here that you can post your press releases, blog posts, videos, photos, etc and share with your customers. People on Facebook will flock to your website to leave comments about how cool your product is or provide you feedback when they think you’re doing something wrong. You can also leverage your soon-to-be growing fan base by enticing people to join through contests run through your page. Just look at what Sears is doing on their page. In order to get exclusive discounts to their Sears store, all you’re going to need to do is to be a fan of their page. As a result of that, the company can now send you messages on a periodic basis alerting you on new things, sales, discounts, coupons and other news related to Sears – it’s almost like a opting-in for email, but on a social network!
IT’S MORE THAN JUST A BORING FAN PAGE.
Facebook fan pages will also let you create other sections on there using a special programming code called FBML and you can embed special pages just for your own use. In Sears’ example, they’ve set up a whole tab promoting the NCAA basketball tournament. And it’s not all static text and images. Instead, they’ve made it a bit more interactive with a custom look complete with video (see image on left). Sears has converted a regular, probably boring, fan page into something where it will entice customers and fans alike to come back and check out what’s new. The new tabs serving a variety of campaigns is something that should be regularly refreshed so people won’t be coming back for the same boring thing over and over again. On Kohl’s Facebook fan page, they have leveraged it by creating tabs to promote a line of clothing by Lauren Conrad, along with contests for recipes and even a PR section to tout the company’s green initiatives.
CAN YOU SEE YOUR FAN PAGE? WILL OTHERS?
One key thing to point out in order to maximize your Facebook fan page is to make sure that it’s FOUND. Yes, just simply setting it up and telling your friends and co-workers about it doesn’t make it an instant hit. That is, unless you’re verbally telling a million friends. But realistically you’re going to need to find some way to promote it without it sounding intrusive or pushy. The first thing you should do is to put links on your website and blog clearly and conspicuously so that people know that they can be friends with you on Facebook. And don’t make it marketing speak either. Make the copy clear and explicit: “Follow me on Facebook”. If you make it too wordy or full of buzz, then you’re going to confuse people and they won’t know what you’re talking about. If possible, include the Facebook logo next to the link – people will automatically associate the Facebook logo with your Facebook fan page. Bonus! Oh, and did you know that Facebook even has custom widgets that you can install so people can be fans of your page right from other sites you own – including your company website? All without going to Facebook directly! Make it easy for them!
INTEGRATE OTHER CONTENT. SHARING IS CARING.
In a Mashable post a year ago about five elements of a good Facebook page, one recommendation is to leverage existing content produced by customers and fans. They reference a Coca-Cola duo who enjoyed the soft drink so much that they produced some interesting content and created their own fan page. It has, in fact, become such a hit that not only is it one of the largest product fan pages on Facebook, but it also caught the attention of the folks at Coca-Cola who then decided to work with the duo instead of demanding the page be turned over to them. Rewards and VIP treatment was bestowed upon the creators and Coca-Cola did a great thing by deciding to work WITH the duo to make sure that they both reaped the benefit. If you’re seeing a fan page that promotes your brand or product better than yours, then don’t be in a hurry to quash them. In fact, you might be smart because you don’t want to anger someone who has been an ardent fan of yours. That negativity could sway others to go the opposite direction causing you more grief than good. Work with other content creators and curate their information on your fan page and make it a resource for people to find.
INTERACTION AND CONVERSATION SHOWS YOU EXIST.
Once you’ve started getting people to interact with your fan page, then you should look closely at what people are saying and what types of people are interacting with your site. Washington, DC’s tourism fan page has ballooned to include over 140,000 fans so there are some clear demographics about who visits and what types of things they’re interested in. Facebook also includes statistics that you can look at if you’re an administrator to gauge how many new fans are there, who’s leaving, the gender balance, etc. Very informational things that you can use to tailor your content to meet their needs. Maybe you’re going to talk about cars, beer and sports on your fan page, but then look and see your demographics leaning predominantly female. That would be a big shift in your strategy, but you can easily make corrections on the fly or in near real-time to find what suits a majority of your fans. In Washington, DC’s case, they are posting photos, news and links to things people are interested in concerning the city – whether it’s new exhibits, cherry blossoms or television movies that involve the city.
Other brands that have seemed to maximize their fan pages are finding success in engagingÂ in posts people make on their fan pages. Take Kohl’s page, for example (shown above). As you can see, they have nearly a million fans on their page, but in practically every example shown above, a representative from Kohl’s (using the Kohl’s profile to post) is responding to anything negative or positive in a way to show that there is someone behind the browser showing concern about people’s feedback. There are examples where Kohl’s has responded even to people’s post on the Facebook wall about how they scored a deal shopping at the store or to thank someone for shopping in preparation for their vacation. It’s customer appreciation and Kohl’s is definitely leveraging it in their situation. But on the opposite end of the spectrum, they are also responding to people’s complaints about issues relating to coupons or store complaints in a way to give customers another excuse to show why they’re fans – that Kohl’s is a company that cares.
STILL NOT SURE ABOUT USING A FACEBOOK FAN PAGE
If you want to basically put a stick in the ground and let people know that you’re serious about talking with them in a social network, then I’d suggest you get a Facebook fan page. Don’t worry if your numbers don’t happen right away. But if you’re not sure that Facebook is right for you, then I leave you with these statistics taken from their website and included in Steven Fisher’s post on Grow Smart Business regarding this very topic:
- More than 400 million active users
- 50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day
- More than 35 million users update their status each day
- More than 60 million status updates posted each day
- More than 3 billion photos uploaded to the site each month
- More than 5 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) shared each week
- More than 3.5 million events created each month
- More than 3 million active Pages on Facebook
- More than 1.5 million local businesses have active Pages on Facebook
- More than 20 million people become fans of Pages each day
- Pages have created more than 5.3 billion fans