Facebook is huge. It’s used by a third of the UK population, boasts 500+ million users world wide, if it were a country it’d be third largest in the world etc…
With a global community of this size, I’m going to put my neck on the line and say that most consumer brands have a “Facebook strategy” for 2011. Although in my opinion Facebook should be one channel within a wider social strategy and developing a standalone Facebook strategy is missing the point a little bit.
Either way, Facebook is prone to change. It is always trying to improve the user experience, both for individuals and brands. In the last six months or so Mark Zuckerberg and his pals have rolled out numerous changes, so I wanted highlight how five of the major developments should be affecting how brands use Facebook.
Facebook recently changed the Pages format to better reflect the profiles of individual users. Besides looking more aesthetically pleasing, the changes provide new opportunities to be more active and collaborative.
Page administrators are now able to use Facebook as both a brand and as individuals – by simply clicking “Use Facebook as XXXX” page administrators can contribute relevant content and conversation on the pages of other brands and individuals.
This is not an invitation to spam people with content. Doing so will only damage your brand anyway.
It is, however, a much needed additional functionality that gives brands the ability to interact with people across Facebook, not just on their own page. Granted, there are definitely still some issues Facebook needs to iron out with the new format but this change will significantly alter how brands can use Facebook.
People are far more likely to interact with a piece of content or a brand if they see that one of their friends has done so. They trust their friends far more than an advert next to their news feed. While Facebook Ads has clear benefits in terms of targeted marketing, it’s still more effective to grow an active, valuable community organically. This gives brands the opportunity to do both.
With Sponsored Stories, when someone likes a page, piece of content or checks in to a location, brands can now pay to have this appear in a “Sponsored Stories” box in the profile side bar of everyone who is friends with that person. If someone then clicks through and likes the page or piece of content, this activity is featured in the profiles of their own community, and so on.
The new Facebook Groups is primarily a tool that allows individuals to have private, specific conversations without flooding their friends’ news feeds with irrelevant chatter. It’s also provided companies with an opportunity to engage with their communities in new way.
The option to create closed groups means administrators of brand pages can identify key community members on their page and invite them to join a focus group discussion away from the wider community. This could focus on a product, event or even what content would be more interesting on the brand page.
It is also a way for companies to engage with their staff on Facebook. Events companies can use it to canvas availability for certain events, HR departments can use it to promote internal training sessions or social activities, and sales teams could even use it to update each other on how different leads are progressing.
Essentially it gives brands the ability to have specific, private conversations with select groups of people that goes well beyond simply geo-locating page content.
Facebook has recently unveiled its new Comments service for blogs and websites, and it’s something both brands and agencies should take note of.
The great thing about the new Facebook Comments platform is that if someone comments on an article on a website and opts to share this on Facebook, when someone responds in the Facebook thread it appears both on Facebook and under the original article.
TechCrunch has been experimenting with the new system over the last couple of weeks so definitely have a read of their feedback, but excluding some initial bugs this will be a key tool for companies should adoption grow.
It will make it far easier to track Facebook conversations around articles companies are featured in, as all chatter from a shared comment or link will be aggregated under the article itself. Brands will also be able to clearly identify people that have read about and shown an interest in a brand, meaning they can approach them knowing they’re far more likely to want to join the Facebook community.
Furthermore, Facebook Comments is a great tool for a brand to manage article feedback on its own company blog, while also increasing the level of conversation about the company on Facebook.
It all hangs on adoption though – if no websites use it then the real benefit of the Comments platform won’t be realised.
Real-time Facebook analytics
A brand’s Facebook page means nothing without the information that tells page administrators exactly what your community is doing and how exposed your brand is. Facebook Insights is great in terms of tracking activity on the page itself, but it has previously been lacking in conveying the impact of Facebook social plug-ins on brands’ external websites.
Not any more – Facebook announced last night that it’s launching a new “Insights for Websites” tool. It allows administrators to track how many times a Like button on a website has been viewed, how many times it’s been clicked, the number of times people have seen the new Comments boxes and contributed, as well as drastically improved community demographic & content sharing analysis as well.
These changes will give brands unprecedented insight into how Facebook is benefiting their business, both on Facebook itself and around the web. Bonus.
This topic, and many more, features during the Social Media World Forum in London on March 29 and 30. We’ll be there too, click here to find out more.
Image sourced from Telegraph.co.uk.