December 5, 2011
Can Facebook friends really help brands? The answer may be obvious to some, or not that obvious to others, but online marketers believe that brands doing social media marketing can gain plenty of benefits especially when they invite all Facebook friends of their fans to engage with them. This marketing strategy maximizes the reach of a brand, and globally if need be.
Loyal consumers are what brands desire but one doesn’t become a loyal consumer overnight. It takes some time, and it starts at some point in time. Hence, brands must continue reaching out to new consumers and converting them to repeat consumers. Highly satisfied consumers could themselves advocate for the brand among their friends, a manifestation of the true value of Facebook friends to a brand.
Yes, the value of a Facebook fan is not that easy to determine in terms of money, but attempts have been made by some companies to compute it. One social media marketing platform used the ratio of number of fans to wall posts, and came up with a low figure. At least two companies, however, showed high figures when they identified other key factors such as brand loyalty and product spending.
The formula for assessing the value of a Facebook friend may not yet be discovered but online marketers are working on this. Of course, it’s not all about the number of Facebook friends that a brand gets; this, in fact, could be a negative rather than a positive indicator, as experienced by a couple of consumer brands that had to address a problem in public relations – they were getting plenty of “friends” who wanted to join the other discontented consumers. It’s not also just the number of “Likes” that a brand gets.
Perhaps the key element is not really quantity but quality. Brands that engage their consumers with meaningful marketing conversations have done better sales. And this is where creativity in Facebook can come in for the brands. A Facebook friend that “Likes” a brand for the first time is the first step in making that friend into a loyal customer. Hence a creative approach is needed by the brand to hold the attention of that friend.
How can brands build up loyalty in its fan base and gain more friends from its fans? A few time-tested marketing strategies can still work in the online world. These include providing content that forms habit-forming behavior among consumers so they keep on coming back for more, recognizing fans that help the brand in spreading the good news about it, and rewarding loyal customers with exclusive deals. By thinking like their customers, brands can come up with programs and deals that work both ways. This way satisfaction can also be achieved not only online but in the real world as well.
What’s nice about Facebook for brands is that there are some 800 million users worldwide and starting a brand page entails little or no cost at all. The potentials for a vast audience and good return on investment are there. It’s not uncommon for a brand to have a few million fans especially if the product has a wide appeal and becomes popular. Of course, the brand’s Facebook page should provide useful, and even entertaining, content. This will reach out to the fans and achieve engagement that ultimately leads to sales. All comments on the wall should be read and taken into consideration by the brand.
A brand can win more Facebook friends by being a Facebook friend, socially active and reaching out. This will encourage fans to engage with the brand, making communication easier. Posting photos, sharing news and stories, and commenting on comments are all part of the social media activities. Naturally, a brand that’s just starting out on Facebook won’t have a sizeable number of fans at the outset, so it should collect friends and invite the friends of its friends.
The value of individual Facebook users can’t be underestimated. They are potential customers, as well as potential promoters of the product. The brand that can keep a loyal base on Facebook can reap rewards not found elsewhere, so it’s best to act like a friend to a friend in this social media. Yes, brands should invite all Facebook friends as they can, but they can’t sacrifice quality over quantity. It’s also good to remember that Facebook friends can unfriend a brand if satisfaction is not achieved. Worse, Facebook friends who are unsatisfied may spread their discontent among their friends. There’s now a good deal of interaction on Facebook going on between brands and their friends, and more brands are joining and becoming active in social media marketing. Perhaps a question for Facebook is: Will it be able to sustain a good environment for an ever increasing number of brands?
Coen Smith is into Web site designs, SEO and Facebook Applications (such as Facebook Layouts). His latest exploits are Google Plus Backgrounds and Facebooking101.