Facebook’s platform landscape is beginning to change from strictly social to business casual. A corporate website was once the most important digital presence a company could own, but the new trend could reduce it to second – a choice branding source. Why? Because websites are now being replaced by social platforms such as Facebook, where you can easily be discovered, the platform and unique URL are free, and you can promote your brand more effectively.
Current digital research shows that Facebook has benefited from this social trend. Facebook receives approximately 41 percent of all social networking traffic (with over 500 million members worldwide), and the number of people joining Facebook in the United States grew by 145 percent in 2009. Facebook now produces more search results than Google.
Some of the largest corporations in the world have a Page on Facebook, and by doing so, increase their brands’ awareness and audience engagement locally, nationally, and globally. For example, Barnes & Noble has recently developed over 600 Facebook “Pages” targeting niche markets in the United States. While this would seem overkill for some companies, it is a great engagement strategy for the large or small business because it is cost-effective (free); you can localize your message to specific niche audiences. The Facebook FHTML feature also provides you with the flexibility to design pages specific to your consumer and community. FHTML is easy to use, is browser-friendly, and has the search engine optimization of HTML.
Still not convinced that there is a shift away from corporate websites’ exclusive hold on a brand’s digital traffic? Then look at the following “Facebook 100” company web pages:
Pepsi on Facebook
Disney Facebook Page
Porsche Facebook Page
And the Pages of these small businesses:
Plush Facebook Page
In the future, the corporate website will either give way to the social platform, or become a referral page for a deeper audience experience on a social media site. It’s a natural fit, because many of their customers are already on Facebook or LinkedIn, and a marketer’s goal is to engage the customer. Further evidence of this trend is smart phone sales; they have now surpassed computer sales. Most consumers who own a smart phone are using apps more than the “phone” itself.
For an example, take a look at the Volkswagen Facebook Page. VW no longer uses its website to interact with consumers, they engage and listen on Facebook.
Once you have created a Facebook company Page you can engage with your customers in several ways. If approximately one third to a half of your ad budget is wasted because poor performance, then hypertargeting is the method you need. What is hypertargeting? Hypertargeting allows you to become very specific in your approach to targeting who sees your advertisements. For example, relationship interests, location, gender, age, education, employment, relationship status, and interest keywords are all variables with which to test your demographic.
Because search advertising produces your advertisement at the moment a person is looking to make a specific purchase, it can be very effective. What about those hard-to-reach passive buyers? They can also be reached by social advertisements even though they are not looking for your product or service. Have you ever purchased something in a store even though you did not intend to buy it on the way in?
Finally, for those niche and newly introduced (unknown) products and services, and even for startup companies looking to break into a market, Facebook hypertargeting can be the best advertising approach. Unlike AdWords, hypertargeting taps into latent interests by passive consumers and decreases spending on ad impressions. Your small business or startup can target geography, college, and interest, and hone its messages going forward.
Online social engagement “staying in the real time conversation” and traditional outreach methods are both currently important engagement strategies, and will be going into 2011. The space between digital and traditional community outreach is also fading, as companies such as Groupon and Yelp help to bridge the technology gap between digital and traditional outreach.
While understanding the rules of social online engagement is important, marketers should also embrace iterative feedback, because good listening is a precursor to good marketing. The demand for ongoing audience engagement and listening by brands will prompt the release of new social monitoring and analytics tools in 2011 and beyond.
Global engagement is going to be an important feature in your marketing campaigns going forward; many large companies such as Pepsi and Yahoo have already built or are in the process of creating global digital “centers of excellence.” So if you really want to get the most out of your digital marketing and PR practice, make sure you have your social engagement team armed with an experienced global digital strategist with real hands-on working knowledge for campaign localization purposes.
Why is global marketing experience important for today’s digital strategy if you are not an international brand? For the following three reasons: 1) digital campaigns naturally connect with international audiences; 2) you can quickly increase your unique page views through PR and marketing campaigns; and 3) you can increase your company’s SEO strength through link-backs and other optimization strategies.
While eyeballs are not enough in today’s ROI-driven social media practice, the global strategist can also build an engagement strategy that is future-driven instead of shortsighted. They can also prevent or correct unwanted PR buzz through their understanding of foreign cultures even on a local basis.
Because social media engagement is an important basis of Google search ranking and optimization (SEO), your brand should be in the social game and you should learn to guide the conversion. This is demonstrated by the fact that 33% of top search results are consumer-generated by blogs, comments, links, and other digital processes.
Finally, many companies are actively using reward-based linking (a form of crowdsourcing) to expand a brand’s audience awareness. The typical rewards are coupons and other discounts to consumers. Reward-based linking requires the consumer to do more of the company’s marketing process, and is the result of consumer involvement and control over a brand. Consumers and brands know that there has been a shift in who controls the branding process: it is now in the hands of the consumer.