Incenting your Facebook friends with fancy items to spread the word about your brand is all well and good, but the promotion must be relevant to your product or service if you’re to realize the desired result: bona fide customers, not people just after a free iPad.
That was but one of the takeaways from last week’s AF Expo--promoted as a "how-to guide for Facebook marketing & development." About 450 people gathered on the Mission Bay campus of the University of California for the conference, produced by Mediabistro, SocialTimes, and AllFacebook. AF Expo covered a lot of ground, as speakers presented general principles of Facebook marketing as well as specific tactics.
Katie Faul, Facebook's head of global ads product marketing, placed Facebook's influence in historical context: "The Web is being rebuilt around people," she said. In the '90s, shopping and interacting with brands on the Web was about browsing portals such as Yahoo; in the '00s, search was king; now, in the '10s, people are relying on shared recommendations and referrals. One example: Right after the announcement that the Beatles were available on iTunes, she said, 20 percent of the referrals to iTunes came from Twitter and Facebook.
Faul outlined a three-step cycle of marketing success on Facebook:
- First, build your business' Facebook page and work on getting your existing customers to Like your page. They comprise your initial fan base.
- Second, engage and "activate" that fan base. Techniques include running contests, asking questions, and posting photos and asking for comments. When one of your fans enters a contest, answers a question, or posts a comment, his friends will see that activity in their news feeds, increasing awareness of your business and its page.
- Third, "amplify" your page's effect by engaging your fans' friends. For example, a new Facebook marketing tool called Sponsored Stories takes those news updates--the "so-and-so liked Your Company's page" messages--and gives them wider distribution and more prominence on your fans' friends' pages. According to Faul, twice as many Facebook users interact with sponsored stories than they do with regular Facebook ads.
These three steps are a cycle, Faul reminded attendees. That third step isn't the final step--it just takes you back to the beginning, only now you have a new, larger fan base to engage. Kim Jacobson, vice president of business development at online marketplace Oodle, likened the process to a ladder, and Tamara Mendelsohn, director of marketing at event organizer Eventbrite, called it a "layered" approach: "An engaged community begets a larger engaged community," she said.
Step 1: Getting Liked
Panelists in several sessions agreed that getting Likes on your page was important--but not all Likes are equal, they warned. For one thing, you don't really know what a Like means: Sometimes it means, "I intend to buy," but sometimes it just means, "I wish I could afford" or, "My friends will think this is cool." Ben Straley, CEO of social marketing platform provider Meteor Solutions, added that "a comment on a Like is more valuable than just a Like" because it signifies engagement.
One key to getting quality Likes is to think about what you're asking people to Like and when you're asking it. Mendelsohn described how her company puts a Like button on each event listed on Eventbrite. That lets people buying a ticket publish that fact to Facebook; a prompt also asks the buyer to make a comment. She estimates that this process drives 20 percent more ticket sales.
Straley pointed out that a lot of brands are satisfied with the simple broadcast abilities of a Facebook page--the ability to communicate with their customers. But Christian Taylor, CEO of Facebook e-commerce solution Payvment, pointed out that the brands with the most Likes aren't always the ones with the most success on Facebook. Sure, they can be satisfied with knowing that "everyone knows my brand." But smaller brands have an opportunity to engage their fans more: "They might only have 4,000 fans rather than 100,000," Taylor said, "but they will get those fans activated."
Engaging and amplifying--the right and wrong ways.
Step 2: Engage
So how do you activate your fans to share their fandom with their friends? Giveaways and coupons are two obvious methods--remember, every time a fan participates in one of your Facebook promotions, all of their friends get to read about it.
Aside from that, "'Please share' definitely works," said Alan K'necht, founder and president of search marketing and analytics firm K'nechtology. "But give people something worth sharing. Ask yourself why they're your fan."
That was a point made repeatedly in the sessions: the idea that any engagement tool has to have something to do with your company and something to do with your fans."What gets them excited is community," Taylor said.
"To be big, you have to create a way to make it personal," echoed Ben Ilfeld, co-founder and operations manager of Macer Media, which specializes in local publishing and ad networks. Ilfeld gave an example of a cocktail bar that wanted to increase sales. They turned one wall of the bar into a chalkboard and instituted a program whereby customers can buy drinks for people who aren't present. The bar takes the money, writes the recipient's name on the chalkboard, and posts photos of the chalkboard on its Facebook page."People check the fan page to see if someone bought them a drink," Ilfeld said. (In the meantime, the bar has the drink money.)
That's also an example of a relevant promotion, another point several panelists insisted on. Chad Richards, director of social marketing at Firebelly Marketing, suggested that contests offer "a big prize, but one relevant to your company. You don't want people who are just Liking you in order to win an iPad."
Brad Klaus, CEO and founder of social marketing firm Extole, used the same example of what not to do. "If your incentive is tied to your brand, that can be very powerful," he said. "If you're just offering a free iPad, you might get Likes that aren't valuable to your brand."
Amy Millard, CMO of social engagement developer Wildfire Interactive, made the point that a contest should also be easy to enter. She cited the example of a camera company that asked people to take pictures with a particular model camera--which few people bothered to do. "Ask them to submit something they have right at hand or can do while they're sitting there," she said. "Ask them to submit a photo of their family or dog"--photos they probably already have on their computer.
Step 3: Amplify
One interesting statistic bandied around was that while the average Facebook user has 130 friends, the average Facebook fan has more than 300 friends. By engaging your fans, then, you more than double the reach of your brand. As Millard pointed out in reference to contests, "Remember, the goal isn't to get one person to enter--it's to get that person to share with their friends."
But as Taylor (and others) pointed out, numbers aren't everything, especially for smaller brands. Amplifying your user base has to go hand in hand with targeting the people you really want to reach--and are more likely to keep. "Rather than going wide and keeping only a few fans," advised Adryenn Ashley of promotional firm Wow is Me, "go niche, super-targeted to the people you want and the people who want you." Summing up the message of many of the panelists, she added: "Do you want big numbers or big results?"