December 11th, 2009

Why Facebook Is A Tactic, Not A Strategy

By Sang Kim

December 11, 2009

Brand marketers seem to be jumping on the Facebook bandwagon left and right. They know engagement through social networking is important to understanding consumers, so they’re trying to do it. However, creating a branded community locked within Facebook or any other broad-reaching social network is probably not the best long-term strategy for communicating with consumers.

Don’t get me wrong, Facebook is not a bad marketing practice — 300 million users is a big pond to fish in. Done properly and coupled with other social marketing tactics, it can enhance any big picture social media strategy. But let’s be clear, Facebook is a tactic, not a strategy.

Here are a few reasons why:

User intent
On Facebook and similar sites, you never really know why someone is there, but for the most part, the intent of the user is to interact with friends around a variety of topics — not, typically, to talk to brands. Unless it’s being “introduced” by a friend, in order to engage with consumers, brands have to interject themselves and disrupt the conversation. That sounds like what a TV commercial does, and it’s something consumers may ultimately resent. Or ignore.

That’s not to say consumers don’t want to talk to brands online. They do. According to the 2009 Cone Consumer New Media Study, 89 percent of new media users believe companies should be interacting with consumers via social media. And a recently released Razorfish Study said 40 percent of U.S. internet users had actually friended a brand on Facebook or MySpace. But posting updates to a fan page every few days lacks any built-in value for consumers and certainly does not qualify as an effective social media program.

There’s also relevance
Most people would agree that it’s a critical factor when they decide to put out a welcome mat for marketer messages. Finding relevance in the ocean that is Facebook can be tough — in fact, lack of relevance is a choice on Facebook’s survey of reasons why users might not like an ad they see on Facebook.

Affinity-based social networks, on the other hand, are built around a common interest. They bring together like-minded individuals who want to connect on a particular topic. That oozes relevance. And that’s a perfect opportunity for brands.

For example, Meredith Corporation has begun creating affinity-based social networks as a way for brands to build strong relationships through social conversations. They took their expertise from Better Homes and Gardens magazine and to create — a social network for cooks. It’s a place built entirely around recipes and people sharing them; sharing their ideas and passions for food. That’s certainly a relevant place for food brands to engage and add value to the conversation.

Additionally, Gannett has created a national network of 80 local communities, all specifically tailored for moms. Through, moms can connect, form groups, plan events, and share advice, while marketers have new opportunities to enter the conversation, create relationships, and gain valuable insights into what moms want and need.

As these examples illustrate, a successful social strategy needs to be tailored to your specific brand. So, before creating or implementing any strategy, you should ask yourself how these questions align with your social program.

Does the customer I’m targeting really want to talk to me through this channel?
Consumers are bombarded with advertising and marketing throughout their online experiences. Do you really want to be just another annoying brand? Make sure you are reaching your target audience through a channel where they are willing and interested in speaking with your brand.

What is at the center of this conversation? Is it my brand? Because it should be.
Don’t try to jump on the bandwagon of another conversation. The whole goal of social marketing is to engage with and better understand your audience. Popping in and out of random conversations isn’t going to help you gain intelligence into what your advocates are saying.

Can I replicate my effort in other places or am I locking into one specific network? Or can the strategy I’ve come up with scale across multiple platforms?
New media is ever changing. Don’t pigeonhole yourself by sticking to one thing. Explore different options, but make sure you always link back to one common hub.

Does the consumer have the option to opt-in/opt-out of the conversation?
Consumers want choices. Giving a consumer the opportunity to disengage and reengage in the conversation when they want will offer a sense of control that is sometimes difficult to find in a social world.

Am I able to gather insights and analytics from my conversations and connections?
The more you can learn about the people you’re talking to, the better. Insights into who your fans are, how they are connected and what they want to talk about will point you toward how to be most relevant. Those insights will drive not just your messaging with them, but can impact your entire marketing and product delivery.

How is this conversation being regulated? Who has control?
Ultimately, when centering a social marketing program on Facebook, you are putting your fate in someone else’s hands. Facebook is constantly changing and growing in a quickly evolving market. Consider if it will continue to align with your objectives. And if it doesn’t, who owns the data and insight that you’ve created by collecting fans?

Facebook has more than three hundred million users. Certainly it has a place in online brand marketing. But it should not be the center of your brand’s marketing.

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