When Facebook launched “Fan Pages” in 2007, a huge opportunity opened up for businesses. For the first time, marketers had access to a central platform that could power awareness, loyalty, word of mouth, and even innovation.
But today, five years later, few businesses reap these benefits from Facebook. A recent study by AdAge concluded that less than 1 per cent of fans who “Liked” a brand page actually engaged with the brand. Clearly, marketers’ current approach to Facebook isn’t working. But something needs to happen before businesses can unlock the real potential of Facebook.
The future of Facebook marketing requires a massive shift in thinking. Rather than treating Facebook as just another traditional media channel for coupons, sweepstakes, and promotional messages, marketers need to step back and think about the purpose for which the platform was built. Facebook is meant to connect people and empower sharing. The platform is intended for social interaction, and as with any social setting, interruption marketing is not welcome.
So how does a marketer turn “social interaction” on Facebook into business value? What’s the key to unlocking the massive Facebook potential? The answer is customer collaboration.
Collaboration sets the stage for a passionate and loyal Facebook community. Just think of American Idol. The television show has become wildly popular, because it lets the audience determine who’s the next big star. People embrace what they have a hand in shaping. A handful of brands have already figured this out and have run customer collaboration campaigns on Facebook with huge success. For example, Kit Kat UK ran a Chunky Champion campaign where they invited Facebook fans to vote on one of four choices for the new Kit Kat Chunky Bar. During one month of the campaign, Kit Kat UK was actually the fourth fastest growing page on Facebook, according to Social Bakers.
But collaboration offers benefits way beyond just building a loyal following. For example, asking for feedback provides a scalable way to engage a Facebook community. Since one-on-one communication with fans is unmanageable for almost any business, cultivating a community that empowers sharing is the next best alternative. The My Starbucks Idea is a great example of this type of collaboration. Starbucks encourages customers to submit ideas, comment, rank, and work with others to make each other’s ideas better. While there’s minimal engagement needed, Starbucks is still able to provide an engaging social experience for consumers.
But perhaps the most important argument for collaborating with customers on Facebook has to do with innovation. With the fast pace of innovation across all industries, companies can’t afford to ignore the goldmine of ideas their Facebook community can provide. By asking for insight, brands are able to keep a finger on the pulse of the market and get a window into consumers minds. Middle Sister Wines, a boutique wine making company, listens to and engages with Facebook fans to determine what fans want the company’s next wine to taste like. One of their best selling wines, Middle Sister Sweet & Sassy Moscato, was inspired by Facebook fans’ ideas.
Facebook is not a channel for traditional marketing. In order for companies to capitalise on the massive potential of this platform, marketers must design customer collaboration into the heart of their Facebook strategy by providing opportunities to let fans share ideas, insights, and stories. Marketers need to recognise the shift in their role from content providers to cultivators of a community that will embrace the brand, advocate it to others, and provide value way beyond a “like.”
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