There is no question customers are on Facebook, talking about your brand and products, influencing and being influenced. Nearly one in five shoppers search their social networks for information before making a purchase. Most brands now recognize the need to “fish where the fish are.” But how to fish is still in question. Most branded Facebook pages still seem only to check a box on a marketer’s checklist. Upload a logo, post some pictures, attract fans: check. Fish where the fish are: check. To be effective on Facebook, brands need a deeper strategy. Here are three Facebook truths to keep in mind before beginning to build yours.

  1. Facebook is not a strategy. It is a tool within your larger brand strategy. Facebook engagement should fit into your overall customer engagement strategy, marketing, and business goals – and should be measured using the same metrics.
  2. Facebook is not a popularity contest. It may seem like the brand with the most fans wins, but gathering a large number of fans is not an end goal – it is simply an enabler. Facebook fans are like email newsletter subscribers – it is permission marketing, simply an opportunity to engage customers. It is the quality of this engagement that drives results.
  3. Facebook is not a megaphone. It’s not a one-way channel, like a TV spot or banner ad. Facebook is a conversation, and it already started. If your Facebook page is a one-way stream of discount codes and product callouts, you’re basically crashing a party to hand out coupons. And you’re missing out on a chance to build a relationship with your customers beyond a one-way broadcast.

Recognizing these truths, many brands’ Facebook strategies have matured enough to see the need for conversations. Still, most brands are doing this by engaging customers one on one – usually through problem solving and customer support. Not only does turning your Facebook page into a call center and create lots of noise (often irrelevant to other visitors), it encourages posts that aren’t usually the type of content you want dominating your wall. Responding to customer complaints does show others you are listening, but if that’s all you are doing, visitors may look for brands whose customers have less to complain about.

So, now what? How do you start conversations on Facebook that drive real business results – increased sales, decreased returns, higher customer satisfaction and loyalty? Here are three tips to get started.

  1. Give conversations a product context. Users expect a conversation on Facebook, yet you want to drive business results. One way to meet both expectations is to encourage customers to talk to each other about your products, and one powerful way to spark these conversations is by actively inviting users to share customer knowledge, experiences and reviews on your Facebook page.
  2. Give your advocates a bigger audience. Every customer can be an influencer, and Facebook can be a wonderful platform for connecting your advocates with a bigger audience to increase their influence. Our client TurboTax asked customers to post reviews on Facebook, and found that consumers were four times more likely to click on these posted reviews than on an ad. Additionally, 80% of people who clicked through to the TurboTax website hadn’t used TurboTax before. Syndicate customer reviews and stories collected on Facebook back to your ecommerce site, and vice versa, to spread your advocates’ influence as far as possible.
  3. Drive customers from Facebook back to your site to buy. You are fishing where the fish are; now bring them home to cook them (so goes the crude analogy). While some Facebook users may indicate a reluctance to buy on the social network, this preference may change. For now you can bring customers from Facebook directly to your site. Keep product pages one click away from customer reviews to send Facebook-influenced shoppers directly to your purchase path. Our client Benefit Cosmetics includes a “Buy it now!” button with their product reviews on Facebook, sending customers directly to the product they are looking for.

To truly leverage Facebook’s potential, marketers must recognize the conversational context of the network, while simultaneously directing conversations toward products in ways that convert.

Webinar: CMOs share top insights on social’s bottom line

We surveyed top CMOs in The CMO Club to get the real story about how they use social media — and their answers (and honesty) may surprise you. Join us February 2nd to hear about the results and see what’s most important — and most impactful — to top CMOs.

  • http://www.webemphasis.com/fashion-accessories-jewellery-store Jewellery Website Design

    I love Facebook all services and thanks for this post, it has been very helpful to me.

  • http://twitter.com/social_Xplosion social Xplosion

    Good post. Facebook, or all social media, is most successful when focusing on building relationships rather than pushing sales. Building the relationship will strengthen your brand over time.

  • http://japangold.blogspot.com/ Mario

    Spot on about Facebook strategy and it is true about fb not a megaphone.

  • http://twitter.com/txTDM Tara DeMarco

    Great point here, too! You’re right, getting management buy-in will be especially difficult for brands whose products aren’t the best. In those cases, showing management how to embrace the negative feedback and use it to improve their products is important. See:
    http://www.bazaarvoice.com/resources/case-studies/entire-organization-rallies-improve-product-ratings-sales

    Agree that it takes more than a few hours a week to run an effective, engaging Facebook community. That’s one of the benefits of tools like reviews on Facebook – you can crowdsource engagement, letting customers engage each other.

    Thanks for commenting!

  • Anonymous

    Great points.

    One thing to keep in mind though is that you must be prepared to staff the effort. Many FB pages are one-way communications because management wants to be there, but isn’t prepared to properly staff it. There are many cases of social media staffs of one or even part timers. You can’t hold numerous conversations, serve as an official voice/authority and be a customer service rep as a single employee. Not only does this create a weak link in the system (what if you’re sick for a couple days?), but it begs the bigger strategic question: If FB is about engaging with customers, is management ready for it? If you ask for reviews and you know your product isn’t great, are you ready to answer and respond to the negative remarks? Will management be willing to have that on their FB page for all to see? A lot of the problems we see in how social sites are used stems from management’s fear of the unknown. The tactical people on staff sense this and will refrain from doing anything online that might cause an uproar internally even though externally it creates engagement.

    I’m not trying to make excuses, but these types of real world issues keep people from doing what they know is the right thing to do in the long run. Better communication with management is key as is getting management involved beyond a growing trend line of new likes.

  • http://twitter.com/AmandaVega Amanda Vega

    In complete agreement with your comments on our post this week http://www.amandavegablog.com and love this one. Mainly I like the sentiment that “he with the most fans does NOT win.” We see this with major clients all of the time – chasing bodies and numbers like they do TV eyeballs, while never once truly wanting to engage with the users/fans/followers other than to shove another message down their throat. I cannot tell you how often in a meeting we are asked to “control the message” rather than “pay attention to the customer.”

  • guest

    I was going to post my experience of FB and consumer pages but this text block doesn’t move after 5 lines of text. I will admit I was on FB from the beginning and to be honest , company pages were boring, just ads but having looked at the QVC_UK page, I have see it has evolved into a real community. Now the community just need to better products to see that QVC -UK is actually listening. Now I can’t seeee what I am writing so I will stop there.

    that th

  • Ellamelton

    Love the part about fb not a megaphone!
    As a consumer I want and now expect engagement if a brand is using social media. Don’t be a digital telemarketer with no ears.