For the past 15 years, “fish where the fish are” has been the mantra of anyone in digital media. At the end of the millennium, that meant “AOL Keyword: Acme Corp.”  In the mid-2000s, it meant the Acme Corp Second Life store. And in 2011, it means “find us on Facebook.”
Now marketing on the site du jour is not in and of itself a grievous error. It’s just that most brands get so blinded by the bright shiny objects, they forget even the most basic rules of marketing.
Let’s start with metrics: for many brands, the only sign of an effective Facebook page is the presence of many, many “fans.” (e.g. people who have hit the “Like” button.) It’s an easy number to achieve: there are actually companies that will guarantee you x number of fans by the end of the week. Do a Google search for “get Facebook fans.” You’ll get all sorts of offers. Judging by the top result, the value of attaining a fan is about six cents. But the fan count is a prominent number that plays well in the C-Suite since it’s a pretty bragworthy statistic: “Acme has 8 million Facebook fans, Bigglesworth. How many does Qwerty have?”
Then, of course, there’s that nagging question of ownership: Acme has 8 million Facebook fans who frequently upload photos and videos to Acme’s Facebook page as part of the numerous promotions and contests their agencies suggest. Only Acme doesn’t own any of those fan videos or photographs: Mark Zuckerberg does. Along with their email addresses, browsing habits and lots of other information that Acme would like to have. Want to integrate that into your CRM system? Good luck.
In addition to owning the videos and the photos, Mr. Zuckerberg also owns The Rules. Which means that he can change them any time he wants. Tabs on the top of the page? Think again. Being able to post as the brand away from your Fan Page? Surprise! It’s a classic example of the “Because We Can” attitude Facebook is notorious for and it can seriously disrupt your brand’s communications plan. Coke woke up one day in February to find the way it communicates with 24 million customers changed without notice.
There’s still another problem with those fans. Four years ago, I wrote a series called “Your Brand Is Not My Friend” and it hold even more true today: people come to Facebook to play Farmville or see their friend’s children’s wedding photos. They don’t really want to hear from brands and so many of them hit the “Hide” button as soon as that first post shows up in their News Feed. But a certain percentage won’t. These brand-evangelists-in-the-making eagerly await every new Acme post. But guess who knows their identity? Not Acme’s marketing department. Once again, the answer is Mark Zuckerberg.
So what’s a brand to do?
The answer isn’t sexy. It’s called “integrated marketing.” To keep the metaphor flowing, it’s basically driving the tastiest fish into the nets where it’s easy for the fishermen to scoop them up. It makes use of something many of today’s marketers seem to have forgotten exists: their own domain sites.
It’s fairly simple to build a contest page or microsite on your domain and iFrame it into a Facebook tab. (That’s still not against the rules.) That way, everything that’s posted on the Facebook tab is automatically synched with the domain site and vice versa. More importantly, all the content that’s posted on the Facebook tab is now the brand’s property. Not Zuckerberg’s. What’s more, the brand also gets to see the user’s browsing history once they’ve hit that Facebook tab.
But that’s only half the story.
The other half is driving those brand-evangelists-in-the-making further into your domain site. Which means actually paying attention to the domain site and giving them something worthwhile to do there. Now by “worthwhile” I don’t mean the tedious games and DJ mixes that websites used to foist on visitors. I’m talking a little interactivity and respect.
You have an e-commerce site? Let users rate and review your products. Your hardcore fans will take the time to write coherent and useful reviews. Want to get a read on what your hardcore fans like? Give them polls or MyStarbucks-like suggestion capabilities. Create a points and levels system with a leaderboard to reward them for their frequent visits and participation. Bubble up some of their comments or photos or videos onto the home page so that when all those less-than-hardcore fans come to the site, they’ll see that there are people who love your brand so much they’ve spend hours writing “how-to” posts about it.
Now a little reality check: the number of hardcore fans who’ll go to your domain and become power users is going to be miniscule compared to the number of people who click the “like” button on Facebook. So you’ve got to think of it as a funnel: Facebook is like the worm on the hook that draws all the fish. Your domain is where you drive the ones who stick around and take a nibble.
It’s the social CMS food chain, but it actually works: you get the people who really, really want to buy your product and Zuckerberg gets the people who really, really want to play Farmville.
Seems like a pretty fair trade-off to me.
Alan Wolk is managing director of dtrategy at KickApps, a Kit Digital company. Follow him @awolk.
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