Facebook now has over 200 million members. With that many users, you know it isn't just for high school and college kids anymore. The fastest growing demographic is users age 35 and over, specifically women age 55-plus.
Yes, you should have a presence on Facebook, especially if you market consumer products and services. However, Facebook and its applications, such as Facebook Connect, Facebook Pages, and Facebook Groups, shouldn't replace your e-mail communications. Instead, when integrated properly with your e-mail program, Facebook can supplement e-mail and extend your reach to demographic groups your current e-mail efforts don't reach yet.
These five items will help you navigate the sometimes-murky waters of this fast-growing social network and create a presence that will be useful for both your company and your audience.
Get a Branded Presence on Facebook
Initially, Facebook offered Facebook Groups. Then it created Facebook Pages, which operate similarly to individual Facebook pages but are geared toward businesses, corporations, and other professional users.
As with individual pages, a Facebook Page has tabs for various uses: news updates, photo albums, information, polls and surveys, notes, and the like. Many corporations, especially those that run Facebook-oriented campaigns, have custom-branded tabs.
Recently, Facebook began allowing individuals to replace their regular Facebook URLs, which show a user number instead of a name, with vanity URLs of their choosing. (Mine is www.facebook.com/ed.henrich.) This option has been available longer to corporations. It allows customers to more easily search out the official company page. However, not all of the Internet's leading retailers have taken advantage this opportunity. My quick survey of the top 20 Internet retailers showed that 17 have a presence on Facebook, but only 8 have adopted the new vanity URLs. (You can view the results of my quick survey and some screenshots.)
For more information, see these additional resources:
Use E-Mail to Send Traffic to Your Facebook Page
Of the 20 sites I checked, only two, JC Penny and Circuit City, had links to their Facebook Pages on their Web sites' home pages, one place that can be used to drive traffic to your new Facebook presence. But what about using e-mail? Why pay for media to drive viewers to your fan page, when you can do it for free with e-mail?
Of the Internet retailers I reviewed last week, only Circuit City used its e-mail broadcast to promote its Facebook presence.
Encourage Conversation About Your Brand on Facebook
You can also use e-mail to encourage your customers to talk about your brand on their personal pages, not just your official Fan Page. This is called share with your network (SWYN). During the past week, only 2 of the top 20 retailers (J.C. Penney and Hewlett-Packard) encouraged customers to share e-mail content with their social networks.
SWYN generally generates better exposure and response than the traditional forward-to-a-friend (FTAF) application. Forwarding usually goes to one to five people, while sharing with a network means your message can be seen by a person's entire network. On Facebook, this averages 120 people, according to Facebook statistics. SWYN is also easier for consumers. Typically it takes a single click, compared to adding multiple addresses for FTAF.
For more information, see Chad White's Retail Email Blog and use the SWYN search tag. (Thanks to Chad for providing samples of the top 20 Internet retailers' current e-mail programs.)
Use Facebook to Acquire New E-Mail Subscribers
Your Facebook Fan Page should always link to your company Web site. It should also prominently feature a link to your e-mail signup page, along with a succinct explanation of the features and benefits of subscribing.
Sears and Lenovo, for example, use their Fan Pages effectively to deliver potential subscribers to their signup pages. The top ad on the Sears Facebook landing page says, "Become a fan today. Click here to get your free $10 Sears coupon now." Clicking on the ad leads you to page where it collects your e-mail address. Lenovo's Facebook landing page has an e-mail address collection application.
Use Facebook Conversations for Segmentation
What you learn from your company Facebook Pages can help you use segmentation to create more targeted and relevant e-mails. If you promote your Facebook Pages well and develop an active fan base, you can expect them to leave comments or develop conversations on your Wall, like a public bulletin board, and to participate in the activities you establish, such as polls, surveys, game, applications, and the like.
Monitor the conversations closely and contribute to them. Not just with promotional posts but also by responding to your visitors' comments, both negative and positive. For example, Dell has a customer service representative monitoring its page. She responds to every complaint with advice and even puts the unsatisfied customer in contact with someone in charge of that aspect of the company. Facebook can help build a more personal relationship with customers.
Next, analyze the conversations and the other ways your fans and visitors use your pages. Use these findings to learn what your customers or market niches like and don't like. This information can help you create new or better segmentation on your e-mail database, helping you develop more personalized e-mail messages with greater relevance and ROI (define).
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Ed Henrich is vice president of professional services for Responsys, leading the company's creative, campaign development, strategy, and analytics teams to produce award-winning and profitable client e-mail marketing programs. Ed is a pioneer in the e-mail marketing industry, having joined Post Communications (now Yesmail) in 1997 when it was a five-person startup. For eight years, he was the company's vice president of client services, then president. Before that, Ed was a venture capitalist at Internet Capital Group and a senior consultant with McKinsey & Company. A former Fulbright Scholar to Australia in Control Systems Engineering, Ed holds a PhD and an MS from UCLA and a BS from Drexel University. Follow him at his blog, LinkedIn, or Facebook.
March 19, 2014