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Facebook for Business: Can Brands Ever Get It Right?

  |  June 12, 2009   |  Comments

What marketers can learn from Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Adidas, and other brands on Facebook.

Coca-Cola Facebook fans were asked this week: "What's your favorite time of day to enjoy an ice-cold Coca-Cola?"

That simple question set off a tsunami of gushing comments. "24/7 and everywhere!!! I LOVE COCA COLA," wrote Dzenan Batlak, echoing a sentiment shared by most of the other 5,700 fans that posted replies.

Xavier Izaguirre, a Coca-Cola fan based in the U.K., was slightly suspect about the motive behind the question, but he still played along. "Cheap marketing research, great!!!!!...i'll answer though. with hangover is best," he wrote.

Among consumer brands on Facebook, Coca-Cola has the highest number of fans at 3.5 million. (Facebook stats show that Barack Obama remains in the top spot with 6.3 million fans, followed by Vin Diesel with 4.5 million fans.)

While Coca-Cola has affirmed its popularity with an innocuous question, it raises another question: so what?

Therein lies the challenge of Facebook pages for business since the social network made it easier to distribute brand content earlier this year. Setting up a business page is only the beginning.

Giving fans a reason to come back and engage with a brand is tough enough, but it shouldn't be the ultimate goal. "It has to be more than engagement. Ultimately it has to be some sale down the road," contends Lisa Marino, VP of sales at RockYou, creator and distributor of widgets and applications on Facebook, MySpace, and other social networks.

So Many Brands, So Many Fans

Many brands haven't figured out a social media strategy yet.

OREO cookies, part of Kraft Foods; Oreo has 1.3 million Facebook fans. As of last month, Kraft Foods wasn't interacting with its fans. "We're reviewing the brand's digital strategies, including our approach to interacting with Facebook fans," Stephen Chriss, director of consumer and customer engagement, U.S. snacks business, at Kraft Foods, said at the time. Problem is that the last entry on the wall for Oreo cookies feels a little stale since it's dated March 5.

Fans set up pages for chocolate hazelnut spread Nutella (3.2 million fans), and Ferrero Rocher, a chocolate hazelnut confection (2.4 million fans). Both are Ferrero companies.

There's a lively community contributing photos and posting comments for Nutella on Facebook. In contrast, Ferrero Rocher's fan page feels like a ghost town; there's only one image posted here and there's no information listed or recent comments posted on its wall.

Addendum: After I wrote this column, I received an e-mail from Carlo Caretto at Ferrero USA noting out that both the Nutella and Ferrero Rocher pages were started by fans. He pointed me to the Ferrero Chocolates page on Facebook that's managed by Ferrero. With 23,000 fans, it includes frequent updates and replies to customer queries.

OREO cookies, part of Kraft Foods; Oreo has 1.3 million Facebook fans. As of last month, Kraft Foods wasn't interacting with its fans. "We're reviewing the brand's digital strategies, including our approach to interacting with Facebook fans," Stephen Chriss, director of consumer and customer engagement, U.S. snacks business, at Kraft Foods, said at the time. Problem is that the last entry on the wall for Oreo cookies feels a little stale since it's dated March 5.

Pepsi: Fizz, Then Flat

With 200,000 fans, the Pepsi -- Refresh Everything fan base seems flat compared to rival Coca-Cola's.

What it lacks in fans on Facebook, Pepsi's trying to make up with bells and whistles in an integrated campaign across multiple channels. Its Refresh Everything page on Facebook refers visitors to a microsite promoting the "Drink Up, Rock Out music video contest, sweepstakes, and instant win game now underway.

Still, Pepsi could be more aggressive about refreshing its fan page. For instance, there is a lag between updates on its wall. One dated June 3 headed up the fan page for one week and read, "If you're a gaming fan -- Pepsi Rock Band launched yesterday."

Adidas: Taking It to the Streets

Sporting goods apparel company adidas uses an assortment of Facebook applications to reach its 1.9 million fans on its adidas Originals page, which celebrates the company's 60 years of "Soles and Stripes." On Facebook, visitors can click on the "Your Area" tab to view adidas content posted on the local wall for any one of 14 countries, including Germany, United States, and China.

The brand also uses the Facebook calendar to list events, such as a party at its Philadelphia store; the listing was accompanied by a downloadable 20 percent discount coupon for adidas Originals products. Or fans can view an embedded YouTube video featuring Bob Marley performing "Get Up, Stand Up" in Germany, along with a link to an adidas catalog that includes the SL 72, described as "one of Bob's favorite shoes."

Advice for Brands

Because Facebook is an emerging channel, best practices for brands are evolving.

For instance, Facebook will begin making vanity URLs available effective Saturday at 12:01 a.m., so businesses and individuals alike will be able to replace www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=123456789&ref=name with www.facebook.com/YourName. Trademark holders should fill out this form to prevent a squatter from registering their brands' names.

Marino offered some additional practical advice in a recent presentation:

  • Decide if your brand is willing to make the investment.

  • Develop modules for core activities, such as contests, coupons, and videos/photos.

  • Maintain a presence and content to keep engagement high.

  • Don't build a presence and assume people will come. Buy media to drive traffic.

What's more, Ted Kohnen, VP of interactive marketing at Stein Rogan + Partners, said he has advised clients against joining a social network if they are not prepared to invest time and resources. "It's not launch it and leave it," he said. "If you don't have the bandwidth to make social media work, it can damage your brand."

This column has been updated to note that the Nutella and Ferrero pages were started and managed by fans -- and not Ferrero USA.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anna Maria Virzi

Anna Maria Virzi, ClickZ's executive editor from 2007 until 2012, covered Internet business and technology since 1996. She was on the launch team for Ziff Davis Media's Baseline and also worked at Forbes.com, Web Week, Internet World, and the Connecticut Post.

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