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The Corporate Face on Facebook

  |  March 11, 2009   |  Comments

Facebook is helping corporations build awareness, provide enhanced customer service, and engage both employees and customers in the online experience. Some quick tips to get you started.

At the very core of its functionality and the origin of its birth, Facebook is about connecting a face with a name. When launching on Facebook, companies have the unique opportunity to connect with and introduce their audiences to the face of their brand or company. A corporate Facebook page can support a variety of corporate goals, including staff recruitment and retention, audience engagement, morale building, e-commerce, branding, and awareness. But, determining how to best represent a corporation on Facebook remains a challenge to those charged with the task.

Consider the individual on Facebook. A person's "picture" evolves over time as her life changes and she adds content in many forms and creates depth to her profile. Her friends and family contribute significantly to the picture that emerges. When establishing a corporate Facebook page, one mistake people make is to try and control that picture by creating a static, one-way, marketing-polished picture for audience consumption. Consumption by itself is not the right goal for this medium -- that would imply you are treating it like an advertising channel and not social media, which are two distinctly different things. To succeed on Facebook you want to build it, grow it, and measure your success against the interaction and dialogue you are able to create.

Build It

Is human resources attempting to recruit new staffers through a channel those potential staffers know, use, and trust? Is the marketing department or consumer affairs looking to connect with audiences and better understand their issues or spot trends? When launching a corporate Facebook page -- like any other Web endeavor -- start with specific objectives, a thorough understanding of the intended audience and their channel specific habits plus a plan to measure, optimize, enhance, and grow results over time.

The people or divisions leading the creation of the corporate Facebook page have much to do with the effort's objectives. Facebook groups can provide a closed-door opportunity for corporations to communicate with employees about upcoming events, corporate holidays, employee news, or any other relevant information to help raise morale. On the other hand, open fan pages allow people searching for the company or brand to become a fan of and contribute to the page in an open and sharing environment.

There are so many options to build content on a fan page. Depending on the goals you could include product polls, information about new products, event notifications, links to newsletters, an insider's club, and many other branded experiences for the fans.

Grow It

A critical element of any successful Facebook page is the commitment to provide continual updates and establish a two-way dialogue. It's tempting to think of this as a free channel but it requires both human and monetary investment to succeed. If there's no investment in properly trained staff to maintain the effort, it will fail. Often this is internal staff but not always. Internal staff members have an intimate knowledge of corporate information and are likely to have the answers and information at hand to create a productive dialogue. However, if they are not trained to respond authentically to the organic nature of the dialogue, they will not maximize the value of the exchange for either the corporation or the audience. Just because a person is young and uses social media does not mean they understand this critical exchange. Make sure you invest in training.

Facebook pages, like all social media, must be appropriately seeded to grow effectively. Once you have created value in the page, craft a strategy to introduce that page to audiences with incentives to grow the connections. There has to be real value present to fuel the growth. That value can reside in the corporate-produced content or offers, in the interactions that occur, or in audience-supplied content.

Make sure the commitment is ongoing and resides in more than one enthusiastic supporter. An abandoned Facebook page is much worse than no Facebook page. Think about what that says to your customers and potential customers. "We used to be interested in listening to you and exchanging dialogue, but we aren't anymore -- haven't been for a while, chump."

Measure It

Social media success requires that you measure the right things to get the right results. Create a dashboard specific to your stated objectives to track the success of your efforts. This should key into all your Web activity, tapping analytics like site stats, keyword search activity, Twitter activity and tone, plus many other information sources. When you create your dashboard, ensure that less savvy executives can relate to it and that it establishes a strong connection between the foreign metrics they are seeing and other corporate goals. Many good paid options exist but also explore low cost or even free tools to meet your measurement needs.

Quick Tips to Get You Started

Here's some quick tips to keep in mind as you investigate and launch on Facebook:

  • A good first objective is always to listen to what is being said about your corporation in the space.

  • Have a strong digital foundation and a social media strategy in place before reaching out to your audience in social media.

  • Don't mistake a social media technology or application for a strategy.

  • Empower your employees by asking them to participate in the corporate page.

  • Get a level of corporate commitment that will ensure ongoing success before you even get started.

Facebook has helped corporations bolster employee morale, provide enhanced customer service, build awareness and affinity, and engaged both employees and customers in the online experience. With over 52 million U.S. subscribers to Facebook ready to engage with your brands and company, it represents a unique opportunity requiring a unique strategy. Don't wait.

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Robin Neifield

Robin is the CEO and cofounder of NetPlus Marketing Inc., a top 50 interactive agency established in 1996 to focus exclusively on online marketing and advertising best practices. Robin brings innovative strategy and a depth and breadth of marketing experience to the agency's practice and management. As one of the industry's pioneers, she is a driving force behind NetPlus Marketing's ongoing success with a diverse and discerning client base that considers online results critical to their business success.

Robin is a frequent speaker at national industry events, including ClickZ, internet.com, OMMA, Ad:Tech, SES, Online Marketing Summit, and Thunder Lizard conferences and is a sought-after resource for industry and business publications for her insight and advice on such topics as digital strategy, social media marketing, and behavioral targeting.

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