How to Effectively Buy Into Facebook

Regardless of how much or how little you’re currently involving Facebook in your client’s marketing campaigns, you’re sure to feel it’s important to stay on top of this colossal online media trend. As you do so, here’s some food for thought. The barriers to entry for advertisers to begin experimenting with Facebook are numerous simply because the space is so alive with activity that it’s rapidly evolving. So, too, are the value of its media opportunities and users’ perceptions of them.

The most prominent example of this is Facebook Applications. Companies began developing these for use on the site when the new Facebook Platform launched a year ago. Over 20,000 applications have since been created, with 140 new ones being launched every day.

Needless to say if you didn’t get in on this marketing opportunity early, you may have missed the boat. Marketers continue to develop Facebook apps, some of which work and some of which don’t. Overall, though, Facebook is pretty well saturated on this front. Coming up with a unique application that represents your client’s business while offering an entertaining experience at this point in the game will be a significant challenge not without its branding and financial risks.

How, then, can advertisers find success on this site? One way is through Facebook Pages.

These branded pages that live within Facebook are the next generation of the Web sites businesses have established to represent themselves online. The Facebook Pages can be replicas of existing product or corporate sites or new destinations; either way, they’re a place where Facebook users — your client’s target audience among them — can interact with a company’s brand or cause; share their opinions on its products and services, share their points of view; and show their affinity by becoming a fan of a Page for all of their Facebook friends to see.

Facebook hosts Facebook Pages for businesses free of charge. While the advertiser is responsible for developing a page’s look and feel using Facebook’s automated development application, Facebook’s own development team is generally eager to help. This might include recommending the incorporation of videos, photo albums, and promotional materials that embody your client’s brand. Click here to view an example.

Like standard Facebook user profile pages, Facebook Pages include a Wall where site users can post opinions and discuss topical issues. This can be an invaluable resource for harvesting customer feedback and gauging reactions to new products. Through Facebook Pages, businesses can also communicate with fans by sending them news updates, special offers, and exclusive product information, all through the Facebook site and without the burden of e-mail campaign management and deployment costs.

Facebook Pages aren’t unlike corporate blogs and other interactive social mediums in that they straddle the positive and the negative. While they allow businesses to demonstrate the value they place on their customers by inviting interaction in an informal setting, they put companies in a vulnerable position where they’re required to give up some control of how their brand is presented and received. They’re snorkeling in open water, so to speak. If they’re lucky, they’ll be visited by some kindly clownfish, but they could just as easily fall victim to the sharks.

Just ask Paramount Pictures, which has had to take the good with the bad for its recently launched Facebook Page promoting “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” With nearly 70,000 fans to date, however, a few bad reviews likely aren’t enough to have the company experiencing Page remorse.

Perhaps the best aspect of Facebook Pages, and that which makes them most relevant to media buyers, is they can be treated like any other client Web page and promoted in a very similar way. Once this marketing effort is developed, planners can purchase some pretty interesting media from Facebook to drive internal traffic and boost Page membership and presence.

Next week, I’ll look at the options that exist for doing so, and which are proving most effective.

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