Listen to Your Marketing Gut, Part 1: Facebook

We hear the words “Facebook,” “LinkedIn,” and “Twitter,” and think “social media giants.” As marketers, we look at how best to advertise with social media, leverage the channel, or just plain understand its implications to our brands and overall marketing efforts.

Overall, that’s exactly what we should be doing. But the hype from thousands of opinionated bloggers and microbloggers on the subject can get anyone confused on new social media channels’ core values.

Clear your mind. Your opinions are shaped in one of three ways: through your experiences, the people you meet, and the things you read. To reduce the background noise, stop reading the blogs, shut down TweetDeck, and focus your efforts on research, case studies, and your marketing gut.

Many bloggers post on this subject multiple times in a week, and there just isn’t enough good information for such frequent posts. In the end, you get opinion and a rehashing of others’ thoughts.

This series will help you understand the underlying value proposition of our Big 3 and offer some specific tactics and places to use these channels. Think of them as we do traditional media: national channels (Facebook), business channels (LinkedIn), and local pubs (Twitter). Today, we look at Facebook.

The National Channel: Facebook

Facebook’s core value proposition to marketers is an audience of the largest proportions across almost all generations. Let’s compare it to a national news outlet like NBC:

  • Cost: high. Advertising on Facebook is very expensive. If you aren’t willing to plunk down $100,000 to test something, then advertising isn’t a viable option, as it wouldn’t be for most of us to put our commercial on NBC’s “Nightly News.” However, building a group or fan page or using the site as targeted communication tool to peers is a fine investment. The cost is only the time you spend setting up an account and the message you create to send to update your members. Everyone should do this, because the time investment is so low and potential ROI (define) is so high.
  • Reach: high. As with NBC, Facebook’s reach is incredible. It’s wide and far. It’s old and young. And it’s growing at a pace we just can’t ignore. On reach, it’s huge for any product or service.
  • Value: brand, sales, lead generation, or list building? This is the fundamental question, so let’s look at it closer.
    • Brand: Do you want to use Facebook for a national brand campaign? Then, as with a campaign placed in a national news show, you’ll have tremendous reach and, most likely, an indirect correlation lift in sales. Any direct lead or sales efforts won’t happen, however.
    • Sales and lead generation: This is a tough one. Digital marketing consultants and experts are usually the only ones seeing direct sales and leads being generated with Facebook. In the long term, sales and leads can and will come, but when you do your quarterly sales/lead gen analysis, you won’t see a lot of material lift. For example, if you have an event and want to create some buzz for ticket sales, Facebook can generate a lot of trackable sales. We’ve seen some 30 percent of Online Marketing Summit attendees come from Facebook when the word is pushed out to our groups and sphere of influence. So a few industries can get strong immediate results, but for most it’s not the case.
    • List generation: This is the most overlooked aspect of using social media, including Facebook. It’s like the early days of e-mail. In 1997, you didn’t care who you gave your e-mail address to. So savvy marketers went out and got ’em and built huge lists. Same thing applies here. And not only list acquisitions, because most accounts send e-mail to the individual when there’s a new message. When someone signs up for your Groups page, she’s implicitly telling you it’s OK to communicate more frequently in a more informal way (vs. the formal corporate newsletter). Now you have a new list of folks to get certain messages out and in a way that’s much different from your e-mail marketing efforts. For example, in my agency days, we put up a Groups page for the Red Cross. After six months of the page being posted, it had more than 120,000 members — and we didn’t lift a finger to market it.

Next time, we’ll look at LinkedIn’s value proposition and some tactics for using the network.

Meet Aaron at a one-day Online Marketing Summit in a city near you from May 5, 2009, to July 1, 2009. Choose from one of 11 one-day events designed to help interactive marketers do their jobs more effectively. All sessions are new this year and cover such topics as social media, e-mail marketing, search, and integrated marketing. Register 30 days in advance and get a $40 discount!

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