Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Facebook is the new WWW

Last week I noticed that the Philippines had become the fifth most represented country on Facebook, with (then) just under 21 million Pinoys registered. I just checked again and less than a week later, that number has ballooned to 21.7 million.
That constitutes 24% of the total Philippine population. Not bad, especially for just one URL.

These staggering numbers have made Facebook a go-to channel for many brands and, ahem, ad agency strategic planners. Why not? We can reach a captive, engaged market and can geo- and age-target our drive-to-page materials. Even better, when consumers like our content, they can share them on their Walls and elicit an exponential number of eyeballs and views.

But as obvious as Facebook seems to have become as a standard digital channel recommendation, a new barrier seems to be emerging: Are brands that get on Facebook only now already too late in the game? Do they risk appearing like me-too's? Worse, will agencies that recommend branded Facebook pages appear uninsightful and lazy?

After all our marketing culture is fond of “owning” things – colors, seasons, occasions, time slots, entire mediums. I once got a brief that demanded a strategy that would allow our brand to “own the Internet”. (Not a joke!) Who owns Facebook, and if we can’t own it then should we even bother?

The answer is yes.
A few years ago we recommended branded web presence through websites that opened with WWW. All that has changed is that now we are recommending branded web presence through pages that open with FACEBOOK.COM.

In that sense we just need to re-frame our thinking and look at Facebook as a microcosm of the larger web. We had websites once but now that everybody is on Facebook, doesn't it make sense that we build a presence there?

What we like about this particular social network –
  • Built-in community-building features
    • What: Users can easily like a brand page and individual pieces of content or share their own.
    • Where else you could get it: Your web developer can tell you how long it would take (very) to design a website that would duplicate the level of community engagement that already exists Facebook. And how much it would cost! (A lot.)
  • A captive audience
    • What: 21 million Pinoys & counting, who regularly visit. According to the Facebook fact sheet, 50% of their active users log in on any given day. One study claims that users view an average of 22 pages per visit. The best part? Users can immediately click on anything they find interesting.
    • Where else you could get it: On TV or radio? OOH? Minus the click. Your media agency can give you more information.
  • Share-ability
    • What: Users can easily share content they find interesting – today the Cebu Pacific flight attendants, tomorrow the “California Girls” balikbayans who had too much Pinoy food (“Katy my lady, gutom ka na baby?”). Never 100% sure, but definitely viral potential.
    • Where else you could get it: Through bloggers and YouTube, maybe Twitter. Check with your Digital Influence consultant. But I don’t think you could say that something has “gone viral” if it hasn’t passed through Facebook.
  • Good Pages abound! (Will update with an actual list shortly/eventually.)

What we need to avoid –
The trick is not to rest on Facebook’s community features. A wall and an information page won’t do anything for a brand without regularly updated content and conversation. Just as if we were planning a brand website we need to create a reason that anyone would care to visit our (profile) page.

Whether on Facebook or not, consumers will look for a compelling reason to engage with us – something useful, entertaining or informational. That bit of digital strategy hasn't changed, only the entry url – from www.YOURBRAND.com to facebook.com/YOURBRAND. This might sound obvious but it recently helped me open the minds of a few clients. Maybe this kind of explanation can help you, too.


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