Once upon a time, Facebook was the online hangout of college kids across the country. In the beginning, students had to be affiliated with a college featured on Facebook even to create a profile. Later, Facebook opened its doors to the world, and now 500 million users check into the site daily to keep contact with friends and family, upload and comment on pictures and videos, pass around viral media, and stay entertained at work and at home. Businesses are the latest group to embrace Facebook, tapping into an online population of millions who share knowledge with their network instantly, every day. Facebook is not simply a way to kill time at work, or stay in touch with classmates and friends; Facebook is an unparalleled pipeline into an ever‐expanding source of prospects.
Fully harnessing the marketing opportunities available on Facebook requires an understanding of the social dynamic behind the site. Facebook is about sharing and connecting through mutual interest. The first and most important aspect of Facebook‐based marketing is the ability to constantly share something of value with followers, and encourage those followers to then share with their sphere.
For example, a business could offer information on:
- new products
- upcoming sales or discounts
- opportunities for users to meet team members at conferences and special events
The most vital part of fostering good Facebook relationships is to consistently offer something new, and to keep followers engaged through direct interaction both with the brand, and with the community of other followers.
As an example, coffee giant Starbucks has made full use of Facebook as a platform for marketing, using their profile page to share pictures of music events, using status updates to offer special discounts to their Facebook Fans, and hosting fun apps such as their Mad Libs‐style status generator. Starbucks also encourages users to share their favorite Starbucks moments on their profile page, connecting users by the simple but effective method of photo sharing.
This simple tool creates a sense of community around the corporate brand identity. This consistent use of the Facebook profile page to engage and entertain has garnered Starbucks over eight million fans, largely by friend referrals and “Likes” as part of Facebook’s networking model.
Using Facebook to market to consumers is an effective way to gain direct access to an ever‐expanding base of prospects, and to influence trends through the exponential power of single‐click networking. Facebook creates word‐of‐mouth advertising through instant interaction, using consumers most trusted sources – friends and family.