Facebook Fan Pages Guide: Destinations vs. Collaborative Conversation Spaces

13 11 2007

Facebook Fan Pages need to be conversation spaces not destinations.

There are a lot of posts flying around the blogs on Facebook‘s new Fan Page system, covering privacy, just outright outrage, and even a couple kudos on tapping into the influencer hierarchy.

However, very few are addressing the core issue: How to implement a successful execution and how it fits into the mix.

First of all, DON’T create a destination, no one needs another “branded space”.

People don’t need another location where they can download Mountain Dew wallpapers. The approach that is being pitched is basically just an extension of the groups feature with some extra bells and whistles attached, wrapped up in the ‘products’ category. Now let’s be honest, groups are just badges to show off to other people, in essence, cool by association. There is very little running interaction on most groups and most of the content is lackluster. Some of you may disagree, but you probably run in new media circles and thus are more inclined to interact. You’re not the status quo.

This is a group roll ripped off an average female college student’s profile and it is more kosher than most:

groups.jpg

She is trying to express that she is liberal and somewhat politically inclined by being in the Stephen Colbert group, environmentally motivated with the Climate Change group, of course she wants us all to know that people think she is good looking by being a part of 5 or so groups themed around “Smoking Hot Beautiful Stunning Girls”. Think she ever interacts with any of these groups?

Empower your core base and win over your enemies.

The first couple product pages will most likely operate like every other branded group. Attract people with some discounts or “hot news”, a couple thousand sign up, spam them, spam them, spam them some more, people start to leave, and finally the marketer gets bored. The end.

Sounds bleak; however, there is a huge amount of potential in amplifying the voice of your advocates. If done right.

So here’s what I propose: Build the fan pages into conversation hubs.

Online influencer outreach programs typically are comprised of identifying various online communities and influencers – usually in the form of bloggers -, and trying to chat with them without pissing them off. These types of programs take time, can be expensive, and are difficult to manage and track. So instead of scouring the net, piecing together a patch work of comments and posts, why not have them come to you.

Build areas that become conduits between your evangelists, your nay sayers, and your company. Build a space where people can voice their opinions, good or bad (I know this can be scary for some), and be heard. Having a corporate blog is nice, but let’s face it blogs are still 90% one-way. With Fan Pages you are built into a social ecosystem where people want to connect and express themselves, take advantage. What you get in return is an IV thrust deep into the pulse of sentiments surrounding your product. What people love, where you got it right. What people hate, things you need to work on. What people just don’t get, areas you need to clarify. This information is invaluable, and just by listening you can convert your loudest nay sayers into friends. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen countless times.

That’s my 2 cents. I’m gonna wrap up this post with a challenge to marketing and companies:

Be the first company to use Fan Pages to collaboratively build or improve a product with your consumers.

Want people to use the network to amplify and pitch your product? Give them a stake in it, and allow them to spread a personal message.

Turn, “Hey, a bought cool pair of Nike high-tops”, into “Hey man, check out my new shoes that I helped design, I know you’ll dig ‘em”

Now the shoes have transcended mere mortal shoes, and have become conversation pieces, perhaps even mythical. You bet that everyone of your ‘designers’ will be telling everyone they know, and the Facebook platform will make that voice infinitely louder through the ‘products’ feed.

UPDATE:

Check out this article on Marketing Vox discussing the rising trend in people wanting to work with companies to build better products.

UPDATE #2:

Video post on AdAge of a presentation given by Facebook COO, Owen Van Natta.  He says, “Our users love the [SocialAds] system”.  Since when do people like being accosted by brands in their private communities.  Wake up.

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20 responses

13 11 2007
Jeremiah Owyang

Good thoughts. Conversations have to take place BEFORE anyone is going to ‘fan’ a facebook page.

For example, many of my ‘fans’ came from my blog or twitter –both conversational tools

You’re on the right track!

13 11 2007
leeaase

Excellent post. I think for brands that have some real-life fans these can be both conversation hubs and “status” badges.

13 11 2007
Web Community Forum » Blog Archive » Guide to Facebook pages: “don’t be a destination”

[…] says the Ad-vocate: First of all, DON’T create a destination, no one needs another “branded […]

14 11 2007
jak

That’s very true and it’s got some awesome ideas. I really hope that companies follow through with your ideas. An awesome example of this is Moutain Dew’s group on Facebook, there’s a very good open exchange between customers and a Mountain Dew employee.
Also thanks for checking out and commenting on my blog, I really appreciate it.

14 11 2007
Mark

good post, I’m trying to turn the page for FacebookEconomy.com into a “conversation hub”, and so far, having mixed results (it’s important to remember these things have only been around for a week!):

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8431870131

14 11 2007
Shashib

great points:

Build the fan pages into conversation hubs.
use Fan Pages to collaboratively build or improve a product with your consumers.

I can’t wait to circulate this post at work

14 11 2007
Seni Thomas

@ Jak

Appreciate the kind words and I enjoyed your blog. I’m putting you on the good old blog roll.

@Mark

Your absolutely right, they have only been out for a short time, but we need to start experimenting now. Your already one step ahead. Thing is the understanding of the products feature to the average user is close to zero and the people I have spoken with (anecdotal survey with friends ave. age 21) perceive it as another invasion of their space by corporation, which is why we need to reposition what the Fan Pages represent now. Finally, regarding your page read the comment back to Jeremiah below.

@ Jeremiah

Solid point as always. Conversational spaces in general start as extensions of conversational sparks that start elsewhere. In addition, it isn’t a one-size-fits all solution. For example I don’t think that creating a Fan Page for this blog makes much sense since I am not providing any more utility to the readers and I am splintering the conversation. Blog posts become more valuable over time as people discuss the topic in the comments thread because the comments are attached to the content, thus I want the conversation to take place here. However, David Armano’s fan page is great because he built a location to aggregated all his great illustrations, and he has about a million more readers.

When trying to implement fan pages you really have to make sure it makes sense for your brand, and if it does, you need to tie it in to your other efforts. With so many specialist agencies focusing on niches many times you end up with a 100 executions that have no connections between them. If you choose to be open, use influencer outreach tactics (reaching out to online communities) to draw people to your Fan Page, give them a voice, and listen.

14 11 2007
Mari Smith

Excellent ideas, Seni.

Collaboratively build and improve = genius!! I’d love to see mainstream companies take this on.

And, hear hear on the conversation hub vs. destination – there aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up with all the one-way sites. But give me a lively conversation and I’ll return time and again. :)

Cheers,
Mari
PS – Just added you to my Blogroll. Happy to stumble across your blog via Mark Mayhew.

15 11 2007
Lonerbook

Facebook is about to face some serious competition.

http://digg.com/tech_news/The_Facebook_Myspace_for_Loners_Lonerbook

15 11 2007
Seni Thomas

@lonerbook

LOVE IT!

15 11 2007
David Cushman

Hi Seni, this was my take a few days back:

Facebook Pages offer more engaged (enlightened or willing to experiment) brands an easy opportunity to touch the network themselves (rather than simply witnessing its exponential value generation and handing over their cash).
As they learn what it’s like to be part of the communities which define brands, they will better serve the co-creational aspirations of Generation-C, Net Gen, the Edglings… the people who are inheriting the earth.
Along the journey they should discover that these people want to help rate, shape, create, co-design, engineer and market. And they’ll want rewards and ownership.
Facebook Pages offer them an easy intro to the new business ecology and in an environment where connecting is made easy.

15 11 2007
Seni Thomas

@David

Wholehearted agree. Furthermore the greatest strength of the Fan Pages is that it is easy to implement and has little to no initial investment. It is a far easier sell than building a standalone branded community; thus, easier to sell up the food chain and actually get something done.

16 11 2007
christopher carfi

great stuff! would love your thoughts on a piece that has some congruence with this one that i wrote a while back, called Relationship hubs in the Long Tail.

seni++

28 11 2007
Facebook + Marketing P.1 « THE AD-VOCATE

[…] UPDATE: Check out the new Guide To Leveraging Facebook Fan Pages for effective communications […]

30 11 2007
Mark

It looks like you were correct: I’m writing this on dec 1., and after 3 weeks, you can tell which pages (very few?!), are turning into “conversational hubs” and their memberships are growing, etc.

15 12 2007
Alexis Madrigal

I thought people might be interested in checking out what I’m doing at Wired with aFacebook page dedicated to our Wired Science blog.

We’re trying to use the page as the central hub of our efforts to bring a radical level of transparency into our reporting. It’s a two-way street: readers get to hear the news before it’s published and we get to draw on their insights to make our stories better. In addition to Facebook, we’re also using Twitter to provide real-time access into what we’re working on. Taken together, our readers will be able to shape the news. The full idea is available in
this post
.

The hardest part, so far, seems to be convincing our readers that we’re serious about incorporating their suggestions. Maybe our next feature launch — a weekly Wiki article — will be what does the trick. I’d love to hear more specific suggestions/experiences about Facebook apps that up engagement or enable new functionality for pages like ours that are at least trying to be collaborative and useful.

I’m also happy to report also that this initiative has gotten tremendous support inside Wired, which you might not (and I did not) expect from a Conde Nast publication.

7 08 2008
zaggededge

Is it legal to start a fan page about a brand that isn’t yours? ie: i’m a fan of Nike, can i start one?

(hypothetically speaking)

29 08 2008
blogscapes

How true – isn’t social media all about conversations!

30 01 2009
Legal Hallucinogens

That’s very true and it’s got some awesome ideas. I really hope that companies follow through with your ideas. An awesome example of this is Moutain Dew’s group on Facebook, there’s a very good open exchange between customers and a Mountain Dew employee.
Also thanks for checking out and commenting on my blog, I really appreciate it.

10 09 2009
sandrar

Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

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