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.





Does The Glove Fit: Social Media Isn’t One Size Fits All

12 11 2007

Web 2.0 isn’t dead.

Says BL Ochman in his recent post on MarketingProfs. Couldn’t agree more. But, companies need to find what works for them.

Ochman’s central point is that there are a number of larger companies that still haven’t jumped on the bandwagon and they can benefit greatly by integrating more 2.0-ish components into their corporate machines. An example he provides is the publishing world, and how publishing houses are getting a little bit closer with social media tools lubricating communication between previously extremely siloed operations. Great!

Again, I agree complete.

A number of my previous posts may have been perceived as anti-2.0, but in reality they are anti-hype. In the 2.0 media landscape where marketers are seduced with new buzzword daily and company valuations are ludicrous (Facebook, anyone?), we need take a step back and take a deep breath. Instead of just jumping because everyone else is, take a long hard look at your customer base, your targets, what your brand represents, and look for tools, communities, and networks that work for you.

Make sure the glove fits.





How Google’s OpenSocial Will Revolutionize Community Targeting

31 10 2007

Community based targeting accommodates multiple, mutually exclusive and compounding brand messages to be expressed.

OpenSocial will spur the development of micro-social networks that will be tied together on the backend, facilitating the seamless movement of users from community to community. This in turn will create an umbrella system where I have an over arcing super-identity, but express multiple aspects of it through the micro-communities I join.

Your first question is probably: Well I can already do that with groups in Myspace and Facebook. Wrong.

Let me explain. Groups on mass social networks are usually merely badges that signify affiliation. Interaction on these groups is relatively low as the barrier for entry is low. Being part of micro-communities is a far greater commitment as one has a reputation that resides in the space that needs to be maintained. Thus, the people in micro-communities are the hardcore, the key influencers, and people with intent. If you are a regular reader you have read my rants on intent based advertising. The citizens of micro-communities are there to acquire information on a subject, share information, and interact with a small subset of passionistas. Micro-communities are places of intent, thus targeting messages to these communities can be very effective.

What kind of messages you ask?

Messages that provide utility. Provide them information, insights, discounts, group buys, or branded widgets, that are also portable throughout OpenSocial. Don’t be their friend, cause they don’t want to be yours, but provide a service and they will appreciate it.

Still wanna work with banner ads?

Let the community shepard/s select the messages. Align your interests. Parse the site, give them a selection of relevant ads and let them choose the ones they feel will resonate the most with their community. More clicks = more money for the shepard/s. In addition, they feel empowered, and a little empowerment goes a long way. Finally, no one person, marketer, or algorithm know a community better than their shepard/s.

Alright so what do I mean by, community based targeting accommodates multiple, mutually exclusive and compounding brand messages to be expressed?

Well in the age of mass media – TV, Radio, Print, and Portals – brands were forced to pick one message they felt would resonate with the largest group of people and blast it. That is no longer the case. Now I believe there still needs to be one all encompassing theme, but now you can target communities with unique messages. Bear with me here.

Imagine the Venn Diagram at the top of the post, and imagine that each circle represents a different community. Now the advertiser disseminates 3 different messages that highlight different aspects of a widget that resonates strongest with each community. If am a member of community A I get sent message A and it makes sense to me and I am not exposed to messages B and C as these communities are mutually exclusive for me. There might be crossover with some members that might spread messages between communities, but since I don’t care much for the information I would bypass it. This keeps message A clear and undiluted, thus more effective. Now the other scenario is I am a member of all 3 communities. In this case I care about all three messages and thus they compound and build an even stronger pitch to the user.

This is the power of community targeting, it allows brands to transition from a OR world where a brand has to be X OR Y, to a world where brand can be X AND Y AND Z.

Finally, these citizens of micro-communities are influencers and will continue to spread your message in a way that makes sense to their audience. If I am a tech aficionado and reside in multiple tech micro-communities and have received 3 compounding messages, when I am communicating the message to say my nephew who wants a new laptop I will relay the messages that make the most sense to him; thus, you have a multi-tiered message filtering system. The more messages that make sense to the influencers the more ammo they have when pitching it down the line.

Very curious to hear everyone’s thoughts.





The Ultimate Betrayal: Facebook’s SocialAds Hawks Your Identity

31 10 2007

As targeting permeates the online ad world, privacy will become the central issue.

We live in a world today where the online advertising networks are all rushing to provide us the service of targeted advertising. Thanks guys, appreciate it.

However, the question remains, where are they getting the information???

There are a number of models out there such as cookies tracking what sites you visit, contextual targeting (like Google), and the new buzzword Behavioral targeting being pushed by Tacoda (Read about the basics here).

Of course the talk of the town right now is Facebook‘s new SocialAds platform, which is inherently different because they are using user-provided personal information for targeting vs. information gathered in the background, or through requested information as in search. This is a direct betrayal of the user base. We provided Facebook our most personal information so that we can connect with our peers, not to have it hawked to the highest bidder.

People have even had their accounts disabled for not providing accurate information.

At this point we know little of how privacy will be incorporated, if at all, however, I am announcing here that I will leave the platform if my information is betrayed.





Facebook’s Over Valuation: The 2.0 Farce

25 10 2007

Facebook is being propped up the 2.0 bubble.

Since everyone is talking about the recent $740 million infusion of cash from Microsoft and two hedge funds, I thought I’d chime in.

First of all let’s address the issue of the 2.0 bubble.

The entire hype surrounding social media is the fact that it is now easier to identify influencers and have influencers spread the word. Facebook provides an immense amount of data to make laser targeting possible.

However, People are changing how they use the internet as it becomes more connected and more humanized.

Yet, advertisers are still clinging to age old methods of spamming us with “targeted ads”. Targeting is worthless with out intent. The reason social media’s advertising predictions will fall short is because our social spaces, our communities, are private and we don’t want to talk to you there. Targeted banners on sites like Cnet are somewhat effective because I’m actively seeking out information on a new laptop or camera, but in the social realm I’m trying to connect with other people, not brands.

There is some hope in the form of Branded Utility, which I talked about in my post on Human Centered Communications. I see a great deal of potential with Facebook’s applications as brands can create touchpoints that provide utility to users. However, the hyped valuation is primarily based on targeted advertising, which will fall short of expectations.

That said, I will be looking closely at Facebook’s mobile execution.





The Power of Google over Facebook: Advertising at the Point of Intent

24 10 2007

Hyper-targeting isn’t the solution.  The holy grail is placing ads at the point of intent.

The success of Google in the search advertising realm is of course facilitated by their contextual engine; however, the reason why their pay per click model works is that they control the moment of intent. When people are searching they are actively seeking out information. In the same vein Amazon recommends books that are similar to the one I chose right before checkout. They get me every time, I never leave the Amazon site without purchasing 2 or 3 more books than I originally intended.

Targeted ads are a step forward, but over hyped.

Facebook just announced its new advertising platform that can target anyone on the network by political affiliation, gender, location, or anyone of the keywords on one’s profile. Your experience might be different, but I’ve never paid attention to a single ad on the network EVER. Not because it wasn’t relevant, but because I wasn’t in a receptive state. I am on Facebook to communicate with friends or catch up on the new feed. I simply disregard all the ads displayed on the site. For me this is consistent with most display ads online. The fact that I’m reading an article on trucks doesn’t mean I’m looking to buy a Dodge. Granted it increases the likely-hood of clicking on the ad, but the key to place display ads in places where the customer already has intent. For example place the Dodge ads on a car review site.

Feel free to disagree with me, but I’m not one to preach a 100% transition away from mass media. I still believe that for increasing overall awareness of a brand or product, mass blasts can be effective. I also absolutely believe that marketers need to reach out to influencers and communities; however, general awareness helps grease the wheels. For example when an influencer recommends a brand and their audience has already heard of the brand it just makes the sell that much easier. An added benefit of a national spot is a level of security it provides customers. Launching a product by spamming banners across the range of sites might be be cheaper for the same amount of eyeballs, but is drastically less effective.





Why All Media Platforms Must Fragment

18 10 2007

Media must fragment to remain meaningful.

Note: For a deeper look at this topic please read the short historical essay on Facebook in the previous post.

Every form of media is destined to fragment. The time it takes varies, and is getting shorter and shorter, but nonetheless it is inevitable.

A long, long time ago media wasn’t scalable. In the Vaudeville days patrons would shell over a few cents to watch a show that was essentially unique every night. With the advent of the motion picture, shows could be filmed and reproduced. Then the first movie theaters were built allows large groups of people access to rudimentary black and white, silent pictures. At this time content was irrelevant as it was the experience itself that was entertaining. This soon changed, more theaters were built and sound and color were added; however, production costs quickly escalated requiring larger and larger audiences to build economies of scale. Thus, films were made to appeal to a large audience much like they are today.

Then the television was introduced. Television started with a very limited set of content providers, The Networks, and the business model changed to revolve around advertiser subsidization. Over time as production costs decreased and distribution opened up with the advent of cable television, TV fragmented. Cable channels catered to consumer niches. It did quite well as people crave content that is meaningful to them, and mass media can never be meaningful to everyone, just a large subset, if that. No one could have predicted that there would be a channel dedicated to home improvement. Around this time some smart fellow realized that since cable channels catered to a niche, they should be able to charge a targeting premium to advertisers. This concept who grow to become the silver bullet of digital advertising.

Note: I am focusing on one subset of media, but radio and print also went through the same transformation.

Now lets fast forward to the information age where content is 100% free to distribute and basically free to produce. When launching a brand new media platform today you have to flip the old model on its head and first appeal to a niche to gain traction, this is the Bowling Pin method outlined in Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore. Then you build out slowly and eventually try to cross to the chasm to hit the mainstream, then wait around to be bought by Google.

However, this is where media’s need to fragment manifests itself again. As the platform embraces the mainstream it loses touch with the initial core user base. These same core users will then flock to another media platform that better understand their needs. However, it is also important to note that the 800 lbs. gorilla doesn’t die it just becomes a Network, and when there is a new mass media platform there is always room for smaller more targeted mini-networks. For example when Myspace came along it was dedicated to music lovers, but quickly out grew the niche. Myspace has the numbers so music lovers will still use it connect to their favorite bands, but there are a slew of niche music social networks and music discovery sites that have smaller communities dedicated to specific bands or genres. Furthermore, these smaller niche sites, much like cable channels, are commanded much higher CPMs. This is supposed to be solved by new targeting systems that will be built into Facebook and Myspace; however, they will never command the prices of a truly dedicated network.

Fragmentation is merely a social screening process.

Fragmentation is the opposite of convergence which still lingers as a popular buzzword, but much like how people don’t want a cell phone/computer/remote/toothbrush/music player, people want their media platforms to remain separated because they serve distinct functions. Personally, I used Facebook to socialize and Linked In for professional networks. I no desire to have those two worlds reside in the same space. New/Social Media overload is a common topic today as well, but it is a problem isolated to a small group of early adopters. The average person isn’t having any issues juggling the 2 or 3 social networks they are members of.

This is a personal opinion based on anecdotal evidence, I’m very interested in hearing responses.





The History of Facebook: A Student’s Perspective

18 10 2007

Social Network’s will never be everything to everyone.

As readers of this blog do or don’t know, I am a recent graduate of NYU’s undergrad business school. I had a Facebook account since May 2004, and I resisted as long as I could. At first I was a member of rebels that would make snide remarks toward the sheep that spent hours a day stalking cute boys and gals from class. Much like my battle against everything AOL in my teens, it was futile. Surely but shortly our ranks began to dwindle. Then one night I decided to check out what the fuss was all about, logged on, and never looked back; however, I still employed a rule that I would never actively friend people to make myself appear popular.

The world I entered was clean and effective. I am extremely interested in interface design and the gaudy, distasteful profiles on Xanga and Myspace kept me far away. Facebook was different. It was a place to hang out with people that mattered to me: REAL friends, long lost friends, and that cute girl from Econ. In our walled garden with the college students only sign prominently displayed, we felt free. We all posted real information, pictures from the weekend’s debauchery, our entire class schedules, phone numbers, birth dates, etc. In retrospect it was probably a stupid thing to do, but who really cared since only our peers had access.

The first dilution of the user base occurred in September of 2005 when the doors were opened to high school students. After an initial uproar we gave in, and said what the hell, they are students too and college students could keep in touch with siblings and younger acquaintances. However, rumors start to surface about companies hiring students to conduct background checks on potential employees. The open world began to crumble. A number of people stripped down personal info, and made their profile private: For Friend’s Eyes Only. However, even after the censoring wave subsided, there was still a level of distrust permeating the network as most of one’s friends were acquaintances at best… Would they betray you?

As the months turned into years Facebook became ever more integrated into our lives. Entire relationships could be consummated and destroyed based on a few wallposts. Checking out the parties your friends were attending became a Friday night routine. Then it came. One day we logged on and everything we did was revealed in a tabloid-like fashion on the News Feed. Boyfriends now had to explain late night ‘pokes’ from the opposite sex, and changes in relationship status spread like wildfire. Again, we revolted. However, lacking the constitution of our parents college generation we rolled over again as a few privacy concession were made.

We adapted to this new transparent world, but nothing could have prepared us for the biggest betrayal yet. Facebook opened its doors to everyone as they sought out fresh pastures to increase traffic. Soon afterward I began fielding invitations from professional friends. This was the end of innocence. My profile pic was quickly swapped out for a far more conservative one, EVERYTHING became private, and I had to edit various unsolicited wall posts from inebriated friends. Wait a minute, this profile looked familiar… Oh yeah, it looks just like my profile on Linked In. My two worlds collided. Facebook, once upon a time, meant something. Now much like GM, which stretched itself thin trying to appeal to everyone the brand is diluted beyond recognition.

Facebook is now likened to being at a bar with your friends, with your parents sitting in the booth to your right and your coworkers to the your left.

It just isn’t much fun.





Facebook + Marketing P.2

16 10 2007

UPDATE: New post here on the over-valuation of Facebook and the 2.0 farce.

Here are a few links to, and examples of Facebook marketing.

From PSFK’s marketing blog IF! is a great list of the 8 best Facebook marketing executions compiled by Rohit Bhargava:

“1. MyHome2.0 – A group to recruit tech challenged families for a new reality TV show

2. Support Monk’s Protest in Burma – An online petition, of sorts, which more than 400,000 have added their names to

3. Yahoo! Pilot - A new group from Yahoo for those interested in hearing about and testing some new pilot technology in the works from Yahoo

4. Target – An award winning Facebook campaign targeted at college students decorating their dorm rooms with prizes and contests.

5. I read Business 2.0 – and I want to keep reading! – A grassroots and ultimately unsuccessful effort from the editorial team and readers of Business2.0 to keep Time Inc. from closing the magazine

6. Bhargava Clan – A group for people with my last name originated to connect Bhargavas together worldwide and perhaps even facilitate some arranged marriages along the way (has more than 125 members)

7. Dancing with the Stars Vote for Mark and Kym – Mark Cuban has been working his Facebook friends for the past few weeks to keep the votes coming and to combat some of the celebs that he is up against. Reading his status updates about being nervous 55 minutes before showtime puts you in the midst of the action and makes you care. I’ve been voting for him even though I don’t watch the show.

8. Event Related Groups – Just about every marketing or tech event now has an associated Facebook group. The nice thing about these groups is that it makes it somewhat easier to connect with folks that you meet at the event as many are listed in the same place. Ad-Tech, SxSW and Intel’s IDF all have facebook pages.”

Also hop on over to Greg Verdino’s blog to read his insightful commentary Rohit’s post.





Facebook + Marketing P.1

15 10 2007

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

Just a quick link over to Adverblog where they just posted two great presentations on the marketing potential of Facebook. I’m really curious to hear responses from my student readers.








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