ADOTAS – Last week, Facebook announced a host of changes that affect how brands market themselves on Facebook — covering Pages for Business — as well as several new ad products. (Some basic facts about the changes relevant to brands are described here).
What is clear to our company, Friend2Friend, as a provider of technology and solutions that amplify brand experiences on Facebook and other social platforms, is that this announcement further underscores the unprecedented value of the integrated social brand experience on Facebook. What do we mean by integrated? That Facebook has evolved into a sophisticated ecosystem for brands, one that combines owned, earned and paid in a holistic system.
Facebook challenges brands to market their message in an environment where people behave differently, communicate differently and find information differently. Facebook isn’t a microsite. It isn’t a brand website. It’s a social environment. So, brands have to step up and market in a way that’s contextually sensitive to that social environment, and to keep their fans engaged in that environment.
The freedom to tell the brand story
The fresh new look of Pages gives brands the freedom they want to tell their history with text, pictures, video and key corporate milestones. The essence of today’s brands — books, movies, products — is wrapped up in their history. And brands can, and should, get really creative about how they approach their storylines. Some brands getting an early jump on creativity, with new business pages that include Coca-Cola, Walmart, The New York Times, EPSN SportsCenter, Tide and Old Spice (where the first post on the Timeline describes the legend of how Old Spice was founded on May 5, 1938 — t’s not what you’d expect).
Further, the announced changes acknowledge Facebook’s emphasis on how they see advertisements themselves evolving into stories — stories that engage with, and become the basis for, the pass-along from friend to friend. Facebook is focused on creating an environment for brand stories, for sharing experiences in a social way, versus building an environment dominated by banner ads that are disconnected from the social experience.
One only has to go back to the days when MySpace was the dominant social platform to recall the roadkill littering that highway. MySpace turned into a social network so dominated by ads that the user’s experience was completely subsumed. I see Facebook taking a different approach, one that’s more user centered and appropriate to the social context.
When a brand tells a story on Facebook, in the form of a post, a photo, a video, or a clever campaign that personalizes the brand experience and makes it shareable, the brand enters the “conversation” between friends. When that happens, brand engagement occurs. That conversation is far more powerful than (I shudder at the comparison) a banner ad.
And now Facebook is giving brands an opportunity to make those shareable engagement moments more prominent.
Redefining the ad unit
Facebook has been considered historically as a huge community of 800 million people who don’t click on ads. But really, that depends on what you consider an ad! Consumers are going to find the lines between paid, earned and owned media becoming very blurred on Facebook.
Facebook is emphasizing the transition from “traditional” ads to brand stories, with the hope that brands will really engage with consumers, rather than just flooding them with promotional and commercial content. Premium ad units can be constructed from brands’ Page posts. Ads will start as a brand page post, then appear as an ad unit on the right side of the user’s home page. They will also be eligible to show up in the users’ newsfeeds, if they have liked the brand, and will also be eligible to show up in the mobile news feed, as well as on the mobile and desktop log-out pages.
By encouraging advertisers to create ads based on the content they publish, they believe that anything you post to a page is, essentially, an ad. But really, this has always been the case. A recent eMarketer study said that 59 percent of consumers have “Liked” a Facebook brand page in the last six months — meaning that 59 percent of consumers have given a brand permission to post into their news feeds. Those posts that make it into the news feed will catch a fan’s attention and make them think about the brand.
Whether the fan clicks, comments, likes or shares, people are interacting with the ad. What “traditional” ads get that level of respect? (Well, maybe the one-in-a-million Old Spice ad or a handful of other popular memes get that kind of respect. But it’s definitely not the norm.) Friends simply don’t share ads with friends. But they’ll share brand content, if it’s done right.
The winners in this change are brands, and the companies that service them, that find a way to personalize the brand experience on Facebook. And are able to turn a brand’s message into a story that’s interesting and shareable, and reflects the brand’s personality. The losers will be those that focus on template-based, “me too” campaigns that just package up the same old contest, sweepstakes or coupon promotions and expect them to work every time. They won’t. They’ll bore fans. And without interaction to influence the way posts become popular, those campaign posts will start to reach fewer and fewer people. And worse, no one will bother to share them.
So it’s time to step up the creativity. Brands need to find their mantra, tell their story around that mantra, and make that story sharable, fun, and interesting. It’s amazing how a brand’s fans will tell their friends the story, if that story is truly engaging. And one thing I know for sure: It won’t be a banner ad they’re sharing.