As traditional (TV, print, etc) marketing budgets continue to be transferred online Facebook has a fantastic opportunity to become the TV of the future in terms of advertising reach.

This post was inspired by a piece written by Tim Bradshaw (@tim) in the FT last week (Thursday March 31 2011) named ‘The fickle value of friendship’.

Tim’s article discussed the ever elusive value of a Facebook fan. Companies have been trying to assign a value to the Facebook fan for some time now, but why? Facebook is about the collective audience not the individual. You cannot apply the same value model to Facebook fans as you would to other channels like search (Google).

Facebook’s core value is the social graph (sets of friends connections). The platform was designed to bring people closer together and share their experiences. At its core are friends connections, to even think of breaking that down to the individual is the wrong approach. Companies should be looking at their fans as a whole. The collective audience is the real value and a brands inclusion in thier day to day lives can be more powerful in the long run than any search campaign.

Facebook is more than another marketing channel. You could almost look at a brands Facebook fan base as an extension of that brands voice, admittedly a little noisy, but truly transparent. Just give your fan base a nudge in the right direction and witness the power of the human voice. Take social media engagement away from the marketing department and hand it over to the customer and brand teams. Look at social media as a long term branding initiative rather than a sales driven campaign. Just like TV and print ads of the past, don’t aim to capture an immediate sale but focus on the long term loyalty and mindshare your brand can gain. Facebook is probably more in line with TV and print than you think, it is a past time, instead of spending hours watching TV, people are spending hours engaging with their wall.

Ankur Shah of Techlightenment makes a great point. “Companies that run search engine advertising in parallel with social media campaigns are more cost effective than social media on its own.” The integration of social into search results will be a relevant factor to this married success, but Facebook’s role as a brand communicator is absolute key.

As traditional (TV, print, etc) marketing budgets continue to be transferred online Facebook has a fantastic opportunity to become the TV of the future, not in terms of advertising spend but in terms of advertising reach. Half the UK population are active Facebook users, if you think about it you normally always digest offline entertainment in a social group, like a trip to the cinema. Online activities have for a long time been solitary experiences, Facebook has changed this. Facebook could become the platform for everything we do online because it has the social graph in its core.

Although Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of a more transparent world seems like a long off digital dream, the same was thought when the duo behind Google set out to organise the world information in 1996. 2011 has seen Facebook reach over 500,000,000 active users, approximately 1 in 13 people across the globe and there is no sign of growth slowing down (Infographic: Global Facebook Usage 2011).

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