Cannes 2011: How to leverage your brand on Facebook?

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Cannes | In Advertising | June 23, 2011
The last session of Wednesday at the 58th International Festival of Creativity was on how brands can optimise their presence on Facebook.

Carolyn Everson, vice-president, global marketing solutions, Facebook, delivered a crisp and concise talk on how brand marketers can creatively propel their business forward on the social network. She highlighted the importance of creativity and explained how brands can creatively use the Facebook platform to have a conversation with their consumers. The seminar was titled 'Social by Design'.

Everson started by reminding the audience that before Facebook came along, people were afraid to reveal their real identity online. Facebook allowed "real people to actually be real people online." She informed that daily, over 50 million page 'likes' are recorded on Facebook, before going on to share tips on how to leverage this impressive statistic.

"Online friend recommendations are as real as offline ones"

Firstly, Everson stressed on the reality that friend recommendations on Facebook mimic those in the real world to an amazing extent. The implication here for marketers is to utilise this online word-of-mouth phenomenon to the fullest by striving towards achieving sponsored stories. This is when people on Facebook actually recommend a brand to their friends and act as brand ambassadors for the product in question.

In fact, even the Group Selection dynamics on Facebook mimic those in the offline world to a great extent (that is, people ask select friends about certain issues and others about other issues, depending on areas of expertise and interest). Everson added that friend recommendations/ sponsored stories have two to seven times more influence on a person's purchase decision than traditional ads.

Everson was quick to warn marketers against being obsessed merely with the number of 'likes' or Facebook fans. "Getting many fans is just the basic level; the next two steps are putting up ads and then getting recommendations," she summed up. The ads, of course, are not just typical display ads. On Facebook, a brand can go way beyond that.

"Plan your idea around people"

Emphasising heavily on the need for brands to organise their Facebook creatives around people, Everson said, "The job of the creative community is to spark a story on Facebook. The story must start with a creative idea and then word-of-mouth marketing will help it spread."

Facebook has tied up with Nielsen to measure exactly how brands are using the Facebook platform to grow their businesses and move their products off the shelves. Highlighting the salience of keeping people at the centre of the idea, Everson shared that on Facebook, people are 68 per cent more likely to see an ad if a friend is mentioned (or tagged) in it. This even ups the brand recall. Further, a person is four times more likely to make a purchase decision if a friend recommends a particular product.

An example of a brand that successfully used Facebook advertising is Nike - for its 'Write the Future' campaign. It was a film featuring six top football athletes, visualising - at a critical point in the match - the glory they would achieve in the future and playing the next move accordingly. The brand released this three-minute film on Facebook a few days prior to its TV release. The objective was to have passionate Nike and football fans watch and share the film on the viral space before it broke on TV. The campaign also gave select Nike fans the opportunity to live their football dreams by rewarding them immensely. And the objective was achieved, indeed - the film received 2.5 billion ad views, and more than six million video plays.

In conclusion, Everson clarified, "We're not trying to compete with advertising agencies; we think of creative people as the 'developer community' and want to encourage agencies to use Facebook for their brands' benefit."

Facebook is doing just this through its online products and forums, Ad Unit, Client Council and the Facebook Studio.

To view interviews from Cannes 2011, click here.

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