Facebook tweaks its features often to enhance user experience. This time, the social networking platform has made it easier for businesses to cross-promote each other by allowing Facebook Brand Pages to tag other Pages in their messages and broadcast those posts to a wide audience.
This already happens with updates from friends -- if a friend tags a user in a photo, the user's friends may see this photo in their News Feed even if they're not friends with the person who tagged the photo. This feature has been added in brand pages now.
As per Facebook, there are many factors to make sure the most relevant stories appear in News Feed, including which posts are getting the most engagement (such as likes, comments, shares and clicks) across all of Facebook. For example, if many people who like Sachin Tendulkar's page also like ESPNCricinfo, it suggests that these two Pages are connected.
In order to make the algorithm foolproof, Facebook will only allow those brands to tag each other, whose fans have similar interests. Moreover, individuals (non-public profiles) will not be allowed to tag brands, which ensures that individuals cannot exploit this feature to grow their own social network.
A vice in disguise?
The move, many believe, is another attempt to put more content in front of users that isn't from friends they follow or pages they like. Besides, marketers will find a way to use this as an opportunity to gain more eyeballs for their brands. Experts believe that the feature introduced by Facebook is a genuinely great one, especially for consumer brands.
"Although personally I think that this could have been done on a larger scale, given the fact that these were the first brands to use this tagging feature, the campaign certainly demonstrated the effectiveness of this new and fairly exciting tool and approach to joint marketing campaigns," he adds.
Besides, Kumar further believes that this could work really well for product categories which do not compete (certainly) but rather complement each other. Some examples are tea and biscuits, wafers and cola, and so on.
The feature extends to not just brand pages, but also public profiles of celebrities and online influencers. In the current scenario where influencers play an important role in a brand's marketing strategy, it would make sense that the influencer tags the brand and vice versa to keep fans of both pages informed.
"A beauty and make-up blogger could tag the concerned brand and share feedback on the latest products. Both the brand's followers and the blog's readers would benefit from this feedback. They would also get to hear a first-hand response from the brand. Besides, Indian brands have been quite robotic in their responses on social platforms. It would just help them be more human and fun. We should see social influencers use this feature more consistently and constructively by sharing their feedback with brands and keep their follower base informed of the latest products they have tried. This would help them increase their follower base as well and increase trials for certain brands," says Suveer Bajaj, co-founder, FoxyMoron.
While the positive opportunity of this feature is definitely about cross linking and thereby enabling a related fan group to see content of their interest, one cannot ignore the potential negative consequences in terms of abuse by marketers.
The negative aspect is of spam abuse. Irrelevant cross-referencing, or having a lesser brand attempting to ride on the popularity and reach of a larger brand can at times be a painful experience for the fans of the bigger brand.
"Small or lesser known pages will tag pages with a bigger fan base or celebrity pages hoping that their post will be seen by a bigger audience, such as a mom-and-pop store tagging Walmart in its updates thereby trying to reach a bigger and global audience - essentially by means of spam," states Sanjay Mehta, joint CEO, Social Wavelength.
Mehta adds that this feature can also fuel a direct attack on competition. "Your brand is in a certain category. Your main competitor has amassed a large number of fans. Your brand is in a catch-up mode. Your competitor's fans are most valuable to you! So could you possibly do a post which may be about comparing your product to the competition wherein your brand comes out looking much better. And, you go and tag your competitor on the same. This post shows up in your competitor's news feed also and would reach its fan base as well," he states.
Agreeing with Mehta, Bajaj states, "Brands have been comparing themselves to their respective competitors in TV commercials for quite a while. Social platforms such as Twitter too have always encouraged tagging. And there is nothing stopping one brand from blogging features in comparison to its competitors. Hence it is time that digital in India warms up to tagging on Facebook as well."
However, Bajaj also feels that with social reputation at stake, brands will not indulge in direct attack and will have to be more prompt with their response time, as content will go viral faster than ever before.
However, not many agree to the negative aspects of the feature. "As far as fear of smaller brands tagging larger brands goes, I don't think that will happen because there are pretty much clear unwritten codes of conduct between agencies and brands. This hijacking of hashtags used to happen in the early days of social media in India. I think we have now evolved to a space where this is frowned upon, not just by agencies themselves but also by brand owners - certainly of responsible brands," states Kumar.
Up for Grabs?
It seems unlikely that a smaller brand would earn followers, just by tagging a brand with a larger follower base. They would need to have a significantly strong social presence and a convincing brand message on social to get fans to shift loyalty. However the opportunity is there and smaller brands will be encouraged to up their game on Facebook to make the most of this feature.
"This is a fantastic opportunity for brands from non-competing categories, either from the same company or from different ones, talking to the same target audience to collaborate and co-create some really exciting marketing campaigns, jointly. Not only will such brands benefit from economies of scale, but the real winner would be the consumer. S/he would have opportunities bundled between favourite brands like never before," states Kumar.
However, the intention and the outcomes doubled with the role of individual brands and the agencies handling them have to be carefully planned and choreographed. "Brands should not indulge in direct attacks but use this feature to create trends and spread messages that have a mutual benefit or benefit a social cause," opines Bajaj.
Indian brands are always willing to experiment with new features of this kind, and they will use this one too. There are opportunities to acquire new fans by reaching out to some larger fan bases of other brands, by using this feature. Of course, to actually make the fans like that page, one will need to provide some compelling reason.
"It is good to see Facebook constantly innovating and releasing new features regularly. Certainly all of the features are not perfect, and sometimes, there are hiccups in implementation of the new features. However, in constantly looking to innovate, Facebook has ensured that the platform remains fresh and interesting to its users, be it regular members or brands," states Mehta.