Given our obsession with Facebook, no wonder brands are flocking to use it to reach their target audiences. The question is why they are not moving beyond treating it as just another media channel amplifying their messages and into the world of social commerce.
Facebook itself is articulating this case through its ‘The New Word of Mouth’ video. It claims businesses can benefit directly from word of mouth recommendations propagated through its 500M fans’ social graphs – earned media supercharged by the reach of paid for media and its socially enabled ads.
Yet in spite of this potential, many brands set up a profile in Facebook with woolly objectives shying away from hard core outcomes like sales. It would seem they are still afraid that people don’t want them to be there, when the evidence suggest otherwise. Millions of people happily engage with brands on a daily basis making recommendations, sharing product information and also demanding better customer service.
In this regard, ASOS (As Seen on Screen) — the UK online fashion retailer is one to watch. It has a popular page — with c. 550K fans (at the time of writing) holding competitions to keep its fans engaged – but it went a step further than most UK retailers by trying to move fans from ‘liking’ to ‘buying’ launching a fully transactional shop application within Facebook earlier this year.
The evidence suggests social commerce is gaining momentum — look at Farmville (where social gamers purchase currency to enrich their game experience) and Groupon enabling friends to get better value by making purchases together. Facebook is already preparing for this next wave with its new ‘Deals’ designed to challenge Groupon and take social commerce to a new level (fcommerce).
Whilst ASOS is making every effort to lead the way in the UK for social commerce, a complimentary example from across the Atlantic comes in the form of the University of Kentucky.
Its ‘See Blue’ campaign attracted a record number of admission applications by letting new students to get to know the campus via the shared experiences of existing students using Facebook Places. The programme was promoted using guerrilla marketing techniques situating Facebook Places icons by campus landmarks as well as a modest online spend. With this approach, buzz spread quickly across the campus and beyond with all levels of the organisation including the University President taking part.
Not only has the University page achieved an impressive 193K fans (far higher than any of my alma maters), it resulted in a record breaking number of applications to the university.
Brands need to move beyond the now requisite presence on Facebook to create compelling reasons to buy within online social environments. Those brands gaining commercial experience there now will be well placed to benefit from what will likely become mainstream tomorrow.