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Whether you are B2C or B2B there is a way to evaluate whether Facebook is for you. Here’s how to do it

You’ve seen the movie. You’ve got an account. Now, read the Blog – FACEBOOK, what it is and what it isn’t!

Despite the criticisms over the handling of the IPO last year, Facebook has barely put a foot wrong for a young company. This is particularly impressive given the tightrope it walks every day relative to the paranoia we can all thank George Orwell’s 1984 for. Facebook is now privy to many of our best kept secrets. There’s a lot of pressure and expectation that comes with this! Few companies can be mentioned in the same breath as Facebook when it comes to this level of user adoption and intimacy. Still the question remains, is it equally relevant to organisations as it is to individuals?

In the history of social studies, few would argue there has been a more predominant disruptor than this social media icon. It is no surprise then to see businesses wanting to ride its wave. As a professional communicator and trusted advisor however, what do you say to your business when it comes to allocating money towards the medium? Do you need to spend, and how much? And if you are not on Facebook, do you run the risk of fading into insignificance in much the same way Friendster, or Bebo have?

The short answer… YES!

The longer retort… it’s not that simple. While some argue it depends whether you are a B2C or B2B organisation, it actually depends more on what your organisational goals are. This is completely different to your operating model and go-to-market strategy.

If your organisational goal is to humanise your brand, or connect with an audience (not necessarily a customer-base) in a more personal way, regardless of if you’re selling Enterprise IT, Iron Ore, or Confectionary, Facebook can play a role. The difference is actually in the way you use Facebook, and the variance of possibilities here is expanding every day. Facebook’s roadmap is focused on turning a dream into dollars – what it is today, ain’t what it’ll be tomorrow!

It’s also important to note you cannot afford to have a fragmented social media strategy – it’s redundant. You can’t and shouldn’t feel you have to do everything, but you should be aware how different sites play off of one another. Facebook still has plenty of work to do, but Graph Search is a positive step forward in this regard for business. You can read more about it here.

The latest Facebook stats show 77 per cent of B2C companies have acquired customers via Facebook, while a not insignificant 43 per cent of B2B companies have been equally fruitful. In fact 82 per cent of Australian social media users have connected with brands on social media and 29 per cent of them are connected to more than 10 brands. That said there is a stark warning that comes with this as 44 per cent say they have dumped a brand on social media for reasons such as being spammed by the brand (55%), boredom with the brand’s content (36%), and a lack of interest or bad brand behaviour (19%). This is a clear illustration that how you work with Facebook matters, it is not a panacea. If you don’t know how to use it to its full effect, you should be working with an agency that does because once your ‘likers’ are gone, they are very hard to get back!

It probably comes as no surprise to know that 90 per cent of retailers are active on Facebook, but… around 40 per cent of Tech/Software and Manufacturing organisations are active too. For those that understand Facebook isn’t a magic potion that will solve all their woes, but is in fact an enabler of human interaction that’s core to engagement today, Facebook is an excellent facilitator. This is regardless of who you are or what you sell. Don’t believe me? Look at the numbers:

– There are 11,677,680 users in Australia. The population is only 22,931,803
– We sit on the global list of users at number 21. Its entrenched in our cultural psyche
– The top five brands in terms of engagement are ‘Australia’, ‘Bubble O’ Bill Ice Creams’, ‘Skittles’, ‘Domino’s Pizza’ and ‘Coca Cola Australia’
– My point? That’s a lot of people ‘liking’ stuff you’d be a “brave” marketer to ignore!

But, before you get up in arms and tell me I am arguing against myself, one of the fastest growing pages on Facebook is a Bank! Yes, a Bank! Which bank? You guessed it. Comm Bank is going gangbusters on Facebook. One thing we know is, Facebook doesn’t change culture, it houses it. Culture manifests online as much as it does in real life. So, it’s pretty interesting to see these engagement scores for a Bank, when they are traditionally a sore point for most Aussies. Engagement doesn’t mean support, but if you were a brand that had some work to do to win people’s affection, the first step towards that is getting their interest!

Want another example? Try Google Chrome. It has 14,782,096 fans globally and 146,187 fans locally. To put that in context, it’s more than Kim Kardashian! As someone reportedly earning upwards of $20K a Tweet, that’s an interesting benchmark.

It all means one very important thing… Facebook has transcended its original purpose and more than likely your expectations of it. I would say today there are more reasons for it to play a role in your communications strategy than there are reasons for it not. Of course, the budget allocation will vary markedly as each organisation weighs up how much focus to put on it relative to other sites, like Linkedin, but to be clear – you can’t write it off, and here’s why:

You can now choose your own adventure. Facebook will become more and more a platform where you can take ownership of the experience. The Apps coming down the line specifically for Facebook will make the site far more engaging and relevant for business. You’ve heard of E-commerce. You’ve heard of M-Commerce. You may have heard of F-Commerce. The next App taking advantage of this could be yours! It’s an emergent trend that will radically reshape how you use the site and is likely to open a raft of new opportunities as Facebook looks to increase its relevance to the broadest set of proponents who have cash to spend. Don’t think Facebook is happy to sit idle. It’s a competitive environment, and even while the adoption of Google+ is still in its infancy, you can feel the storm brewing here!

Facebook has its fingers in everything! You will have surely noticed the Hub and Spoke model that Facebook is rolling out. Regardless of whether Facebook has a controlling interest in a site, it now often operates as a front end for them from a user identification perspective. “Use your Facebook credentials to sign in” it says. This is a really smart move. It means as an organisation, you need to be aware, more aware than ever, that while the Web was once an illustration for capturing information, it is now far more interested in capturing identity. And… whoever controls this demands your attention, because you still want to own the relationships.

We’re all just people. Regardless of what hat we wear at work, no matter who we work for, stats say it’s highly likely we have a Facebook account. This means while we all use Facebook for different reasons, as a business it offers you the capability to connect with your customers in new ways. The question is this… do you need to change the way you think about the way you cultivate your customer relationships? The world has changed and is changing rapidly still. The people that realise this, the early adopters, are more than likely the ones who will be successful in the long run. Business is about people. Facebook is about people. It doesn’t take a genius to make the connection.

As such… There is no other audience profiler like it. The sheer magnitude of adoption of Facebook demands you sit up and pay attention. Is it not potentially one of the best CRM tools you’ll ever have? Today 350 million people are said to have an addiction to it, such that it has now been described as a syndrome. People are pouring out their every thought and desire only to be captured for who? Tell me a dollar figure can’t be attached to that! End of the day, Facebook is not and will not be the answer to all your customer relations challenges, but if you ask has it a place for business, for most kinds of business… the answer is contentiously, yet unequivocally – yes. So what are you doing about it?

– My name is Aaron Crowther. Follow me on Twitter @ascommstweeter

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