Organizations joining social networks should understand the commitment of being part of a specific online community. Becoming a member of a social network isn’t as important as listening and engaging in the conversations.
One of the most widely used social networks is Facebook. This network provides an assortment of ways organizations can influence their target audiences. Organizations can garner tremendous benefit from social networking on this site, and building valuable, community-oriented groups, applications and pages in this network.
The Power of Facebook
Facebook, the popular online and social networking community, provides organizations the opportunity to really leverage social media with client relations. Amongst the many social media tools, Facebook currently has over 175 million active users and attracts people 30 years of age and older.
Joining Facebook is easy and inexpensive. And if effectively used, organizations can:
- Participate in larger community initiatives – One of the things Facebook allows is a composite view of your community. You can see what other sector-specific activities are occurring – from general charity to special interests and demographics. Join and participate, become a larger community member, and in turn attract new contacts and a higher presence in your community.
- Keep an ongoing dialogue with stakeholders – As for every social media tool, organizations need to continue developing their relationship with their target audiences. Write on walls of volunteers with thank you notes or post pictures from your organization’s event and tag participants. Updating statuses with relevant information and constant interaction will keep the conversation going.
- Generate Leads – Facebook groups help generate leads. There are many groups created on Facebook for certain demographics and sectors such as education, income and health. To succeed in identifying leads, organizations will need to provide calls-to-action back to their home web site. Facebook does not allow for the exportation of data currently.
- The Facebook Causes page also presents stakeholders another venue for information about the organization and creating social movements through petitions. However, the Facebook causes application does not allow access to contact information for deeper cultivation.
- Introduce a Campaign – An example comes from the Save Darfur Coalition. The coalition launched a multimedia campaign with Facebook as the basis for their “Be a Voice for Darfur” campaign. The movement called for people to sign electronic postcards to send a message to President Obama to help end the genocide in Darfur. Additionally, Save Darfur raised over $75,000+ from the Facebook Cause page with over 1 million members and 77,000+ signatures on the petition page.
Once organizations become accustomed to engaging in online conversations, they can start thinking about brand awareness as part of their next strategic move. With over 175 million active users, Facebook has a vast network. Organizations can leverage the features Facebook has to offer to help create brand awareness. Adding logos, videos, and more information will help with branding, but the best way for organizations to build their brands in Facebook is by engaging in the community and being transparent.
Facebook can provide organizations a location for dispensing information and communicating to target audiences. This social utility also provides forms of marketing such as the use of applications and community development. .
- Facebook applications are a popular activity. Due to Facebook’s open API, applications are constantly built. They are great for attracting users to an organization’s website or service. Organizations creating applications need to provide substance to attract community members. Take the Nature Conservancy for example. In 2008, they presented their plan to help global warming with their Lil Green Patch Facebook application. The conservancy thoroughly planned their Facebook campaign strategy with a value proposition and their call to action. At one point the Lil Green Patch was ranked the 6th most popular application on Facebook. The application garnered 41,000+ fans.
Applications have to be well designed and have clear value for the community. Without a compelling reason to adopt an application, users will let them fall to the wayside. It’s a crowded application marketplace on Facebook.
- Community development. Facebook offers a great way to aggregate community members to communicate and engage with organizations. The organizations can use their networking skills to foster their relationships. The group pages offer a starting point for conversations with discussion forums. As with blogs, any negative feedback should be taken as an opportunity to listen and engage. Communities want valuable information, non-intrusive updates, and an open approach for dialogue.
Facebook also offers advertising as a business solution feature. Blogger Chris Web believes that advertising is not for everyone, but works well for more focused efforts. He “suggests the way to reach Facebook users is to engage and participate with the community using the tools Facebook provides.”
Additionally, Facebook offers a rating system using “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” signs (similar to the comments section on Digg). This rating system is applied to status updates, videos, photos, links, and notes – practically anything you can comment or add on Facebook. Organizations can use ratings to further receive insights from their stakeholders by judging the sentiment.
Organizations can even use their Facebook Page layout to their advantage. The Advance Guard, a new media consultancy, shared a free whitepaper about Facebook Pages. The paper encourages brands to leverage Facebook by using their platform capabilities. These functionality options allow brands to interact more with stakeholders and actually become a larger part in the community. In addition to creating applications for campaigns, the FBML (Facebook Markup Language) application allows enhanced page customization – enabling organizations to really leverage Facebook’s features.
Facebook represents the many social networks offered. The important part of engaging through social networks is fully exploring and making use of the features these networks provide. Organizations have an opportunity to leverage Facebook for marketing and engaging in online communities.