Posted by Nicole Hambleton / Article, Facebook /

A US study found that by 2010, 86% of Generation Y was using Social Media applications, however what might surprise you is that 26% of over 65s are using it too! In 2007, 16% of companies were using social media to blog but by 2012 that figure rose to 43%.

Social media and mobile apps are gaining popularity across the globe. Marketing a business via these avenues can be lucrative and rewarding if done right. Depending on the desired audience, having some form of social media presence can be critical in achieving exposure.

Who needs to embrace Facebook?

In both Australia and New Zealand around 50% of the population is now using social media. Companies big and small are taking Facebook seriously as a marketing and engagement platform. FMCG resellers, fashion houses, retailers, not for profit, government departments, production companies, galleries and restaurants have embraced Facebook. Facebook is just one of the social media platforms that can be used to emphasise a marketing strategy online, there are several including YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest and Linkedin to name just a few. However in this article we’ll focus on Facebook, as this is the most common platform we are asked to create social media applications for at present.

Facebook allows the consumer to interact with a company, in a way that’s broken down the corporate/consumer barriers. In fact 36% of social media users post brand-related content globally. Likewise it’s relatively easy for a company to collect information directly from it’s customers, they give it up freely and it’s fun for them. Apps that collect name, address, shoe size and shopping preference are growing. Whole market research and marketing campaigns are being built around Facebook.

Facebook allows the company to interact with the user on a one-on-one basis instead of through mass marketing, which provides a greater insight into the consumer and how they think. The online medium also offers the company the flexibility to alter it’s marketing plan quickly to suit the feedback from its users.

Whether you are using Facebook to build a marketing campaign, to engage with your customer or build a brand there are various options available.

What is a Facebook App?

An interactive application built on the Facebook platform constitutes a Facebook app. Most applications are time sensitive, in that they run for a set period of time and then expire. Often they are part of a campaign or strategy designed to generate a high level of interest for a short period of time. The objective of this strategy can be as simple as data capture or as elaborate as brand awareness and development.

Some campaigns may run consecutive phases to develop awareness or generate growing interest. Others may have a strict limit, like a competition to gain an instant rush of attention. Some campaigns span a little longer to promote the values or ideals of a company, organisation or charity.

Often they will be used seasonally to take advantage of an existing marketing opportunity, such as a sporting event, Melbourne Cup, Royal Wedding, the Olympics, the summer fashion season etc. For example, every year when Tour de France kicks off bike shops globally offer competitions to cyclists on Facebook to win a new bike, trip to the event or a chance to meet their idol. The event generates the buzz and the associated industry uses it to attract potentials customers to their brand, like billboards at a soccer stadium. Nearly every business has a time of year, if not several where they could utilise an online marketing campaign to generate interest or even collect valuable market research.

Another common practice is positioning Facebook at the core of your website powering a new breed of social experience and engagement. Newspapers like The Guardian or The Times are building social powered websites where users share the news they read and their thoughts about them. Facebook can be also used to authenticate and obtain the information you need with a simple click from the user.

Will a Facebook App replace a website or mobile strategy?

Facebook is another medium designed to communicate a message and provide an interactive portal to allow clients to communicate their thoughts. It is just one avenue though, and often benefits from the support of a web site, mobile site and possibly even a mobile app for optimum impact. As with any marketing strategy, it’s part of a larger mix that complements other mediums.

Its not just online mediums it will be mixed into. There are in store campaigns, billboards, tv advertising or even business cards. Next time you see a billboard at the local shops, think about how that exposure could be linked to a social media campaign, if it’s not already. This kind of campaign is accentuated with a QR code directing the user to the Facebook campaign.

The subtle approach

Social media isn’t as overt as a billboard, it’s a more subtle form of marketing that requires a different approach. It provides the company with a way to engage the user, without the hard sell approach. In fact, it encourages the customer to seek them out and even share information and promote them to friends and family. The customers who utilise Facebook are looking for something that provides value to them, a reason to part with information or engage with a brand. Successful eMarketers have it sussed and use it to develop brand awareness, patronage and loyalty.

It also allows the creative, to get creative! Ideas can be tried out and if they don’t work, the campaign will expire and another idea can be implemented. It also breaks down the traditional barriers created by advertisers marketing to their customers, by encouraging interactivity and almost instant feedback.

The key ingredients to viral marketing have been documented as follows:

  • Taboo
  • The Unusual
  • The Outrageous
  • The Hilarious
  • The Remarkable
  • Secrets (both kept and revealed)

Influence on users

The growth of social media is affecting the way people are making choices about brands, travel and other leisure activities. The Four Pillars Hotels compiled a nice little infographic to demonstrate the effect social media is having just on travel choices alone.

Trust:

  • 92% of consumers say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.
  • 70% of global consumers say online consumer reviews are the second most trusted form of advertising.

Influence:

  • 52% of Facebook users said their friend’s photos inspired their holiday choice and travel plans.
  • Social media have a huge influence on travel bookings. Of those who used social media to research travel plans, only 48% stuck with their original plans: 33% changed their hotel, 7% changed destination, 10% changed resorts, and 5% changed airlines.

Reviews:

  • 40% post restaurant reviews.
  • Post-vacation, 46% of travellers post hotel reviews.
  • 76% post vacation photos to a social network.
  • 55% ‘liked’ Facebook pages specific to a vacation.

(Source: http://www.newmediatrendwatch.com/world-overview/137-social-networking-and-ugc)

Campaigns, seasons and festivities

One of the drivers of social media’s success is its instant gratification. Research indicates that as a population, technologies like social media have changed the way people expect a brand to communicate with them. Messages need to be instantly relevant and actionable or interest is quickly lost. With so much information at our fingertips, the marketer has a split second to make their message count.

The great news from a social media perspective is that you can create relatively simple, yet effective campaigns that target an audience at a relevant time. Whether it be for a sporting event, a season or a festivity like Christmas. Timed campaigns with finales, prizes and events engage the user at a relevant time and entice them to act now often on impulse. This can be tied in very effectively with an existing campaign, for example an in store or ecommerce campaign.

Types of Facebook Applications

There are several technical options available to make a Facebook App interactive. Some that we have recently worked with include; voting, collecting member details, image uploads, GPS functionality, mobile app and database export. This is just the tip of the iceberg though, there are so many more like profile badges, interactive profile picture walls or referrals. Here is a guide to the technical scope and marketing capability of Facebook application development.

Fangate
Designed to grab fans, as the name would describe. It allows the landing page to redirect to a page tab.

Tabs
Page tabs which are normally used in conjuction with Fangates to maximize user engagement and spread the word. It works well with contests and competitions. It is recommended that this work together with a responsive mobile website. Example: Nike

Canvas
Applications that run on a wider space inside Facebook. They are often used for more complicated scenarios and/or interfaces, such as GPS locators, voting, logic implementation or general metrics. It is used frequently for gaming or creating a niche social network. If it is a short term campaign then a responsive connected website can be used; however for long term or ongoing campaigns a native connected app would be a better option. Example: The Guardian

Games
Great for websites and platforms that connect with Facebook to generate social interaction and experience. This type of application can post as the user, grab information from friends, login/register and much more. There is scope for gaming creativity. It is recommended that this be developed as a native mobile Facebook connected app. Example: Texas Holdem

Websites
Websites that are built on top of Facebook that can encourage social interaction with a brand. A connection to a responsive mobile website is recommended. Example: Daily Motion

Apps
Where the purpose of the application is predominantly to drive data, it is recommended to develop a native Facebook app. This should be connected to a native mobile application. Example: Groupon

Making the Facebook campaign a success

  • Use it to build relationships and trust with the customer.
  • Encourage members to engage by contributing and talking about themselves.
  • Make it part of a holistic / integrated strategy that follows a complete campaign or a season.
  • Give it a workable budget, it might not be a direct revenue stream at first but it’s about building the brand and the customer base and the success will often call for phase II or III campaign rollout.
  • Work with an experienced Facebook developer who is continually renewing their understanding of the dynamic platform. 

Facebook apps have taken off in a big way and we’ve been lucky enough to get involved with some interesting campaigns and trend setting companies. We recently completed a retail application / competition that attracted 25 thousand fans within only one month.

We look forward to working on some interesting social media campaigns over the next year so keep those innovative ideas and designs coming and we’ll make them happen! With Christmas fast approaching we’re sure there will be lots of exciting creative ideas on the horizon.

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Sources:

Technical information courtesy of João Ribeiro, Lead Facebook Developer for Hambo Development.

  • http://www.searchenginejournal.com/the-growth-of-social-media-an-infographic/32788/
  • http://mashable.com/2012/06/25/small-businesses-social-media-tips/
  • http://www.newmediatrendwatch.com/world-overview/137-social-networking-and-ugc
  • http://thesocialskinny.com/100-more-social-media-statistics-for-2012/