Since its debut in 2004, Facebook has kept growing; it reached 800 million users last month. No platform, online or off-, has such a massive audience and the possibility of reaching so many people. Facebook represents a golden opportunity for brands. Therefore, it’s natural that companies should make Facebook (and social media in general) priorities in terms of marketing strategy. However, many brands haven’t maximized this opportunity because they don’t really understand the details behind someone choosing to ‘Like’ a brand.

 

According to a study conducted by Constant Contact, 58% of people who like a brand do so because they are customers. According to DDB research conducted 11 months ago, this figure is 84%. What does that mean for brands?

Facebook has become a very important tool for a brand to manage its relations with customers. For a long time, call centers and the company website have been the main platforms where customers could provide feedback or ask a company questions. Facebook offers customers a convenient and pleasant way to do the same thing on a platform they use every day. However, the exposure of Facebook presents a challenge for brands. On Facebook, one person can criticize a company in front of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people. You don’t want any bad publicity on Facebook, but you need to let your customers comment on your brand, even if a comment may be negative. That’s why a great deal of attention needs to be devoted to messages on your wall or on your discussions tab. You need to be comprehensive when a comment is negative, appreciative when it’s positive (when someone says “I love your brand,” liking the post is the minimum required action), and informative when you answer a question. But above all, you should be fast to respond because  it shows that you care about your fans.

For example, Ferrero Rocher, which has more than 12 million fans, doesn’t respond to customers who post on the discussion tab; it also lets spam comments through. Even Coca-Cola, the most liked brand on Facebook, has its troubles: if you look at this specific topic, you’ll see that the brand is slow to react to customers’ messages and gives the same response to different negative comments. When someone interacts with you on via social media, you don’t want your response to sound like it comes from a machine.  The same post (“Sorry to hear about that. We would be happy to help you. Please send us a message at [a website or an e-mail address] so we can assist you. Thanks!”) in response to every negative comment isn’t going to cut it.

Facebook is an online platform built to re-create the interactions people have in real life. Google or other search engines should be used to help gain new customers, but Facebook’s primary attraction is in maintaining brand awareness in customers, which pays off in terms of customer loyalty. Although you can advertise on Facebook, but people clicking on those ads often already know about your brand.

On Facebook, someone who likes your brand may recommend it to his friends or write about it on his wall, which can lead his friends to your page. However, for a customer to do that, he has to have confidence in your brand.

In addition of responding quickly and appropriately to your customers on Facebook, you can also offer fans special discounts or incentives (for example, offering a fan a discount on the product of his choice if 10 of his friends like your page). This is a great idea because it rewards fans for their loyalty and also reinforces it at the same time, which may make them more likely to spread positive messages about your brand.

52% of the US population is on Facebook. Brands have to take advantage of this opportunity, but they have to ensure they do it effectively. Treating your customers well and responding to their needs should be at the core of your Facebook strategy.