Asia-Pacific Connections Pte Ltd

October 2010

 

The rise of social media is driving interactive communications channels and changing the landscape of business models today.  Companies no longer see customers as passive recipients of products and services, but as active participants in an ecosystem who want to engage and be heard.  It is against this backdrop that we examine how firms can use Facebook, the most popular social-networking platform across the world, to achieve their commercial objectives. 

With more than 500 million active users and more than 30 billion pieces of content shared each month, Facebook boasts the largest number of registered account holders of all the social-networking sites.  According to Website-Monitoring.com, these numbers jumped dramatically from just 200 million subscribers in April 2009.  Based on statistics by Alexa.com, Facebook is the world’s second most visited website, after search giant Google.  

TechCrunch reported that Facebook leads all social-networking sites in terms of traffic sharing content – accounting for 44 per cent of all social-media activity.  It is followed by Twitter, Yahoo!, and MySpace with 29 per cent, 18 per cent and 9 per cent respectively.  The U.S. leads Facebook site traffic representing 28.9 per cent of global users, followed by France with 4.8 per cent and India with 4.7 per cent.  Typical account holders are between the ages of 18 and 44 and are mostly university educated.  As of April 2010, the average visitor was spending about 33.33 minutes on Facebook daily, far exceeding the time spent on LinkedIn, YouTube or Twitter.

 

Using Facebook as a Business Platform

Facebook offers unequalled opportunity for fans to interact and engage with each other – both professionally and socially – via business or personal accounts.  Statistics reveal that more and more companies are utilising Facebook to address customer concerns and facilitate stakeholder communications.  In addition, firms are building brand awareness and cementing customer relations by managing their profiles effectively in the online sphere, with fresh content uploaded regularly.  Successful profiles are rich with images, videos, photos, detailed information about the company, web links, new-product announcements, interesting stories and messages, discussions, blog posts, as well as special events, offers, contests and promotions.  Facebook can also be used as a channel to disseminate messages to the company’s fan base using the email feature or the Wall.  The Wall serves as an open, interactive space that allows corporations to track ongoing conversations related to the company – providing the ultimate forum to listen to comments about brands and marketplaces.  

Some smaller entities are using their Facebook site as a substitute for a full-blown website since it is easy to build a fan following on Facebook, as users are already accustomed to visiting the site.  More established firms direct traffic from Facebook to the company’s official site. 

In creating a Facebook business profile, companies have the choice of a business page or group.  A business page is visible to the public and allows an unlimited number of fans, whilst a business group is only visible to members and is capped at 3,000 members with no extra applications.  Companies may also be interested in using Facebook Advertising to connect with their target audiences and track the engagements in real time.  Payment methods using Pay-Per-Click and Pay-Per-View also make it easy for firms to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of their advertisements with analytics reports. 

A well-maintained business page starts with a summary of the company’s offerings and logo, but also incorporates lots of news and interactive applications to engage fans.  Companies can promote their business page by inviting members from their target market and including the link to their Facebook page on their marketing collateral and website.

 

Case Studies: Howies and Red Bull Cash In on Facebook 

Howies and Red Bull are two companies that are successfully leveraging the dynamics of Facebook to help their brand-building efforts and improve business.

Howies is a UK-based clothing company specialising in active wear.  Founded as a start up in 1995, the two entrepreneurs began making tee shirts for bikers (BMX) and selling their designs at biking events.  In 2001, they began to expand their casual-clothing range to include pants and jeans using Facebook to interact with their customers.  Howies’ staff posted updates about the evolution of the company – engaging with its fans in a manner that was more personal than professional.  The objective was to portray Howies’ distinct brand personality, as well as the different personas behind the brand, keeping its Facebook page as unpretentious, relatable and relevant as possible.  In doing so, Facebook has not only served as a cost-effective platform for Howies to connect with its followers, but the company reports increasingly heavy traffic to its Facebook page and website, resulting in improved sales.

In a second example, Red Bull, established that content is king on Facebook.  As an energy drink that is largely popular with the teenage and college crowd, it has one of the most visited Facebook pages, with over 11 million fans.  The company constantly ensures its Facebook page is creative and interactive, full of fresh and fun content.  In particular, Red Bull fully utilises its Boxes section with videos, recordings, games and posters – keeping the average user engaged for 20 minutes per visit.

A renowned Red Bull application, called “Drunkish Dials”, features audio recordings of drunken callers who have dialled the company’s 1-800 toll-free number.  On Red Bull’s Facebook page, visitors can rate, link, or share the funny calls on their personal pages – which evolved into an effective viral-marketing strategy.

Other popular content is generated by Red Bull-sponsored athletes whose Twitter feeds are linked to Red Bull’s Facebook page, so fans are able to interact with the celebrity sportsmen.

These two examples illustrate the importance of having a well-maintained business profile on Facebook to establish a strong online presence. 

Whilst Facebook is mostly known for its hugely popular peer-to-peer social-networking forum, a growing number of savvy companies are tapping into its boundless potential to connect with their target audiences.  When efforts are made to fully utilise the site, businesses can garner greater visibility, more brand awareness and increased traffic – resulting in more vibrant relations with their various stakeholders and, ultimately, increased sales.

 

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