The New Vessels: The New Language of Marketing 2.0 [con't]
Because Facebook is such a popular and interesting community, this section is dedicated to this special community. According to Wikipedia, Facebook is a social networking Web site. It launched in 2004. The free-access Web site is privately owned and operated by Facebook, Inc. Users can join networks organized by city, workplace, school, and region to connect and interact with other people. People can also add friends, send them messages, and update their personal profile.
According to Forrester Research, there are between 40 to 50 million users today, with a growth of 134 percent to 200 percent or more in the last year. More than 40 percent of the users are more than the age of 35, and the average visitor stays about 20 minutes. The users are primarily in North America and the Middle East and are primarily college educated. Forrester says that Facebook could eclipse MySpace in the number of active users in early 2009.
To explore Facebook, I turned to Jeremiah Owyang, senior analyst at Forrester Research who is focused on social computing. Because the primary use of Facebook is for members to share what they are doing or working on, this community is ripe for a marketing dialogue. As Owyang said, "Facebook is a ready-made marketing platform, which offers a vast tool set (with challenges); but, to succeed, brands must develop a strategy. In fact, according to Forrester, the top three uses of Facebook are to see what friends are up to, send a message to someone, and to post or update a profile."
- Invites via e-mail spur growth: Invites arrive via e-mails. At one point, Owyang received dozens in one week; this is a sign of mass group of people using email to grow their base.
- Discussions: Within the groups sections, questions are posed, answered, and discussed. If you're a believer in the Cluetrain manifesto, this is a sign of a marketplace.
- Business audience, not just college kids: When Facebook opened up to the world, it extended its reach past college students. This might have been due to many of the original Facebook users graduating and moving into the workplace. Many of the contacts and friends within Facebook are senior managers, directors, VPs, and CEOs. Recent research indicated that the fastest growth segment is people more than 35 years of age.
- Affinity groups: Individuals with similar interests, problems, or traits are starting to self-assemble through their friend's network, or within the groups. All of these are opt-in, so these are engaged users who have self-selected: "Hey I belong here." These are communities and are microsegments of marketplaces.
- Opt-in: Unlike traditional forms of advertising and marketing, Facebook has many opt-in features that let users review, approve, and accept invites for friends, applications, groups, and other features.
- Limited search crawling—Facebook is a "closed" network, and you can see most data only if you are logged in. Most individuals' pages are somewhat private to nonfriends. As a result, this limits the capability of traditional search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask, and others to crawl and index the data. This will prove to be an interesting dynamic in the next few years.
- High growth—Facebook has one of the fastest growth rates and could potentially overtake MySpace if these rates continue.
Top Five Tips for Facebook for Marketing
Facebook is an exciting new community for supplementing the traditional marketing mechanisms. As a new vessel, it is ripe for experimentation using the below tips for success:
- Use for Marketing 2.0 intelligence: Owyang's view is that profiles, network information, and public groups provide a way to seek insight online.
- Use for advertising: A variety of ways to leverage the power of this community exist, including banner ads, news feeds, social ads, and flyer ads.
- Attract a new audience: Because we heard from Anne Holland at MarketingSherpa that neither those under 25 nor those more experienced use e-mail, leverage this new social networking tool in place of e-mail.
- Experiment with fan pages: These fan pages can be used in place of sponsored groups.
- Not a standalone: Integrate your Facebook tactics with your overall strategy. If this is the audience that you need for your product and offerings, leverage it as part of the overall go-to-market (GTM) plan.