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Facebook To Marketers: Are We There Yet?

Most of the top 50 leading brands, which in total boast 70 million Facebook "fans," have so far failed to capitalize on the brand-building opportunities presented by social media, according to a study by AT Kearney. In fact, most use their Facebook profiles to continue to "showcase traditional, time-honored and digitally irrelevant one-way communications."

Let's review the state of so-called corporate social media engagement as reported: More than half of the top 50 brands began by presenting their corporate story: GE, Nintendo and Heinz, among them. Five of the top 50 brands (Interbrand) had no Facebook page. Meanwhile, otherwise ubiquitous brands, including: McDonald's, American Express, Sony, Disney, Gucci and Louis Vuitton, made only "official" wall postings and did not allow "fans" to initiate conversations.

The Kearney analysts were even more alarmed to find that only one of the Interbrand Top 50 brands routed fans to an unfiltered Facebook wall; the other 44 initially choose to show consumers a filtered selection of company posts.

No One's Answering

Even more distressing, 89% of consumer replies on company Facebook pages went unanswered. Gucci was the laggard, without a single reply over the past three months, while Philips was the leader with nine responses. Only 11 companies had replied to more than one consumer.

The researchers found it hard to comprehend a rationale behind these results. Do marketers not take Facebook seriously, even with half a billion users? Are they frightened to cede uncensored control to their customers? Do they lack the resources, internally or via their agencies (especially public relations) to deal with the volume of communication that an effective Facebook site can generate? Or, perhaps large corporations simply have no soul and can't dance to the cultural beat?

Getting Your Attention

Social engagement is definitely about two-way conversations and making brands more "friendly and personable" -- but brands must give consumers some reward in exchange for the attention. And brands are doing just that. The Kearney study showed that while only 5% of company-to-consumer posts engaged consumers in discussions; 71% were promotional -- discount offers, prizes, etc. And, the promotional posts were the most-liked while informative postings were the least effective and drew the fewest comments. So perhaps marketers should follow the examples of brands like Gap's use of Facebook Deals and Dell's use of Twitter to deliver discount codes.

Still, inactivity, unresponsiveness and a lack of engagement are the most common characteristics shared by corporate social media pages. Such "anti-social networking," where the corporation creates its fan page and filters all activity, cannot win people's interest and loyalty.

As always it comes down to the issue of command and control. Most corporations still have no clue, nor does it appear much desire to experiment and learn, when it comes to opening a productive conversation that will engage their customers. Nor does it appear that public relations agencies are making much headway in the drive toward corporate (client) transparency.

Until corporations are willing to align their legal definition as "individuals" with their long-term corporate interests, one should not expect much more of the social brand experience.

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3 comments about "Facebook To Marketers: Are We There Yet? ".
  1. len stein , January 4, 2011 at 8:45 a.m.

    Timo,

    your comment is a bit self-serving, don't you think?

  2. Kathy Sharpe from Resonate Networks , January 4, 2011 at 3:12 p.m.

    More tools are not necessary, $ yes. To manage social marketing, even just using Facebook requires a staff, content and commitment all of which can only be fueled by
    a budget. However most marketers lookat Social and see an easy low cost marketing tool, not an ongoing budget allocation.

  3. Jerry Foster from Energraphics , January 5, 2011 at 5:03 a.m.

    Maybe Facebook could think about making it easier to set up a company page and remove that ridiculous limit of 30 fans before you can change the name to something you want, etc.

    It really isn't "obvious" how to do any of this and FB could charge money for giving companies more user-friendliness in having pages of their own.

    And it isn't obvious how the page would show up in Google and Bing.

    Obviously, because the page would hopefully get great search engine positioning, a brand would want veto power over some comments. Its not the same thing as news blogs etc where the publisher just wants a great conversation to be taking place in the comments section.