The Facebook Dilemma: Maintaining an Exclusive Image in a Democratic Forum
For many brands, Facebook presents the largest social media opportunity from a marketing perspective. The viral nature of Facebook, combined with the statistical insights on consumers, represent a marketer’s dream. That said, for many fashion and luxury brands, figuring out the right Facebook strategy, or whether they should even be there in the first place, is quite the dilemma.
Jason John, Sr. Director of Online Marketing for Gilt Groupe, and Josh Teixeira, Director of Strategy for Big Spaceship, were interviewed by Emily Sobol, Vice President of Social Listening at IPSOS, during the FashionForward: Digital event. All three marketers have had a wealth of experience with Facebook marketing, and offered a range of perspectives, from the brand, agency and research sides. To start, when asked the question whether a brand should even be on Facebook, John and Sobol noted that you’d be hard pressed to find a brand that doesn’t have customers on Facebook. If your customers are there, you should be as well, and at the very least offer customer service for those wanting to get in touch via that channel.
The Key to Facebook: The Brand Voice
All three marketers agreed the key to a brand’s Facebook success lies in it’s ‘brand voice.’ The brand voice is not to be overlooked as an ephemeral term since it is vital to how an audience perceives and ultimately judges a brand’s reputation on Facebook. Jason John made an important point on this, citing that recent research suggests the actual brand page is not as important as the posts. “Facebook is primarily about the news feed. Traffic going to the actual page is very limited…most engagement happens on people’s own news feed.” Jason went on to say, “You’re brand is being portrayed through words…people aren’t getting to the page as much as they are reading posts.” You can see why, if this is the case, a brand’s voice becomes perhaps the most important aspect marketing on Facebook and in delivering the customer experience.
Josh Teixeira, of Big Spaceship, expounded on this, citing the agency’s recent work with Skittles. “We worked very hard with Skittles to defined their brand voice,” Teixeira explained, “since the posts were mostly comedic and humorous in nature, it was important to have a solid understanding of the voice so that both parties could engage fans via the wall posts in an effective manner”. The proof is in the pudding: Skittles’ Facebook page has over 19 million fans, and touts a unique brand voice. Posts like “Sometimes I sneak up on my my alarm clock when it’s sleeping and yell ‘How does it feel?!’” or “Every time you press the ‘like’ button, Skittles get an ‘S’” each garner 10’s of thousands of comments and likes.
Facebook Success, The Key Metrics
Overall, both marketers agreed it’s more important to focus on quality versus quantity–one more reason the brand voice is so crucial. The number of fans on a brand’s page is obviously still important, especially when helping form a perception about the brand from the viewpoint of a new customer, or when convincing the CFO to keep signing off on the Facebook budget. However, it is the metrics that focus on engagement that are key.
Gilt Groupe looks at growth statistics, such as number of fans, likes and comments, and how they change over time. Brands should expect to see growing numbers in all three of these metrics if their brand voice is successful. Emily Sobol, of IPSOS, also made a good point in taking a hard look at metrics that describe traffic-to-site numbers and email sign-ups.
These ancillary metrics, and not just ‘likes,’ are especially important in grading overall brand success. Teixeira of Big Spaceship notes that “just having a ton of Facebook fans doesn’t make your business successful.” In fact, the statistics available on each of the brand pages discussed would reflect this. While Big Spaceship’s big Facebook client, Skittles, has over 19 million fans, the number of people “talking about this,”** is just above 125,000 or 0.64%. Similarly, Gilt’s main Facebook page and Gilt Man, have only 5% and 1.3%, respectively. With engagement numbers like these, the fans you do interact with are especially critical. Both John and Teixeira explained that Facebook can be much more of a subdued marketing channel, where you’re there building on the relationship with your current customers by providing interesting content and customer service, instead of seeking new ones.
The Brand Voice is an Evolutionary Process
If the brand voice is so important, how do brands go about setting a strategy and executing it such that the voice resonates with their audience and is successful? For many fashion and luxury brands this strategy is the result of months and years of trial and error.
“The brand voice is an evolutionary process,” John notes, “it’s like growing up.” Many companies and brands may fret too much about defining this voice, whereas it’s more important to set an overall strategy, and adapt the brand voice as you go along. Gilt has done this over the last 2 years they’ve been on Facebook. At one point, they decided to break up the overall Gilt brand on Facebook into six separate fan pages, one each for Gilt Groupe, Gilt Man, Gilt Woman, Gilt Children, Gilt City, and Jet Setter, (Gilt’s travel site). Josh also added that the beauty of social is that you can separate brand voices into different pages and “tweak and refine” the posts based on feedback as you go along.
Interestingly, this process can be the result of multiple efforts. Teixeira noted that, for the multitude of clients they’ve worked with on Facebook, some Facebook strategies have been dictated by Big Spaceship, and fully-managed and executed, while others have been the result of a third-party. Finally, some brands, such as GE, Teixeira explained, need Facebook strategies and execution that lie completely within the company. “No one will know the brand voice better than the actual company or employees themselves.”
The Future of Facebook: Wait and See
Marketing on the Facebook platform can be frustrating at times. Functionalities, features and rules are constantly being changed, and unfortunately are out of marketers’ control. Facebook is a “wall-garden” where brands are subject to the company’s decisions to improve the platform for the users, first and foremost. As Facebook evolves, changes will be made primarily based on statistics and algorithms that identify why and how a user experiences Facebook. For brands, this will get harder and harder since people primarily interact with each other, their friends and family…not brands.
Recent developments such as F-commerce and the new versions of ‘Likes,’ such as ‘read,’ ‘taste,’ and ‘listening to’ offer a lot of promise, but not huge results as of yet. Josh told the audience that while he’s “Very excited about the possibilities,” he’s “cautious of what they can do.” Teixeira warns that brands shouldn’t “implement new functionality just because it’s new…as it could add a lot of noise.” John cited Gilt’s experience with F-commerce, which allows a user to make a purchase completely on Facebook, without visiting the Gilt site. Products and exclusive offers available via F-commerce are often more a part of content strategy than driving sales. “The significant volume drivers are a long way away,” John said. Gilt’s recent F-commerce sale involved a Spongebob lego, and was more of a way to drive “comments, likes, etc for a viral effect,” versus ultimate number of sales.
While many of the topics covered on the Facebook panel may be well-known to seasoned marketers, their points are not to be missed. Statistics show that people aren’t visiting brand pages like a website, but rather they are engaging with brands via their news feed. A brand voice that reflects the personality and values is much more important of a focus for a company’s strategy, and is the key to ensure the longterm success of their Facbeook position.