Using Facebook to Grow Your Business

February 22nd, 2010

Many thanks to everyone who joined us for our Feb 2 webinar on how to use Facebook to grow your business. I shared some of the insights from my new book, The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Build Better Products, Reach New Audiences, and Sell More Stuff. If you missed it, don’t worry. You can watch the recording here.

Blogger-in-Residence Steve King moderated and opened with some truly staggering statistics on just how significant Facebook has become:

· Over 100 million people in the US use Facebook

· The average person spends more time on Facebook than on any other single website

· Almost five percent of all online traffic today is on Facebook

The main message. As businesses, whatever size or industry we are in, we need to be where the customers are. And it’s becoming clear that the customers are on Facebook! Facebook is an incredible business tool because it has caused people to share more information about themselves than ever before – intimate details about their lifestyles, hobbies, and relationships. All of this information in turn is made available to businesses to target their advertising and messages.

Where to begin. It can be difficult and costly to drive traffic to a website. Instead of making your customers come to you, why not go to them on Facebook? A growing number of businesses are creating Facebook fan pages to replicate or even replace the functionality of their website. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. What is a Facebook fan page? A fan page is like your Facebook profile except for a business. It has a name, profile picture, and wall. Instead of friends, business pages have “fans.” For example, here is the fan page for my book. (Create your own by clicking here)The Facebook Era fan page

2. What is a fan? Fans can be anyone who chooses to associate with your company: customers, friends, employees, and most of all, potential future customers. The way you attract and retain fans is to consistently publish valuable wall updates which will appear if your fans’ News Feed. What do I mean by “valuable”? Well, instead of going for the hard sell on each wall post, try to link to and write about the things that matter to your customers. Provide helpful information and tips. Let your personality shine through. One small business owner I work with posts a funny joke every week to give his fans a break from their day.

3. How do I get more fans? After you have created a fan page, it’s a good idea to first invite friends, family and employees to become fans (click the “Suggest to friends” link below the fan page profile picture) so that by the time customers and prospects view the fan page, it already looks lively and exciting and they will be more likely to join in. By updating your page consistently- be it once a day or once a week, depending on how much you want to commit- your business can stay on people’s minds by showing up in their Facebook news feeds. Once you establish an expectation of how often you will update your page, make sure to follow through. Telling people about what’s going on in your company, and possibly offering special internet deals, will keep people interested and attract their friends to join as well.

Jonathan Smart, an Allstate insurance agent in Columbus, Georgia, wrapped up the webinar sharing his experiences on Facebook and using Hearsay 360, a Facebook small business application my company developed. Here is a summary of Jonathan’s advice:

· Facebook communications don’t have to be only business related. Facebook is different than other forms of customer outreach since it fuses personal relationships and business relationships in a way that forward-thinking companies can use wisely.

· For example, friendly happy birthday messages to clients through Facebook can make people feel a stronger personal connection to your company, and comments on people’s pages about some shared experience (nothing too personal or unprofessional, of course) can help show your company cares about their personal well-being.

I hope this webinar helped clear up some of the mystery surrounding Facebook and how to get started! Feel free to send me your questions on Twitter (I’m @clarashih) or on the book’s Facebook page!

The Social Showdown: Facebook and Google go head-to-head

February 18th, 2010

Just when we thought it was down to Facebook versus Twitter for the social networking title, Google has jumped into the race with Buzz, a new social sharing service for Gmail users (there are around 176M worldwide, compared to 400M Facebook users). Google Buzz allows users to turn Gmail contacts into a social network and post status updates, photos, and links (like Facebook) but according to a one-way follower model (like Twitter).

While this latest move by Google is certainly attracting a lot of buzz (sorry, I couldn’t resist), they will need to address some pretty big hurdles in order for Buzz to be viable.

1. Privacy: Google faces same privacy challenges that crippled MySpace and Orkut. One of Facebook’s key innovations that allowed it to break away from earlier generation social networking sites was privacy controls that allow users to manage who sees what information. Google error: When Buzz launched last week, it automatically added top Gmail contacts to your follower list, even though these might be your coworkers, boss, or others you don’t want to share information with. Google is also confounding the “friends only” model on Facebook with the public model of Twitter, so people aren’t quite sure what to expect. The fix: Following an initial uproar, Google has taken steps to add greater security options. But people are still freaked out, and it will take time to win them back.

2. Usability. To be honest, I was expecting something sleeker from Google, which I know for a fact has some of the best usability designers in the world. I want to see what’s going on “at a glance”—that is, more AJAX, fewer clicks and less scrolling. Google error: Each “buzz” (especially if there is an image) takes up too much of the screen and it’s a pain to have to scroll down to read each one. Once again, it’s trying to be both Twitter and Facebook, but the models don’t jive. The fix: Buzz needs to either 1) adopt the Facebook model in showing you a rich update with images, video, and/or link, hide comments by default, and use an algorithm to just show a subset of everyone you are following, or 2) show every tweet like Twitter but keep it simple, text only, and limited to X number of characters. The usability falls apart when you try to combine rich updates and rich commenting with showing every update, because no one has that kind of time.

2 buzzes take up my entire screen. The same amount of space fits 5 Facebook status updates or 10 tweets.

2 buzzes take up my entire screen. The same amount of space would fit 5 Facebook status updates or 10 tweets.

3. Not a great track record with social technologies. After an early and valiant, but ultimately unsuccessful, social network play with, Google last year unveiled a number of (perhaps overly) forward-thinking collaboration features with Google Wave. No one disagrees there is plenty of potential, but then again a lot of people I have talked to and I myself feel it is too general to just suddenly start using in a serious way (so we haven’t, yet). Undoubtedly, Buzz is a step toward Wave. And then there was Google OpenSocial (later spun out as an independent nonprofit) which launched in 2007, also in a big hurry, at the time to compete with Facebook Platform. OpenSocial largely has not lived up (yet) to its promise of connecting multiple sites and networks. And then there is Google Latitude, which is cool in theory, but for all practical purposes I don’t really care about the latitude and longitude of my friends and would rather not tip off any stalkers. Foursquare, Gowalla, or Loopt offer a much better experience. All great ideas with great intentions, but poor execution.

Facebook versus OpenSocial Networks

Relative growth of Facebook versus OpenSocial Networks

I’m not hating Google (I would never do that—they gave me my first job). Nor do I question their might or determination. They are taking the right steps, and all of us as consumers will ultimately benefit from the innovation that results from competition. But especially with sensitive information and interactions on the social web, the devil is in the details, and so far Google has been rushing their products a little too much to pay attention to the details.

Google’s advantages: a lot of smart people, a lot of resources, a lot of our data, and instant distribution to 176M Gmail users

Google’s opportunity: 1) use email contacts as a more accurate and up-to-date implicit social graph, compared to the Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn social graphs which are all explicit (must initiate/accept each connection), 2) weave together a much richer social experience across a lot of applications including mobile, maps, search, email, Youtube, Picasa, Google Reader, and 3) mesh multiple communication modes including voice, chat, email, status updates, documents/spreadsheets.

Takeaway for marketers: it’s probably too early to get serious about Buzz. I’d give it at least a year. I will be staying tuned and keeping all of you posted.

Using Facebook to Grow Your Business (originally aired February 2, 2010)

February 17th, 2010

The web recording has just been posted for the popular webinar I helped lead last week on “Using Facebook to Grow Your Business.” It features sixty minutes of Facebook trends and stats, specific examples and tips for small- and medium-sized businesses, and a case study from Jonathan Smart, an Allstate insurance agent in Columbus, Georgia who has really embraced Facebook for his business’s marketing and customer service efforts. Many thanks to MyVenturePad and SAP for sponsoring, and to everyone who joined us for the event!

Click here to watch the recording (you will be prompted to register first - sorry for the added step!)

MyVenturePad Webinar

Promotion Marketing Association Digital Summit - New York, New York 12.3.09

December 8th, 2009

PMA Digital Summit 2009

I was in New York again last week keynoting the PMA Digital Summit (#pmadig09), held at Google NY headquarters. I was surprised that among the crowd of savvy New York-based marketers, my usual poll of who is on Facebook and Twitter revealed that fewer than 10% of audience members were on Twitter (everyone was on Facebook, obviously). Not what I would have expected from that group.

Opening remarks from conference chairs Elizabeth Apelles (President of Greater Than One, a digital agency) and Tim Reis (Head of CPG East at Google) kicked off the day with some interesting facts and stats - 64% of US households have broadband, US internet users spend on average 15 hours per week online, 2.67 billion searches conducted each day (my personal note: interesting to contrast that with the 8 billion minutes a day spent on Facebook across its 350M active users). Tim talked about the evolution of the web from information and communication from inception until the late 90s, commerce in early 2000s, and more recently community, self expression, and entertainment in the last few years. US e-commerce sales in 2008 totaled $131 billion which sounds like a large number but was still just 6% of all sales.

It was a good set-up for my keynote, which focused on Facebook as a new identity, communication, and marketing platform that is hypertargeted, opt-in, and social. My slides below, in case you are interested. Please let me know your thoughts!

Up next,  Ben Smith (@bensmith32) AKA “Bagel Ben” gave an excellent brand presentation about how Dunkin’ Donuts is engaging its fans through contests and promotions. For example, Ben came up with a cool “Fan of the Week” promo where fans are encouraged to submit photos of themselves with the Dunkin’ Donuts brand and each week, the winning photo gets featured on the Dunkin’ Donuts Facebook Page. His advice to brands? “Don’t outsource Twittering and Facebooking to your agency. It comes off as unauthentic, and you miss out on a key opportunity to connect with customers.”

Sean Hanrahan of ESPN gave a great presentation on mobile, showcasing some of ESPN’s new mobile apps for smartphones. The engagement numbers he shared were astounding. Sports broadcasting is definitely a different beast. Some other interesting points - though the ESPN audience heavily skews male, it is otherwise very diverse and single-handedly one of the most popular applications for Hispanic men.

One of my favorites of the day was a highly entertaining session by Seth Kaufman of @pepsi, who characterized  it best:
“With social media, the deers have guns. Those that we hunt are controlling the conversation.” He talked about how we have gone from brands defining meaning for customers to the reverse. The four social media goals he has established at Pepsi are to 1) increase effectiveness via deeper connections and customer engagement, 2) increase efficiency via targeting, 3) innovate across media platforms, and 3) measure, scorecard, improve. I appreciated that he is one of the only people I have ever heard who wove traditional media into the social media conversation that makes total sense.

Overall, a great show with a great line-up!

Business & Community in the Facebook Era (presentation at Web 2.0 Expo New York 11.18.09)

November 18th, 2009

Great, engaging crowd this morning at Web 2.0 Expo at the Javits Center in New York. I really enjoyed the audience questions and discussions, including

  • the need to be able to identify key influencers and social media participants when calculating social customer lifetime value
  • reconciling the problem of low clickthrough rates on Facebook with high response rates to Facebook Page updates
  • since there are no business account users on Facebook, all Pages and ad campaigns are associated with an individual. Best practice for companies here is to require that individual to include several other colleagues as additional admins in case anyone switches roles or leaves the company

Many thanks to @michaelreynolds @14str8 @mklawler @anetah @KatieWynner @MarissaARoss @RIGHTSLEEVE and many others for leading the vibrant Twitter thread around my session. Slides below. Looking forward to your comments!

My presentation at Facebook Developer Garage London

October 19th, 2009

I had a wonderful time speaking at Facebook Developer Garage London last month. Many thanks to Joshua March and Grant Bell for organizing a terrific event and packing the house! Here is video of my presentation from the event (intended for a developer-oriented audience) on what not to do in the Facebook Era.

Announcing: Open Registration for my Facebook Marketing Workshop on Oct. 22

October 15th, 2009

With so many ways to build presence and engage on Facebook, many of you have been asking for a more hands-on accelerated introduction to cover the full Facebook marketing landscape.

I am partnering with Inside Facebook to offer an intensive two-hour (online) crash course a week from today on Thursday, October 22. Final registration at $149 opens today at 8am PST/11am EST and ends next Wednesday or when the workshop is sold out. Hope to see many of you there!

Facebook Marketing Workshop

Why Facebook Matters for B2B

October 14th, 2009

Last week, I was in Chicago for the PanIIT Conference, an annual gathering of Indian Institute of Technology alumni (which, by the way are an impressive group of people!). I spoke on a social networking panel with three terrific speakers representing a broad range of industry perspectives:

One question that came up during audience Q&A was whether Facebook has utility for B2B. It’s a good question and one I get a lot, so I thought I’d address at greater length in a blog post.

The answer is yes. First, B2B sales are all about relationships. Higher price points and longer implementation cycles mean greater buying decision risk, so buyers often rely on trust rather than price. Trust hinges on relationships. Facebook is the ultimate relationship manager. Second, when B2B decision-makers are on Facebook, they are logged in as individual consumers. We have an opportunity to personalize our messages and target these individuals equally for enterprise software as we do for diapers.

In particular, many of the sales reps I interviewed use Facebook and LinkedIn together to better navigate buyer organizations, build one-on-one relationships with decision-makers, keep deals alive when a longer sales cycle is required, and prospect beyond direct connections to friend-of-friend networks. Information that people share about themselves on a Facebook or LinkedIn profile, such as someone’s alma mater, hometown, and status update, can behelpful in qualifying leads and used to build interpersonal rapport, for example bonding over having mutual friends or having attended the same college. This was the thinking behind the Faceconnector application I developed two years ago, which integrates Facebook profile and friend information into Salesforce CRM and was the first business application on the Facebook platform.

Facebook as personal CRM. Facebook is a contact database with photos, profiles, updates, and birthday reminders to help us stay in touch with more people. The cost of staying in touch has gone down, so we are able and willing to stay in touch with a greater number of people. Our networks are expanding especially on the fringe with weak-tie relationships. Interestingly, business research shows that social capital and consequently business capital are maximized on the fringe. We aren’t usually hiring and closing deals with our parents and best friends – it is with our friend-of-friend networks where the greatest opportunities and gain are to be had.

The following is a brief excerpt from my new book, The Facebook Era, about how B2B professionals can utilize social networking tools for prospecting and navigating customer organizations.

Purchase decisions are made by individual people, not entire companies. Transactions succeed or fail because of a few key such individuals—your customer champion, executive decision maker, customer reference, sales rep, product expert. By strengthening the bond and improving information flow among your internal deal team as well as with key customer stakeholders, social networking sites can help your company create a more productive organizational selling machine.

For example, B2B information technology company Aster Data Systems successfully sourced its initial wave of customers using social networking sites. As a small startup, Aster lacked brand recognition, and did not have the budget for large marketing or advertising campaigns. To source early customers, Aster instead tapped into the company’s collective social network on LinkedIn, MySpace, and Facebook. Senior management asked all employees, not just sales reps, to tap their networks for potential prospects who had keywords like“data warehousing” in their title or functional expertise. In just a few months, the resourcefulness of this strategy has already begun to pay off. LinkedIn and other social networking sites are used to identify who among those contacts connected to Aster employees might be interested in the database product. Then a sales cycle is initiated through a combination of LinkedIn and traditional communication modes. Thanks to the power of the social graph, Aster has successful signed on more than a dozen customers.

In addition to helping facilitate one-on-one relationship building, data from social networking sites at a high level can also be used for B2B deal strategy—i.e., how to approach a deal, which individuals at the buyer can be connected with, and who has influence in the deal. Sales methodologies like TAS, Miller Heiman, and Solution Selling emphasize the importance of navigating customer organizations and identifying key decision makers. There is powerful data contained in the online social graph to help aid this exercise.

Online social networking sites reveal a wealth of information about people’s title and role, status in the company, working relationship with other contacts, and decision making status. One high tech account executive who has successfully sold into many IT departments told me that whenever he gets a new contact, he immediately goes to LinkedIn to understand how the individual fits into the bigger picture. There are a few subtle but critical pieces of information for which he is always on the lookout that greatly affect his strategy on a particular deal:
o Political strength and tenure
o Likelihood of being a champion or roadblock
o Organizational structure

If you’re interested in reading more from this chapter and/or checking out reviews, see the listing on Amazon. I look forward to your comments!

Presentation to the Direct Marketing Association - ‘Marketing in the Facebook Era’

October 9th, 2009

I presented Wednesday to the Direct Marketing Association to a packed and lively audience of marketers from across northern California. We had a great time talking through the ins and outs of Facebook marketing through different case studies and concepts from my book and audience members. Here are my slides, just posted on SlideShare. Look forward to your comments!

How @-Referencing on Facebook will Create a New Social Semantic Web

September 15th, 2009

I haven’t blogged more than 160 characters in a long time. Not since The Facebook Era came out in April. Things have been busy with my book tour. But today, I break my hiatus, because Facebook’s recent announcement around @-referencing, or status tagging, is too important not to discuss.

Everyone keeps likening the new @-reference feature on Facebook to Twitter. In reality, Facebook @-referencing is much, much bigger news - perhaps in disguise. Facebook has far more data about us than Twitter does (and far more metadata about that data), and starting now, it will be able to structure and link this data to create a sort of new social semantic web. Each of us who uses Facebook is going to help them build it.

Twitter is certainly to thank for the inspiration. It pioneered asymmetric relationships (ie, I can follow you without you following me back). People @-referencing each other generate an implicit social graph (based on what we say) while people following one another generate an explicit social graph (based on an action we take).

Prior this announcement, Facebook had only an explicit social graph, based on people initiating and accepting friend requests. With the availability of @-referencing, Facebook can now also build an implicit social graph of people talking about each other.

But Facebook has another major differentiating strength: social objects, like photos, events, applications, groups, and Pages. And it is their decision to bring @-referencing not just to people (been there, done that with Twitter) but also to these social objects that makes this announcement so exciting and game-changing.

My status update @-referencing Steve Garrity (friend) and 'The Facebook Era' (Page)

My status update @-referencing Steve Garrity (friend) and 'The Facebook Era' (Page)

In the past, Facebook’s social objects pointed to people (people tagged in photos, event invitees, application users, group members, Page fans), but the reverse did not hold true: people could not reference other people or any of these social objects in their status updates or wall posts.  The new @-referencing feature on Facebook gives us an intelligent and structured way to reference both people and social objects from status updates and wall posts. Now, anything and anyone on Facebook can reference anything or anyone else.

By intelligent and structured, I mean that the reference also contains metadata about what kind of thing is being referenced - ie, whether it’s a person, event, application, group, or Page (Twitter only has the person part nailed). Intelligent and structured are what you need for a semantic web. Twitter hashtags are just tags - but Facebook’s new “status tagging” actually points to an object and has metadata about what kind of object it is.

This means that over time, Facebook will start to build an implicit graph of people and objects in addition to its existing explicit friend graph - a powerful combination with many applications, including search, brand analytics, finding influencers, and creating more opportunities for brands and people to engage fans and friends.

For example, individuals will be able to write on many walls at once, write on a friend or Page’s wall by mentioning the friend or Page in their status update, and select exactly which “Paris Hilton” they mean (at least among the set of so named social objects on Facebook) - the hotel, celebrity, perfume, or footwear.

Brands will love @-referencing because they’ll be able to track their full sphere of influence beyond just what fans say on a fan Page, minus the noise of Twitter search or current limitations of Facebook Lexicon. (I imagine they’ll roll @-reference analytics into Lexicon at some point). @-referencing is important for CRM, too, which as relational databases are inherently structured and to date have struggled to dedupe and make sense of unstructured user-generated content from social networking sites. This announcement will make social CRM efforts more realizable and complete.

The structured social object graph will enable a social semantic web on Facebook. Instead of having to rely solely on fancy natural language processing, link resolution and de-duping algorithms to guess what people are saying, Facebook has empowered its users with @-referencing to bring structure and make sense of traditionally unstructured data.

There is one thing that is kind of awkward about @-referencing of certain social objects. As former lead Facebook platform engineer Charlie Cheever pointed out to me, it may feel unnatural to always use the full official Page name for things – for instance, saying “getting coffee at [Starbucks Coffee Company]” instead of just “getting coffee at sbux.”

Still, I think that is a minor flaw users can easily forgive and/or for which Facebook will figure out a fix. It doesn’t detract from the incredible potential around a social semantic web.

In the past, several introductions of new features became defining moments for Facebook’s success: 1) socially engineering the site around offline networks like schools and employers to encourage real relationships, 2) newsfeed to provide ongoing incentives to come back to the site, and 3) Facebook Connect to expand Facebook’s influence and sources of data. @-referencing, if people actually use it, has the potential to make that list.

* Thanks also to Eric Ries for feedback on this post before it went live