AllFacebook's AF Expo 2011: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Facebook

Jun 30, 2011

When it comes to leveraging Facebook pages, publishers can be forgiven for wondering, "Where do I start?" Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that Facebook users are highly engaged and influential consumers that brands should be falling over themselves to court, it isn't always obvious exactly how a Facebook page can help businesses grow.

On Tuesday, day one of AllFacebook's AF Expo in San Francisco, keynote speaker and tech evangelist Robert Scoble put the lie to that hesitation. "What does Red Bull sell? Brown sugar water that tastes awful. So what they asked themselves is 'how do we make it interesting for people to think about [the product]?'" With videos of the extreme sports and athletes that the company sponsors, games, and contests, the purveyor of brown sugar water now has 21 million fans who it can reach and influence through its Facebook page. Handled correctly, a Facebook page can become a means of gleaning product insights, generating leads, and reinforcing loyalty with existing customers.

Throughout the day on Tuesday, the 450 AF Expo attendees heard one message repeated from a range of speakers: by identifying the people who love your product and inspiring them to share, you can deepen the level of engagement and influence you have with your customers in a unique way. Perry Cooper, the SVP of Digital Media for the NHL, talked about the role Facebook plays in keeping "displaced fans" - that is, fans living in a city different from the team they support - connected to the community. "Facebook is an emotional connector for our displaced fans," Cooper said, with the important side benefit of keeping them in touch with the brand.

Victoria Ransom, founder and CEO of Wildfire Interactive, pointed out why someone might be inspired to share on a Facebook page. "It either says something about who they are, or they'll share if they think it might be beneficial to their friends. "The power of that immediate engagement was in evidence in the afternoon session called "Competitive Analysis on Facebook," during which Dennis Yu, managing principal of Facebook marketing for BlitzLocal, pulled up the live Facebook page of women's clothing purveyor Lane Bryant, a Webtrends client. He typed in: "QUICK: _____is the color that best describes my mood today." Within two minutes, he had over 200 responses, drawing gasps from the audience.

There were plenty of impressive tools and techniques up for discussion, from Facebook credits to social video to deep dive analytics enabling businesses to hypertarget their Facebook ad spends. But speakers returned frequently to one main message: keep the conversation relevant, uncomplicated, and fresh. Be cognizant of how your fans respond, and flexible about changing course. While posting twice a day may be overkill for one brand, it may be insufficient for another.

The imperative to align Facebook marketing goals with overall strategy, rather than relegating it to a side project in the marketing department, was an equally forceful message. Mark Curtis, president of enter:new media, who spoke on a panel regarding engagement and visibility with Facebook pages, says, "You have to define the value equation up front. What do I want Facebook to do for me? Is it insights, leads, customer service?" The answer enables companies to focus their tactics and measure the appropriate outcomes.

Curtis believes there are two steps that every publisher can take right away with regard to Facebook pages. First, "get good metrics tools and figure out what content is a fit for your audience on Facebook," he advises, by seeing which posts generate the most positive feedback and shares. "You can't manage what you can't see, so you need to see better than anyone else," Curtis says.

Second, start tracking how your competitors are using Facebook and which of their actions generate the highest response. Having more "likes" than a competitor is meaningless if their fans are highly engaged and motivated to respond, and yours are merely passive bystanders who never return to your Facebook page a second time. After AF Expo, attendees should have no shortage of new techniques for converting those under involved fans into repeat visitors.