Building Your Brand In Facebook

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Unless you’ve been in a digital cave you’ve probably heard of Facebook’s amazing penetration in Canada. Like many of its earlier counterparts, Facebook provides some great opportunities to build your brand online.

Facebook Advertising Options

The first place to start is with Facebook’s self-service advertiser option. Facebook provides the ability for advertisers to create self-serve “Facebook Flyers”. You’ve probably seen this in your Facebook dashboard inter-mixed with your friend updates. The flyers that I see most often are for the Sony Playstation or the Honda F1 groups. It’s fairly easy to create these flyers but it’s not clear how often they are used. When I informally polled some Facebook users, most people had no recollection of ever seeing these links so I’m not certain what kind of response rate they generate.

Facebook also provides a custom integration option. In most cases this solution involves developing a branded group. Both Sony and Honda F1 have branded Facebook groups. Ironically, these branded groups are more difficult to find than user-created groups on the same topics. Custom integration is not available without signing an agreement with Facebook. The costs for a branded group are not directly revealed but it’s rumoured to be expensive.

Unofficial Facebook Advertising

After the direct Facebook route there are several more guerrilla approaches to creating a branded group. The first and probably the easiest is to simply create a group around your brand and start inviting other users to join. Many of these groups post special offers and/or allow customers to interact with the company via the discussion boards or the wall. You will need to review the Facebook terms of use before creating this sort of group to make sure you’re not in breach.

Some brands have taken the unusual step of creating their own brand personas in Facebook as user accounts. This is frowned upon by Facebook and they will de-activate any accounts that are not real people. If you go this route expect it to be short-lived and possibly frustrating for your users when your Facebook persona is removed.

Using Facebook Applications

One of the key components to developing an online community is to find or steal a user community. Facebook has opened the doors for you to do exactly that. By embedding your brand into Facebook you can access to their community. Even if your brand doesn’t have its own social network, you can take advantage of Facebook’s via their third-party application development platform.

Facebook has added additional support for third parties to create applications to extend the Facebook experience. The Facebook application development platform seems very robust with minimal limitations on what third-party applications can be developed. If you’re trying to build online branding this is probably one of the best options available and it’s completely free.

For example, there is a hosting company that has built an application to customize your “poke message”. In another instance, a consulting company has created a magic 8-ball application which ultimately promotes their site. These are fairly basic examples but if you have more involved content you can embed it directly into Facebook. Movie review site Flixster has embedded reviews into a Facebook application. Users can write movie reviews and connect with other reviewers all inside the Facebook interface. I believe these custom Facebook applications will become an important customer touch point, on par with your homepage and RSS feeds.

These are some basic ideas for starting to build your brand in Facebook. What are your strategies for interacting on this powerful community site?

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