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All aboard the Facebook marketing train

Published 03 April 2013 07:34, Updated 10 April 2013 07:32

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All aboard the Facebook marketing train

Catherine Taouk, whose family owns the Supre business and who implemented social media as its international brand manager. Photo: Dom Lorrimer

Australian brands are developing a serious love affair with Facebook marketing, much to the dismay of more traditional mediums.

It’s not surprising the platform is adored by anyone trying to spruik their wares. Global figures provided to BRW by Facebook claim 1.06 billion monthly active users as of December 31, 2012, an increase of 25 per cent year-on-year.

And while there has been an explosion of interest in Facebook advertising in recent years, there’s much more to come. Sensis’ e-business report last year found that 27 per cent of small and medium enterprises connected to the internet use social media in their business, the most common platform being Facebook. Half of those using social media said it had a positive effect on their business.

Quite simply, it costs less to plough marketing dollars into Facebook, and results are quick and easy to determine.

But claims made at a digital marketing think-tank held in Sydney this month raise questions about whether the social media site that was once merely a platform for catching up with friends is perhaps a better investment than more traditional places to advertise.

Catherine Taouk, whose family owns the Supre business and who implemented social media as its international brand manager, told Ad:Tech audiences that Facebook marketing can drive almost double the amount of in-store footfall; 37 per cent of shoppers surveyed in-store stated that seeing Supre mentioned on Facebook prompted them to visit the store, versus 21 per cent influenced by traditional media.

Supre is certainly using the platform well. Facebook analytics reveal that the retailer is collecting a mean average of 299 new fans per day, that each post garners an average of 334 interactions and 13,453 brand exposures per day.

Taouk says the brand has years of experience in the social media world, having jumped in to Myspace in 2008 and today has nearly half a million Facebook fans.

“Because of the skew of the brand being towards young people, we consistently need to be having a conversation with consumers, which is why Facebook works so incredibly well for us. That’s where our target market is and we get an instant response.”

Taouk says that she loves Facebook because ad spend is far less than other mediums and yet the results are extremely powerful.

“I love the constant analysis of what’s worked and what hasn’t. This means you’re always tweaking your campaigns. We put a rather controversial bus campaign to market a few years ago that I desperately wanted to pull, which wasn’t so easy to do.”

While Facebook is a firm favourite for the brand, it also utilises radio, television and outdoor ads. But it doesn’t bother much with magazine advertising any more, she says.

When asked where the Supre brand would be without Facebook, Taouk says: “We would still be a national brand, but we would be having a one-way conversation and would be assuming what consumers wanted. Thanks to Facebook, we know what they want.”

We would still be a national brand, but we would be having a one-way conversation and would be assuming what consumers wanted. Thanks to Facebook, we know what they want.

Facebook can even help build a business from scratch. Australian fashion brand Miishka was built entirely on Facebook, with the platform used as its primary marketing channel to build a base of loyal clientele, share latest designs and facilitate purchases of its products. In the absence of a website, brand owner Michelle Glitman drove word-of-mouth by running sponsored stories to encourage friends of fans to also become fans.

Mike Watkins of Mudo Media built Supre’s Facebook presence. He believes that Facebook has become the most powerful marketing tool the world has ever seen.

The network effect of Facebook ads

Watkins says when a user engages with an update on Facebook, a ripple effect occurs. “The ripple makes its way through that users’ friends’ newsfeeds and highlights sections, keeping them up to date with what their friend is doing. When a user engages a brand page update, the same thing occurs. Only it is the brand name and/or its content that is rippling through that users’ friends, thus exposing them to the brand and/or product,” he says.

Listening to fans and responding to their concerns is paramount, he says. Supre did this when it created a search for fuller-sized girls to model its clothing in response to online claims that Supre models were too skinny.

The competition resulted in 325 images posted to the page within three hours and 1413 comments made on fan photos.

“Through listening and then acting, a medium such as a Facebook page can actively turn a topical issue into a positive outcome for both the brand and its consumers.

“Another fascinating development to emerge from this strategy was the amount of support and positivity expressed by fans to each other. It was common for fans to compliment other fan’s photos, and 95 per cent of the time, neither fan knew each other, which was a unique, unexpected and positive result,” he said at the conference.

Success and failure in social media is all about how your brand is perceived, Watkins says. “If updates are coming across in the wrong tone, fans will treat your brand as deceptive and misleading, which will result in little to no engagement and possibly some brand-bashing. If the updates are coming across with the right tone, the fan base will listen and engage. Once we found a tone that worked, we stuck with it.”

“They are your consumers, they love your brand, so they will be willing to help you make your brand better. Ask them questions, get real answers back; in volume, instantly. Act on these insights and you make and save more money. It costs nothing each time you do it. Social media just saved and made your business money.”

But not all brands believe Facebook is the be all and end all. Liz Attia is the head of national marketing for national brand Specsavers Optometrists. While Specsavers has a Facebook page, the lion’s share of its advertising spend goes on television, press and catalogues. “At the end of the day, it’s about getting the balance right. There is so much scepticism out there about the offers made on Facebook that the creative has to be really out there to cut through these days,” Attia says.

Specsavers’ year-on-year revenue has grown annually since the privately owned brand launched on the Australian market in 2008, Attia says. “We’ve got to be on Facebook because people expect you to be there, but TV works best for us.”

Not a guaranteed winner

Chris Bridgland is the account director for digital agency We Are Social, and says it’s completely short-sighted to ever think that Facebook advertising will outperform traditional media every time.

“Traditional media still has its place in the broad marketing mix in this day and age, as there are still audiences watching TV and listening to radio. However, all of these mediums are becoming connected, so the distance between traditional and digital is becoming blurred,” he says.

But Facebook Australia told BRW that there are several ways to measure success on the platform. Brands shouldn’t just focus on fan acquisition as the primary indicator of success because this ignores the ways in which social marketing actually works to achieve objectives like reach, brand resonance and ultimately, sales.

“By understanding the core elements of maximising reach on Facebook – fan reach, engagement and amplification – brands can benchmark their performance against other brands and devise strategies to improve on these dimensions and deliver measurable social marketing ROI [return on investment],” a spokesman said via the company’s Australian PR firm.

The real power of the platform lies in its ability to spread a message. comScore, in collaboration with Facebook, released The Power of Life: How Social Marketing Works, last year. It discovered a correlation between being a fan of a brand or a fan’s friend and buying from that brand. Being a fan or a fan’s friend of a brand also causes them to buy more from that brand in-store and online, it found.

But whether a business is a huge Facebook user or not, many in marketing sing the praises of integration rather than weighting spend too heavily toward any particular social media platform.

“To carry on investing so heavily into traditional media is very short-sighted and will come back to bite you as you will be left behind by the brands that take a calculated risk in an integrated approach,” Bridgland says.

Brands will need to jump aboard social media to some degree, he says.

“Society has welcomed social with its arms open and now brands need to realise that social is no longer just a channel, but a behaviour which is only going to become more important as we take steps into the future. The future for advertising is meaningful and seamless integration of ad mediums to ensure you can tell the story of your brand along the purchase path,” Bridgland says.

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