Social media has turned the purchase funnel on its head.
That’s the crux of a study that Facebook recently published in conjunction with Forrester Research. The two canvassed 101 C-level and VP-level marketing pros in December 2011 and found the profession has changed. Or, in Facebook and Forrester’s parlance, “The connected world has rerouted the customer journey.”
How does changing media affect the way people hear about brands? First, take a look at the traditional purchase funnel:
Here is what Facebook and Forrester are proposing as the successor to the purchase funnel. It looks more like a circle:
The new environment calls for new tactics. Facebook and Forrester propose a six-point plan for building brands in the social media age: articulate, connect, engage, influence, integrate and rejuvenate. We will look at each in greater detail.
Facebook and Forrester recommend that companies identify components of the brand it can communicate via social media. The report has a suggestion for how to do this. “Apply a social lens to your brand identity by asking ‘What about my brand is inherently social? Why do people engage with it and why do people want to talk about it or share it with their friends in the real world?’” Often, those attributes aren’t obvious. For instance, Secret, Procter & Gamble’s deodorant brand for women, found it got currency by connecting with women on an inspirational level and got behind a Facebook-based anti-bullying campaign, “Mean Stinks.” For Coca-Cola, the attribute was “happiness,” which it attempts to express via social media.
Building connections via social media requires that a brand create a hub. Not surprisingly, Facebook suggests that a brand’s Facebook presence should be that hub. As an example, the report illustrates how Ford used Facebook as its primary meeting place for information around the June 2010 launch of the 2011 Explorer. All communications in that effort drove fans to Ford’s Facebook Page, which was the online venue for that model’s reveal.
Getting consumers to take part in the conversation is a key component of social media marketing. The way to facilitate such conversation is often easier than you might think. Burt’s Bees, for example, launched its tinted lip balm with a Facebook app that let users send a photo of one of the six products in the line, along with a message explaining why the friend is a “natural beauty.” The brand also ran ads in Facebook’s Sponsored Stories format to help fans get the word out.
The thinking here is that you allow your social media fans to feel like insiders. A good example is PepsiCo India, which tied into the Cricket World Cup in that country in 2011 with an ad campaign. The company broke the ads on Facebook before they hit TV though and selected 11 special brand ambassadors on Facebook to attend every match and post status updates and photos on Facebook.
People don’t compartmentalize their social media experiences. Neither should your brand. A good example of a 360-degree approach to marketing that incorporates social media is American Express’s “Link, Like, Love” program, which syncs a cardmember’s Facebook account with their loyalty program, so that if you “like” Whole Foods for instance, you might see a Whole Foods deal in your Facebook dashboard.
6. RejuvenateIn practice, this means being relevant to your fans. In other words, you have to sort of think like a publisher. If something big happens in the news, and there’s a relevant way for you to make note of it, it’s probably a good idea to do so. As an example, beauty brand Sephora has 2.5 million Facebook fans and Sephora “continuously monitors those fans for insights about its products, stores and customer service.” AT&T also has a dedicated team that keeps an eye on its Facebook Page.
It should be noted that Facebook is hardly objective in its advice. The major piece of advice seems to be “use Facebook for all your marketing.” Nevertheless, just because it’s in Facebook’s best interest for you to use its platform doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. But, as a marketer, you should be able to distinguish truth from bluster.