Over the next few weeks, I’ll be highlighting the Facebook Open Graph, how it ties into Consumer-to-Consumer social marketing, and what this means for marketers. This week, I’ll start with background on how consumer behavior has shifted and how Facebook capitalizes on these changes.
To say there’s been a recent shift in the way people engage with brands would be a gross understatement — it’s more like a huge leap. But all considered, it’s not surprising. The rise in social media usage has lent the volume and visibility needed for widespread peer-to-peer recommendations, and consumers have always been better than marketers at influencing other consumers.
What we’re seeing now is actually an outburst of what has always been just under the surface: the true power of word of mouth in marketing. And while increasing their presence on social networks is a great way for brands to help swing these exchanges in their favor, digital ubiquity is just one small part of a much larger picture. Forrester, for example, recently found that despite the popularity of Facebook, Twitter, and the like, more than half of brand engagement (64 percent) still happens on a company’s main website. In other words, socializing the homebase is at the very core of success.
Extole’s Consumer-to-Consumer Social Marketing platform does this strategically in order to identify and cultivate a brand’s strongest advocates. There’s no gimmick — these are people who talk up a brand or product because they’re genuine fans. Providing them with a communication funnel and a reason to share encourages the organic growth of positive endorsements and stories, which can then be passed on to extended social communities.
Ultimately, bolstering Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C) communications is critical because it yields rewards that go far beyond the point of sale. By way of connection, context and trust, these actions build stronger, and incredibly loyal customer bases.
Among other things, the Facebook Open Graph reinforces the importance of fostering C2C sharing. What started as a contained map of C2C relationships and their preferred brands has expanded well beyond Facebook’s walls and the simple “Like” button. With 3rd party action and object integration, brands can now create contextually relevant interactions across all touch points before driving traffic back to the branded Facebook page.
Here’s how it works: Open Graph interactions follow the format of USER >ACTION>OBJECT and can include:
1) Actions: claim, redeem, wear, enter, recommend, buy
2) Expressions: want, own, love
Together, these actions and expressions create structured stories about a wealth of consumer preferences, which are then seamlessly distributed to the Facebook Timeline, News Feed and Ticker for all of their friends to see. Further, the stories will remain “pinned” to the consumer’s Timeline in a persistent “Brand Billboard” of ongoing updates, which tell the story of the relationship between the consumer and the brand.
Strategically and seamlessly combining the center of engagement (the brand website) with the center of relationships (Facebook), will finally enable the cultivation of word of mouth marketing efforts at scale. And for marketers, the insight gained from customer bases and advocates of that degree will be priceless.
The Consumer-to-Consumer Approach
Ultimately, people want to do business with people, not companies. And that’s why C2C works so well. But Facebook’s Open Graph will serve to complement a process that has always been valuable by buttressing it with genuine connection.
As Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook says, “Messages on Facebook spread not just from business-to-consumer, but more importantly, from friend-to-friend.”
In part two of this series, I’ll discuss how brands can leverage the power of Facebook connections by reflecting external experiences back into the network to amplify awareness and WOM. I’ll also touch on “Sponsored Stories” as the new ad unit and how C2C stories (earned media) will fuel more effective paid media within Facebook.