Fishing with Facebook

January 25, 2011 by Christiane Stagge

Companies leveraging Facebook as a marketing channel and online shop are on the right track (image: Fotolia)

Companies leveraging Facebook as a marketing channel and online shop are on the right track (image: Fotolia)

Today’s social media are making their presence felt in the field of business. Companies have long since identified online communities as a marketing platform – and no wonder: 600 million members worldwide give Facebook alone incredible reach and potential. Some have even begun to use the term “Generation Facebook.”

What will happen with Facebook in the coming years? According to social media expert Dr. Marc Drüner of Steinbeis University (Germany), no one can say for sure. After all, hardly anyone would have predicted just a few years ago that the MySpace community would witness such a rapid decline.

“All-or-nothing” no longer

Dr. Drüner designs social media strategies for companies all over the world. In marketing, online communities give firms a direct line to the thoughts, opinions, and everyday habits of their target markets, thus enabling them to refine their all-out efforts to find customers for their products. This results in better-placed advertising campaigns and products more closely designed to meet buyers’ needs. Facebook again serves as a prime example, generating personalized ads based on each user’s interests, comments, and reviews.

Next page: Facebook replacing online stores

The electronics chain Best Buy has integrated its Facebook account with its online store (screenshot: Facebook)

The electronics chain Best Buy has integrated its Facebook account with its online store (screenshot: Facebook)

On MINT’s Facebook page, you can compare your expenses with those of other users (screenshot: MINT)

On MINT’s Facebook page, you can compare your expenses with those of other users (screenshot: MINT)

Facebook replacing online stores

Another organization taking advantage of the ability to identify habits and behaviors is the Web site MINT. With this service, you can keep track of your expenses online, and MINT’s Facebook fan page offers a few extra features – for instance, the option to view the behavior of other anonymous users and compare it with your own current situation. Upon detecting a discrepancy, MINT might post the following on your wall: “You’re spending 15% more on car insurance than 30% of other users.” Some three million members now use the service.

Meanwhile, Best Buy – an electronics chain with a major presence in the United States and Canada – has brought a full shopping experience to Facebook. On the company’s fan page, visitors can find out about its latest offers and directly access the Best Buy online store, as well as recommend new products to their friends.

Twitter, the world’s new sixth sense

To reach as many customers as possible, today’s companies should supplement their official Web sites with special topical pages and social media sites. SAP is leading by example, having added Facebook, the microblogging service Twitter, and a certain information channel to its media repertoire.

According to Marc Drüner, Twitter has established itself as the “world’s sixth sense.” From presidential elections to natural disasters to trade shows, millions of people all over the globe are logging in every day to share what’s happening right now, 140 characters at a time. Twitter accounts are often more up-to-date than the conventional news channels of CNN, the BBC, or Time. Lufthansa provided an example of this when an Icelandic volcano erupted in 2010, essentially shutting down European airspace. The German airline’s use of Twitter to keep its customers abreast of the current situation proved more effective in many situations than its standard telephone hotline.

Predicting the market

Now, there are even services that claim to forecast share prices based on Twitter posts. As various online economics portals reported at the end of 2010, a British hedge fund wants to monitor these messages and act according to the resulting market indications. “Emotional” words used on Twitter will thus soon serve as a means of predicting trends in the Dow Jones index.

The same kind of status updates on Twitter and Facebook are set to make life easier in other ways, as well. Whether you’re looking for a car or an apartment, certain services will make it possible to generate searches and receive special offers. In the U.S., tazaar is already capable of aggregating small advertisements on Twitter, which eliminates the need for searches. Rather than having to seek them out, customers can now let companies come to them.

Lufthansa’s Twitter channel is often more effective at providing customer support than its phone hotline (screenshot: Twitter Lufthansa)

Lufthansa’s Twitter channel is often more effective at providing customer support than its phone hotline (screenshot: Twitter Lufthansa)

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