Brands on Facebook

Damian O’Broin had a short post recently about how non-profits are using Facebook. I decided to have a wander around Facebook to pick out some good examples of how brands are using Facebook to develop and engage communities. I say engage because right now in terms of metrics and social networks I hear marketeers talking about how many friends or comments their social networking page has, but in reality it’s hardly insightful as a short burst of activity hardly builds an ongoing relationship with potential consumers.

In my opinion there are two ways to build brand awareness through Facebook:

  • Engage consumers with applications
  • Leveraging the network for successful events

Ultimately you’d like to combine both tactics. Here’s a couple of examples to bring this to life.

Engage consumers with applications

In terms of commercial applications, the one I’m most impressed by is Paypal’s presence on Facebook. They have effectively extended their service by creating the Paypal badge. The badge allows you to highlight causes and try to raise money within your network. It seems to have had some teething problems, judging by comments on the page, but the overall concept is good given that they’re going to extend the badge application for use on regular websites.

The use of raising money for a cause is particularly clever as it encourages use of the service and you would assume that consumers would think of ways to apply it in other ways, tapping into the peer-to-peer financial services trend which is going to be big business over the next few years.

Leveraging the network for successful events

My favourite example of this is the Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone day in Dublin on April 29th. Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops across the country – and around the world – will serve up any cone or cup of your choice, absolutely free on the day. It’s a clever online tactic to incorporate into your overall communications strategy.

Ideally a Facebook presence should sit within your overall communications strategy, rather than being a stand alone tactic, particularly in Ireland where numbers are too low to really leverage the Internet in certain respects.

I think there is real potential for leveraging sponsorships through social networks, particularly through the use of applications. For example, why hasn’t anyone created a version of Premier League Picks for the GAA Championships?

Two other relevant thoughts about brands’ presence on social networks.

Alex Gibson, who interviewed me recently on the Persuaders, makes the point, in relation to the Mr Tayto Is Looking For Love campaign (which I think is one of the best integrated and consumer PR programmes I’ve seen in a while), that up until recently consumers have had a individually defined relationship with Tayto as a brand. Can social networks help create an individually defined relationship?

I ask the question because another thought in my mind about social networks is who takes ownership of a profile when the campaign is over? By and large a lot of online programmes literally die off and simply exist as cyberjunk until they are renewed or are deleted. In that sense it’s a bit rich of people to say that you can create individual relationships with consumers, if they’re not going to match that commitment with resources.

11 Responses to “Brands on Facebook”  

  1. 1 Damian O'Broin

    Interesting post Piaras. One other way to engage communities worth mentioning is by using the messaging function within facebook. Groups and pages on facebook can be used as effective permission marketing tools. Here are often hundreds, maybe thousands, of people willingly giving you permission to contact them. It could be quite an exciting list building tool. The Guardian are using it effectively with their Mediatalk podcast. Every week I get a nice message telling me that the latest edition is available to listen to / download.

    Now, I must find my local Ben & Jerry’s shop for April 29…

  2. 2 Piaras

    Was unaware of the Guardian’s use of the function. Thanks for flagging that. Hopefully others won’t abuse it.

  3. 3 Damian O'Broin

    … that’s always the danger, unfortunately

  4. 4 Benjamin Boudreau

    I’ve had my ups and downs with Facebook over the past year and a bit, much of it spent promoting a volunteer-run literary journal ( I appreciate the thoughts on the nonprofit-social network relationship but I’m starting to lose some faith.

    A year ago, before the Facebook media frenzy, people were still excited about the social network when they joined. They would check numerous times a day, post comments, and invite friends to groups and events. Regardless of today’s numbers, I think that was the height of FB’s effectiveness for nonprofit groups. Our event pages would soar in numbers thanks to a viral spread, our group page had a modest hustle and bustle, and we were really able to rely on the simplicity of FB to manage promotions in our off-time.

    Now, people have become pretty blasé about the whole experience, chalking most invites up to spam. Expected event attendance can’t be predicted based on FB numbers and it’s next to impossible to truly engage audiences – they’re too busy declining vampire, zombie and hot-or-not invitations.

    We are, however, still finding value in the group membership since it is essentially a database of people who have voluntarily agreed to be contacted with updates and information. That level of engagement would be hard to find elsewhere.

    I still can’t help but feel that the magic and power of Facebook is on the decline and we’re approaching the lull before the next big thing.

  5. 5 Sharon Griffin

    Really interesting piece…thanks.

  6. 6 Paul

    Matching commitment with resources is clearly a problem. After launch or event, everybody moves on to the next campaign. Pity. I did a similar search of brands on bebo this week and (in general) there does not seem to be much in the way of ongoing dialogue between brands and visitors. I suspect agencies and marketing departments will evolve to cater for this.

  7. 7 Piaras

    Marketing departments perhaps Paul, but given that agencies are selling their time they’d be happy to do it for you, except they’d be charging for every second of it

  8. 8 Paul

    hi Piaras, saw interesting post you might like – titled “Most think marketing should manage social media. We think it’s PR”

  9. 9 Piaras

    Yeah I’d read that Paul. It slightly irks me the way agencies in PR, Advertising, Marketing, etc will all profess why they should own a particular comms technique.

    Two thoughts on this one, ultimately social media will be owned by the in-house team as no-one is going to pay an agency 24/7 to manage their online presence (if they are they should just hire someone from the agency team and save a packet in the process), agencies should be retained for their ongoing insights into online comms.

    As to which marketing comms discipline “owns” social media, I think they all do. Ultimately anyone can do social media, they just have to be part of the community.

  10. 10 Vivienne

    Hi Piaras. I like this article and follow your blog. Just to let you know (as you mentioned above) there is now a AA Prediction League on-line game for GAA!(started with Allianz league first, championship will follow). On its frst weekend it picked up 400 users, its still in beta and is being improved as we speak. So you are correct in that there was a gap for this type of app. The app is not in facebook yet, it is just available on

    All the results are updated to the on-line game by text message using the eSports Manager software. ( sofware is used by over 70% of Irish sports bodies). Dont know if any of you out there are GAA pundits but you can pit your wits on the new game.

    Btw there is also a new Facebook App which allows you to get results and fixtures for your favourite team/competition to your facebook profile. this is available for
    for Clubs – GAA, Rugby and Basketball. You can find the link to these apps on Not sure Piaras if you follow any clubs sports in Ireland?

  1. 1 Liberate Media » Blog Archive » Best weekly social media and web 2.0 news round up for week ending 14th March 2008

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