Facebook started in a few Boston colleges, with students making up all the users. Today, at more than 500 million users, the social networking giant is offering their Universities Page to students, offering deals and tips for students.
From Eddie Bauer and TigerDirect to the less known BlingNation and Coveroo, this is just the tip of the iceberg for Facebook. Knowing that 64 percent of all U.S. consumers have a profile on Facebook according to a recent ExactTarget study, the market seems ready. However, and this is a biggie, “70 percent of consumers who FANNED a brand on Facebook didn’t feel they’d given that brand permission to market to them.” How do you work around this?
The answer is start with the students who respond to selling everywhere because of their comfort level in Facebook. Since they check their friends status a few times a day, this may become the new version of a trip to the convenience store. Not the c-store at college, but the one with the discounts. In fact, the study showed 40 percent of consumers are motivated to fan a company for discounts and promotions. Education and interaction with the brand ranked a mere 13 percent. (Other studies show Twitter is popular for interaction with brands as well as discounts).
There are other companies ready to leverage Facebook, such as Kembrel, who bills themselves as the world’s first private store that can be accessed entirely through Facebook, from browsing to checkout. “By bringing our store to where our customers spend the most time online, our goal is to provide them with the most convenient and relevant shopping experience,” said Cherif Habib, Kembrel’s CEO. “We offer a direct marketing channel to a niche demographic untapped by other private sales sites, as well as a chance to build brand loyalty among an educated, trend-savvy and young demographic,” said Valerie Muvdi, Buyer at Kembrel and a recent college graduate herself. With more than 50 brands signed up and drawing 5,000 new users a week, eCommerce appears to be a growing part of Facebook for a long time to come. Add the mobile device factor and mCommerce seems to be inevitable.
This is creating a marketing dilemma for marketing managers everywhere: where do you send your customers, to Facebook or your home page?
You may have noticed an increase in the number of large companies that are sending you to their Facebook page. In part, they use this method to reach people who they are not e-mailing or otherwise connecting with. The strategy can work for some companies, but can backfire for others.
Consumers want to be more educated about a product – any product – before they step into a store. That will bring them to you and your competitor’s web site. They will pay some premium for better content and communities, but they will be more likely to return where they find answers. Facebook lacks the depth to do this at this point in time. Their “like” button crossing to other web sites is the beginning of the Facebook experience crossing on to the whole web and returning you to “the Mother Site,” Facebook.
Even Kembrel is aware of the limits to the current engagement level of Facebook. They add some really great tips for students on their blog that range from landing a job to articles about a black dress that doubles as a cell phone. Suddenly you care less about Facebook and eCommerce and want to know about the dress. Congratulations, you now get what engagement can do to keep you coming back.
By the way, here is the story about that dress on Mashable.