10/07/2011 02:02 pm ET | Updated Dec 07, 2011

800MM and Counting... Where's Your Brand?

Let's say you're a brand manager or a newly-minted social media director of a mid-to large-sized brand. You sit down one day to look at your Facebook presence. Or more importantly, to start analyzing your engagement levels across social media. Chances are, you're going to fit into one of these five buckets:

  • Newbies: no Facebook presence... unlikely. Or unlikely you'll have the brand gig much longer. Even if it's not much to look at, someone in your org already dipped the collective toe in the water and threw something up! Executive buy-in? Your CEO probably still has their emails printed out and read to them.
  • Organics: You set it up but didn't do very much at all; people who love your brand, naturally banded together. You post some news and stuff on the page from time-to-time, no big deal. Your CEO just got onto LinkedIn and thinks it's pretty cool.
  • Cheapies: you spent a little dough, bought some fans, and have a sneaking suspicion they're not really that valuable for your brand...but, how can you really tell? The CEO keeps asking "what are we doing in social?" and tells you how awesome it is that he can "tag" people in FB photos.
  • Diggers: you spent A LOT of dough, bought a boatload of fans, and your app/page has 5-10 different apps, tabs, offers and stuff you don't even recognize anymore. The CEO emails the board weekly that "we're catching up to our competitors' fan numbers" and still finds you daily to tell you his "like" count.
  • Nirvanas: you've got this whole social ecosystem sorted out. Your fans are monetizing. You're tracking ROI in 6 dimensions, you're running all three/six/nine "Sponsored Story" types and your always-on, real-time page management (and ad management) modules are optimizing every 10 seconds, based on a proprietary social graph analysis. The CEO is hanging out in your cube.

So, by a show of hands, who's a 5?

Naturally, Nirvana remains elusive for most companies and brands who are somewhere in the middle, but a small set of general principles can be applied to Organics, Cheapies and Diggers, which help move the organization toward a more user-centric and meaningful social position.

Here are three (3) keys to success that we've seen with brands in the space that are doing Social well:

  1. Analyze Your Existing Fan Base. Seems logical, right? You'd be surprised how many brands don't take the time to do this critical 1st step. Figure out where you are; who are these fans and how do they map to the consumers you traditionally sell your product to? It's important to not only understand their demographic profiles, but also the "interest clusters" which can help you drill-down to those people who have a genuine affinity for your brand. If you're like most, you'll want to go beyond the standard set of metrics Facebook provides - there are companies (yes, like ours) which help with this, but even a little exploration on your own can yield good insights.

  • Leverage Organic Fan Segments. Even if you're a "Digger" and bought your fan base that now bears little resemblance to the people who actually buy your product in the real world; there are likely quite a few brand advocates for whom relevant messages possess real resonance. They may currently be drowned out in the wash, but if you can capitalize on your analysis and use things like Sponsored Stories (which also use targeting), you can more easily locate those real brand fans.
  • We worked with a luxury car brand who determined that most of their 3MM+ fans were half the age of their average buyer and were therefore unlikely to buy. That said, within their group we isolated at least 200,000 core users which the brand could start to build some productive programs around...and get these core folks to start sharing brand-related content with their amenable peers. This is essential, since every "degree of separation" provides a weaker signal; brands must logically start with their strongest fans, and branch out in concentric circles.

  • An Always-On Testing Mentality. Most brands we've talked to are primarily accustomed to thinking in terms of big campaigns and short-term "burst" initiatives; but, the always-on, dynamic nature of social media compels an everyday learning approach. Every test you can do - when the stakes are low - equates to a greater chance of success when volume is needed and the stakes are much higher. Rapid deployment and consistency are important as you test. The smart use of Facebook ads (including Sponsored Stories) targeted to segments of your user base and their connections ("friends of fans") allows you to try out messaging, discover attention-grabbing images and figure out what whom...when...and eventually, why.
  • Your fan page posts may only be seen by 3 - 7.5% of your fans, according to recent numbers compiled by All Facebook, but when reinforced by this new form of social retargeting, you can ratchet up your engagement stats.

    And while the CEO may not be hanging out in your cubicle, perhaps they'll at least start talking to you in the break room.