05/30/2012 01:55 pm ET Updated Jul 30, 2012

Capitalizing on Facebook (Not on the NASDAQ)

Conversations about how brands can use Facebook as an effective marketing tool have been hijacked the last few weeks. Between Facebook's IPO and GM's announcement to claw back $10 million in Facebook advertising, it's been easy for marketers to get side-tracked from the conversation that matters: How can Facebook be used to increase your company's profile and drive revenue?

It may be more exciting to discuss the validity of GM's decision or who's to blame for what's happening on the NASDAQ; however, neither negate the fact that the majority of your client base is still logging into Facebook the same way they did three weeks ago. Yes, that reality may change in the coming months or years, but for now if your company hasn't figured out how to capitalize on Facebook you've got some catching up to do.

Among the companies that have set the pace for engaging and profitable Facebook campaigns is L'Oréal Canada with a total of 1.3 million fans and 20 of its 31 brands actively engaged on the platform.

Behind the significant success online is L'Oreal Canada's decision to create the combined role of Chief Marketing and Chief Communications Officer (CMO/CCO), the first globally for the beauty products giant. While each channel retains its traditional marketing, public relations and communications department, the combined CMO/CCO role, held by Marie Josee Lamothe, looks transversely across all 31 brands to best integrate digital initiatives. This silo-busting approach to business speaks to the commitment from L'Oreal Canada to capitalize on the ever-changing digital reality, gives them a competitive advantage and sets an example for other brands globally.

In terms of market share, L'Oreal Canada holds the top spot in the country with close to 30 percent and in the last year, has earned or reinforced its number one ranking in five beauty brand categories including mass market with L'Oreal Paris, the salon market thanks to Matrix and the male market with their line for men called Biotherm Homme. The company has dominated the Facebook space earning the top rank for beauty, make up and skincare brand pages with L'Oreal Paris, Maybelline and Biotherm respectively.

While Ms. Lamothe can't fairly attribute the uptake in market share only to the company's digital initiatives, there is no denying the increased online presence and commitment to digital platforms such as Facebook has played a significant role in the marketing ecosystem.

At the recent Canadian Marketing Association national summit Ms. Lamothe joined Jordan Banks, the managing director of Facebook Canada on stage to share insights on how L'Oreal has leveraged Facebook and how others can too.

Among the speaking duo's core message: the shift in the marketplace means that your company needs digital to become part of its DNA. To harness the power of digital, implementation needs to be an organizational priority.

Ms. Lamothe explained that, "To transform your digital results is not so much a marketing challenge; rather it's a business model challenge. Social media requires all aspects of the business to engage and integrate digital into what they do and company-wide buy-in is essential." L'Oreal Canada created an internal Digital University which is mandatory for all employees to help accomplish this and shifted 10 percent of its massive advertising budget to digital initiatives.

What hasn't changed is the need to test, measure and learn from marketing campaigns -- regardless of the platform.

While some companies may choose to pull the plug on a platform when they don't see results, Ms. Lamothe would start by adjusting the campaign to better serve the platform. As with traditional advertising outlets, each has its nuances of what works and what doesn't. Campaigns need to adapt to best serve each outlet, but when it comes to digital there just isn't the historical data to know the magic answer.

Many of the same principles that make a solid traditional marketing campaign apply to the digital space as well; they just need to be tweaked to take into account the perspective of each user on the platform in question. In today's changed landscape the goal is to create the ideal 'strategic media mix' according to Mr. Banks. At Facebook they've found the most effective campaigns will have your communication assets intertwine to complement each other. Traditional initiatives such as television and print advertising are still relevant and required, but now, rather than feeding to a website, they may point to your Facebook page.

Mr. Banks shared that social and lightweight content is most likely to get traction. When something is posted, the million dollar questions to answer are "Why would people care?" and "Why would they share?" To really capture the user's attention chose content that will educate the user or elicit an emotional response to make someone laugh or cry. Offers that have currency, meaning that without participation they would not have a chance to do something special, have positive influence and can gain traction. It's also powerful to contribute to a person's 15 minutes of fame or make them feel like they are a part of your brand.

While there is no universal cookie-cutter answer for Facebook success, figuring out your company's sweet spot is critical.

Perhaps, like L'Oreal Canada it means hiring a combined CMO/CCO to oversee a master digital plan. For a smaller company it could mean outsourcing your online initiatives and hiring a consultant. As an independent entrepreneur it might mean working later for a few nights to determine your best online strategy.

Whatever it takes, creating a relevant and profitable digital campaign on a platform like Facebook is a non-negotiable in today's marketplace. Companies that don't learn how to leverage Facebook miss the opportunity because clearly your customers are still there, despite what's happening on the NASDAQ, just waiting to be your friend.