Talking with clients about their Facebook strategy and endeavors, I come across a common concern. It seems that many brands, large and small, see Facebook as an important place to be and a powerful tool but do not understand how it fits into the overall business plan. In other words, Facebook is great, but runs adjacent to the primary business goals.

When this happens, there is another conversation point that inevitably stems from this, “Facebook didn’t work for us before. Do you think it could now?”

Yes, I do. And I believe the answer may be simpler than it seems.

First, get out your pencil.

business plan pictureDraw a picture of your sales cycle. Literally. I do it for every client that comes to us with Facebook trouble. It’s immensely helpful. You may prefer sales funnels (I do). Either way, draw out the process it takes for your consumer to learn about you, to buy from you, and what it takes for them to upgrade or replace that product or service.

The importance of this step is easily overlooked. Facebook marketing (in fact all marketing) will fail if the goals are not clearly stated. Facebook is a platform with a very particular purpose, and therefore what it can accomplish is limited to the purpose of the platform. Being clear about your goals clarifies your Facebook strategy.

The goal of any Facebook strategy is to move a consumer from one stage in the cycle to another. Clarity here will help you set your eyes on the goals you actually want to achieve on Facebook. When you can ask the question, “How can we move people in stage x to stage y in the cycle,” you are setting the metric by which you will gauge success. Simultaneously, you are framing the question in a way that Facebook can give a direct answer.

Second, understand the lay of the land.

When you look at Facebook, what you see is far from what you get, and the entire economy of the system is under the hood, so to speak. Facebook is a digital economy where personal information is traded for engagement with others. We all understand this implicitly, it seems. We don’t just give everyone our personal Facebook data. But, since it is so often implicit, people often forget to ask the question, “What are people visiting my page here to do?”

Well…to be fair, people ask THAT question all the time. A problem ensues, though, when the answer comes back, “to view my content,” or “because they love our brand.”

No. It’s far simpler. It’s basic economics. They are trading their personal data with your brand, so that you will use that data to make their brand experience that much more enjoyable. They are investing in your company, not with cash (which is the ultimate goal) but with a more powerful asset for outreach and brand strategy. They are investing their personal data. They do this with the expectation that you can, in turn, deliver the kind of content, deals, customer service, and any other number of things that they desire.

In addition to this, they are investing their data not merely for their own betterment, but for the betterment of their family and friends. They are telling you who they are, and a decent amount about themselves. They are inviting you to reach out to them.

The topography of Facebook is not the interface and the content strategy; it is the economy. It is an economic trade.

Third, plan.

Once you understand what your customer must do step-by-step to become a user and fan, and you understand that Facebook is not a mere tool but a digital economy, you are prepared to actually make Facebook work for you.

Facebook’s data can tell you how your fans overlap with other brands, what their favorite hobbies are, and what food, art or music excites them. It can tell you who they are by name, their likes and dislikes. It can tell you what they are saying about you, both good and bad. You can find out what pages those users are active on. And…it can tell you this for your competitors’ pages too.

So the key brand question is this, “How can I take their data investment and return it with interest?”

I mean, hey, that’s why we are in a successful business anyway, right? Our customers spend money with us, and we deliver a solid product or service, and we implicitly offer that the experience will continue to be just as beneficial to them. We are promising that by giving us their money, they are getting something better than the cash they spent.  It’s basic business.

What’s funny is that since Facebook is often approached as just another marketing channel, the business basics easily become buried in marketing jargon.

Once the air is cleared in this way, though, Facebook becomes a solution for a host of brand problems. It can answer the advertising/marketing problem, “How can our brand take this data our fans have given us, and help their friends and others like them find us?”

It answers the customer service question, “How can our brand take this data and turn the use of our product or service into a lifestyle decision that makes lives easier, more entertaining, or more relaxing?” It also answers the competitive business question, “How can we take this data and understand how our competitors are reaching our target better than we are?”

Conclusion

Facebook will always let you down if your goals are unclear. And it will spit you out if you don’t see that it’s the data, not the content, that comes first. But when you approach your business goals with the data-capital your fans have invested, and a clear sense of what is important for your business to accomplish, difficult business and marketing barriers become launching pads for growth. All because your fans care enough to give you data-capital.

– Cody Vest

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Cody Vest
Cody Vest is the creative director at Vest Advertising in Louisville, KY. A second-generation Ad Man, he bridges the gap between digital data and ad strategy building campaigns across every kind of media outlet from Facebook to broadcast TV. Cody's interests include building easy ways to get key marketing data from the open systems of the social web, and strengthening traditional campaigns with digital insights.