Having spent 2009 being beaten in the hype stakes by Twitter, Facebook has started off 2010 with the last laugh. While Twitter’s growth is apparently stalling, Facebook goes from strength to strength and is now, arguably, the world’s largest digital media ‘owner’ other than Google. Its audience is now a very international one, with 70% of users being outside of the US, and its largest audiences are in countries as varied as the UK, Indonesia and Turkey.
With this massive growth has come massive opportunities; not just for Facebook but for brands too. But it has also brought challenges, including one that is cropping up more and more frequently – how should multinational companies manage their Facebook profiles? Globally? Locally? Or, dare I say it, somewhere in between: glocally? For brands with a presence in multiple markets, understanding how best to manage their resources to best provide users with relevant content and ensure the highest possible chance of success in the social marketing efforts, this is a challenge that deserves attention.
Since the launch of fan pages, Facebook has updated their functionality on a number of occasions, but it is, like much of Facebook, still relatively simple, even basic (which, of course, is part of the reason for Facebook’s continued success.) Essentially a brand can publish content and interact with users on the wall, whilst other tabs allow the posting of images, videos and the activation of discussion boards.
A recent development means that brands can now publish content to users based on their country of origin; i.e. you can target your page so that French users see French content, whilst users from the UK see content in English. However, the limitations with this system are that it still only really allows the publication of text or links to other, richer content.
Different solutions for different brands
Over the last year or so, a number of different ways have been used by brands wishing to get around this challenge.
For its Adidas Originals page, the sportswear brand has added a tab called Your Area, which allows users to select a region and then access targeted content. This means that Adidas can presumably manage the page both centrally and locally, and has enabled them to build a massive fanbase of over 2.7 million by not splitting their audience, as well as allowing them to add deeper, richer content to their page.
However, it will also mean that they’ve had to build an entire CMS to manage this. As the content is hosted in a tab, it also means that it’s (relatively) hidden away, though they could, if they wished, set it so that users came straight to the “Your Area” section rather than the wall.
In contrast to this, Starbucks has created a network: a central fan page (which primarily targets the US) and individual ones for local markets. In this way, the coffee chain has built up not only the largest fanbase on Facebook (6 million for the main page) but also a number of targeted, connected (via its Around The World tab) local pages. From these local pages, targeted messages can be sent out, and they also allow local promotions and localised content held in tabs to be promoted easily.
Another benefit of such an approach is that, should they carry out ad campaigns on Facebook for a number of their pages, they will be able to view results for organic impressions (the users who see actions related to the advertising because it appears in the feeds of their friends) by country. With a central page, and campaigns targeting multiple countries, organic impressions can only be traced at a global level, making it harder to target campaigns at countries with the highest propensity to click on organic impressions.
Make sure Facebook is the right solution for your brand
These two examples highlight just two of the most successful ways of implementing a global Facebook management strategy; there are undoubtedly many more and, as Facebook evolves, so will ways of interacting with users from around the world.
Choosing the right way to set up your brand’s profile, or profiles, will depend not only on your users but your own internal structures and how marketing budgets are assigned. But it’s essential that, as with all forms of marketing, whether social, digital or traditional, the solution you choose is one that’s right for you.
And with news this week that AOL is likely to abandon Bebo, where many brands invested large budgets on building profiles & networks of fans, it’s also important to ensure that your investment is one that you can potentially afford to abandon as well as to maintain.
That said, the chances of Facebook doing a Bebo any time soon are about as likely as me being the UK’s next Prime Minister.
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