Does your brand get Facebook?

A new Altimeter Group report identifies eight success criteria for Facebook page marketing — and points out that brands have a long way to go applying those criteria successfully. I encourage marketers to read it. The report is free, and Altimeter is a leading authority. (Note: my employer Razorfish was among the 34 contributors.) Now that I’ve read the report, I have a few observations of my own:

  • The very existence of the report is significant. It wasn’t too long ago when social media pundits questioned whether brands even have a rightful place in the social world. It wasn’t cool to suggest that a big corporation can and should use social to build its brand. “People want to talk with other people, not brands,” was the conventional wisdom. But conventional wisdom was wrong. Consumers are happy to interact with brands — in-store, online, and yes, in the social world. But as the report points out, companies need a lot of help figuring out the rules of the game for social branding. By identifying eight critical success factors for Facebook page marketing, Altimeter seeks to help define those rules. For instance, brands need to participate in a dialog. SAP regularly responds to posts on its Facebook wall with meaningful comments from a real person. Sounds like common sense, right? And yet only half companies assessed by Altimeter were deemed to have achieved “maturity” for participating in dialogue. But I wonder if the social media pundits share some of the responsibility for the lack of maturity for putting so much emphasis on empowering consumers and not enough on helping companies also become empowered?
  • I noticed the report did not identify transparency as a success factor. The omission of transparency again shows how social is maturing. There was a time when transparency was all the rage — as if being confessional was a requirement for effective branding in the social world. But being transparent does not equate to being a good marketer. Look at Apple — a great brand because it retains a mystique by not giving away too much. Unfortunately, tansparency has become a catch-all for marketers too lazy to exercise good judgment and discretion. Marketers need not reveal how the sausage is made or invite consumers to explore every nook and cranny of their products and services in order to be effective. Instead, I like how Altimeter advocates authenticity — for example revealing the names of people from your company who are interacting with consumers on your Facebook page. Or making sure the people who manage your Facebook page write their own replies to customers using a conversational tone rather than outsourcing the conversation to someone else and claiming it as your own. But, more so than having an authentic style? Being authentic to your brand. And therein lies a crucial difference between authenticity and transparency. A company that wishes to maintain a mystique about its brand should exercise greater discretion about what and how much it says. (By the way, Augie Ray of Forrester Research discusses the difference between authenticity and transparency here.)

The complete success factors:

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For more analysis, check out this blog post by author Jeremiah Owyang.

Consumers are the content in stunning Forever 21 ad

Times Square Billboard by Space150 from Cliff Kuang on Vimeo.

There is no such thing as intrusive advertising so long as advertisers provide great content to consumers — and in the case of a new Forever 21 billboard ad, consumers are the content.

Here’s how the ad works: pedestrians strolling through Times Square in New York notice a mirror reflection of themselves projected on a giant interactive billboard above the recently opened Forever 21 clothing retail store. We can wave at ourselves onscreen and do all the other impulsively silly things that pedestrians like to do when we stop and gawk. And then the fun really begins: a model appears on the billboard and appears to pluck one of pedestrians off the street. The model kisses the digital image of the pedestrian, tosses the person back into the crowd, or places him or her in a shopping bag. Other times, the model takes a Polaroid snapshot of pedestrians and waves it to everyone watching from the street — a snapshot of us.

I “saw” (or rather experienced) the ad myself by happenstance June 30 as I was walking on Broadway. What I noticed first were the smiling people jamming the sidewalk, with their fingers pointing upward. Even though I was in a rush, I just had to stop what I was doing and find out what had captured everyone’s interest. I quickly found myself being entertained like everyone else. I did not feel like I was staring at an ad even though I was. And yes, I looked for my own tiny image projected amid the “digital crowd” high above Times Square. I even shamelessly waved and wondered if I might be one of the lucky people who would be slipped into a shopping bag.

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The ad works because it is, quite simply, fun. The ad also reminds me of how a good movie comedy creates a communal experience among strangers gathered temporarily in one place. Somehow I don’t think the ad would be as fun if I were all by myself on a deserted road. In the context of Times Square, though, the ad feeds off the energy of the crowd and, in turn, energizes us. Really part of the fun is watching others beside you on a crowded sidewalk experience the same realization you just had: the initial puzzlement and curiosity etched on the face of a jaded business person or tourist, the upward gaze, the expression of surprise as we realize the image we are watching is us, and then the laughter when the model onscreen starts to engage with us. You can read more about it in Fast Company.

How many ads have you seen that literally stop traffic and make people wave happily at the sky? Kudos to agency space150 and to designer Chris O’Shea, whose his own Hand from Above project in London inspired the work.