To say there’s been a shift in the way people engage with brands would be a gross understatement — it’s more like a huge leap. But all things considered, it’s not surprising. The rise in social media usage has lent the volume and visibility needed for widespread peer-to-peer recommendations, and consumers have always been better than marketers at influencing other consumers.
What we’re seeing now is actually an outburst of what has always been just under the surface: the true power of word-of-mouth in marketing. And while increasing their presence on social networks is a great way for brands to help swing these exchanges in their favor, digital ubiquity is just one small part of a much larger picture. In order to inspire word-of-mouth, brands have to be where their customers are — which, these days, is everywhere. This includes primary websites, which, despite the popularity of social platforms, still account for the majority of brand engagement
The key is to create opportunities for contextually relevant interactions. Providing consumers with a communication funnel and a reason to share encourages the organic growth of positive endorsements and stories, which can then be passed on to extended social communities. Consumer-to-consumer social marketing programs help brands identify and cultivate their advocates to foster word-of-mouth stories about their brand — I want this pair of shoes, I recommend this brand, I claimed this coupon, I tried this food.
Facebook’s Open Graph
Facebook’s open graph reinforces the importance of fostering C2C sharing. What started as a contained map of C2C relationships and their preferred brands has expanded well beyond Facebook’s walls and the simple like button. With third-party action and object integration, brands can now create contextually relevant interactions across all touch points before driving traffic back to their branded Facebook page.
By giving consumers the tools to share their passions about brands, their actions and expressions can create structured stories about a wealth of consumer preferences, which are then seamlessly distributed to the Facebook timeline, news feed, and ticker for all of their friends to see. Further, the stories will remain “pinned” to the consumer’s timeline in a persistent “brand billboard” of ongoing updates, which tell the story of the relationship between the consumer and the brand.
By strategically and seamlessly combining the center of engagement (the brand website) with the center of relationships (Facebook), brands will finally be able to cultivate word-of-mouth marketing efforts at scale. And for marketers, the insight gained from customer advocates will be priceless.
Owned Media → Earned Media → Paid Media
Facebook Co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself has been known to say that the future of Facebook isn’t on Facebook.com. The fact that Facebook’s product is the consumer was further underscored by the recent unveiling of sponsored stories, which allow companies to purchase ad units of C2C interactions via the open graph to extend visibility, shelf life, and, ultimately, the ability to influence.
The key takeaway here is that using owned media, like your website or email list, will drive earned stories from the open graph into Facebook, and eventually provide insight into which stories could most effectively influence a consumer’s extended network. And investing (paid media) in those instances specifically is certainly money well spent.
Ultimately, by leveraging Facebook’s open graph and the power of consumers, brands can build stronger and incredibly loyal customer bases. Brands will be able to gain insight into their consumers and their consumers’ friends, all while amplifying awareness and maximizing their social media investments.
Angela Bandlow is vice president of marketing at C2C social marketing platform Extole.