Brands put millions of dollars into spreading their messages over Facebook, but it turns out that it’s the users who are the most powerful marketing tools. Through Facebook’s open graph tools, brands are letting users share deals, post stories, and become beacons of information to build brand awareness and drive sales. Angela Bandlow, vice president of marketing for Extole, talked with AllFacebook about how users are becoming a more important part of the equation.

Bandlow pointed out a handful of cases where companies worked with Extole to build their brands, finding that the best way to do that is to let the users become advocates. Facebook users tend to trust and like posts that their friends make more than they do companies, due to the personal relationships. Facebook’s open graph is allowing brands to become part of that relationship.

Roku, which makes streaming entertainment devices for television, worked with Extole in 2010 on a campaign combining Facebook, Twitter, and email. It was a simple deal: For each user that a Roku user successfully referred via social media, they got a free month of Netflix, and their friend got $5 off a Roku box. According to Extole statistics, the campaign generated more than $250,000 in revenue in six months and accrued 40,000 customer advocates.

Bandlow spoke with AllFacebook about the importance of letting users speak on brands’ behalf:

The core concept behind that is: What’s going to motivate your consumers to share about you? Generally, we find that if there’s something in it for them, and something in it for their friends, they’re much more likely to share it. The concept of the referral project is, “You know what? I love this brand; I’m going to tell you about it, and by the way, I’m going to get $10 off my next purchase, and you’re going to get $10 off your first one.” Word of mouth generally converts at three times to five times higher than just regular brand advertising, and we actually generally see it being higher than that. Or the, “Wow, I just got this coupon and I think you’ll really like it. I’m just going to share it with you because I think it’ll be interesting to you,” and making things viral that way.

Another example Bandlow offered is when a children’s retailer ran a back-to-school campaign with Extole using Facebook open graph technology. Utilizing a Facebook application, participants could enter an instant-win sweepstakes for a $100 gift card. To get to the next level (friends of fans), users who didn’t win could refer their friends via Facebook or Twitter. If the friend won, the referrer earned a gift card, as well. The goal of the sweepstakes was to generate 10,000 participants. It did much more than that, earning more than 27,000 entries.

For every person who entered the sweepstakes after seeing a promotional message from the brand, three more people participated based on earned media recommendations. The earned media stories and sponsored stories reached an audience of nearly 4.8 million on Facebook.

Readers: How often do you share a brand’s message on Facebook?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.