Brulant, my employer, recently completed a study of 100 of the top online retailers to see which ones have a "fan page," a feature that Facebook launched in November 2007. Only 30% of the retailers surveyed had a page out there. Yep, only 30%, despite lots of hype about the platform. That's it? I believe retailers are missing out. According to the study, some of the leading brands currently leveraging fan pages on Facebook include Bath & Body Works, Linens-N-Things and Victoria’s Secret. Among those that do not have a fan page presence are Bed Bath & Beyond, Circuit City, and J. Crew.
Let's take a step back for a minute. I have been using Facebook for several months. Like many, I went through the Facebook cycle of addiction:
- Shock (from my younger-recent-college-grad-cousins finding me online),
- Elation (reconnecting with summer camp, high school and college friends),
- Saturation (deluge of work and professional colleagues' connection requests) and
- Annoyance (no, I don't want to be "bitten," "poked," or compared to a celebrity, but thanks for asking repeatedly).
During this time I have learned much about viral marketing, useful and useless applications, and even met with a Facebook rep to learn about the advertising platform (see Top 10 Things You May Not Know About Facebook...For Marketers). Facebook is a marketer's dream - the platform has an average of 200 data points on each user. As more compelling applications are developed, and Facebook explores new ways to achieve better usability, the potential for "stickiness" is improving. People are spending more time on Facebook (despite recent declines in unique user growth), the company is expanding it's presence globally, and users have more and more platforms to express what they like and dislike. Online retailers should be looking at this as unchartered opportunity. So why are so many retailers holding out?
A 'fan page' is a free profile that a company can set up and maintain, allowing users to declare they like a brand. If consumers like a brand, they can "fan" the page. If they don't like the brand, they simply ignore the page. Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester wrote a thoughful post about "fansumers" explaining the implications to Facebook, in November 2007. The Facebook Page is a surefire way to connect with passionate fans of a brand. There is no requirement to buy advertising on Facebook (although once a company has a page it's easy to do). The "Facebook Pages Insider's Guide," available to anyone who sets up a fan page, describes the opportunity:
Facebook Pages give business the opportunity to build a consumer base, sell products, run promotions, schedule appointments or reservations, share information, and interact with customers...Pages enable customers to interact, learn, purchase, and spread the word about your business to their friends. [emphasis added]
Retailers that are not at least considering whether their customers are on Facebook are missing out on an opportunity. With little to no investment, minimal PR risk, and big upside potential, a page can be set up and become a natural extension of their online presence. There is no need to "push" your page - if a company already has a loyal consumer base the word of mouth proposition will be a good start. With some experimentation and a willingness to interact with "fans" retailers can improve their customer engagement, build brand awareness and take advantage of word of mouth marketing. What is holding these companies back?
Please reach out to me, on Facebook if you like, if you would be interested in a copy of the survey or would like to talk more about Facebook Pages.
UPDATE: Day after this was posted, TechCrunch published metrics on Facebook overtaking MySpace as the #1 social network. Opportunity knocks...
Photo credit: Iain Alexander via Flickr