Facebook Changes Relationship Marketing, Again

The discipline of relationship marketing is already facing waves of changes with social media providing a variety of new approaches and opportunities to communicate with customers.  Optimizing communications with email marketing alone has been an ongoing challenge for companies of all sizes.  Developing an appropriate communication strategy requires understanding the needs, attitudes and behaviors of customers, fine tuning copy and frequency that will resonate with customers a business is trying to reach.

Clearly social media is already having an impact.  Customers opting to follow Twitter streams, join community programs or become “fans” on Facebook are signaling they are opting in to some sort of communication.  I met recently with a financial services company who is leveraging these opt-in communication points to offset email marketing – literally, they are sending less email because customers are choosing to interact with their brands through different vehicles.

Facebook just threw yet another a monkey wrench into the mix. With the ability to “like” any page or content out there with a unique URL, a communication strategist has another dimension to manage.  When a customer “likes” a page, or perhaps even a specific product, the brand then has the capability to communicate directly with those fans.  For example, as a reader if you “like” this blog post (you can choose the verb “recommend” instead, in the settings for the API), I have the ability just like a normal fan page in Facebook to communicate to just the fans of this post.  Facebook creates a ‘ghost’ page only available to the admin, which will allow me to track statistics and see an explicit list of people who “like” or “recommend” the post.

Imagine the applications.  Companies in all industries could consider implications around targeting through Facebook for specific brands, product lines or individual products. A pharma company, for example, could leverage this function to communicate with Facebook users around specific conditions if they happen to “like” a specific treatment.  Retailers could too, except they need to be careful – do they really want to manage communications and fans at a SKU level?  Nike could integrate communications via Facebook likes for fans of Air Jordan, but it’s probably not sustainable for each shoe.  Bookstores could manage communications with folks who “like” historical fiction different those who “like” Manga.

At the big business level I think there is going to be an emerging emphasis on communication management, copywriters and ongoing relationship marketing strategists to digest these technologies and build case studies to drive business results.  Have a favorite example of the application of Facebook’s new “like” API and approach?  I’d love to hear it.

Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn via Flickr – who also provides a template for businesses wanting to create a similar sign

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  • Fully agree with you about the opportunities here. We have rolled out the new FB features in MutualMind platform and clients are very excited. There needs to be better awareness about these changes and how can businesses leverage them without overstepping consumer's privacy. That is the real challenge.

  • gavinthomas11

    Hi Adam,

    Thanks for the post. I've implemented Insight for Domain on our company blog, but am only able to see specific data like daily likes, daily shares, feedback per share, reshare rate, most shared links, gender, age, country, city, and language. We're not able to see specific users that Like our content or open up a stream of communication with them based on a particular post. Is this something you've found out how to do? I'd love to hear your insight on this… thanks again!

  • I know there this would mean great things on the marketing side. On consumer side, it means like invasion of privacy. @mutualmind i agree, it is a challenge. FB and Google have long been ignoring the consumer's privacy. Honestly, the internet used to be a place of anonimity and now it's not. I think FB is just being greedy. They want to be the staple in the world wide web instead of Google. Which admittedly tends to make things easier. But still, I smell invasion of privacy.

  • No question about the awareness. Not only businesses but consumers. I think the changes are so subtle and easy (putting a “like” button on a page is really easy to do, and it's obviously easy to click) that there seems to be no incentive to think through the implications.

  • Hi Gavin,
    I am using the “Like” plugin for WordPress from Bottomless. After trying several, this was the only one that worked with my theme without a lot of reconfiguring. They wrote a post about administering the “ghost” page that gets created when someone likes a page. For example, even if I am not connected to them on Facebook, I can see everyone who “recommends” this blog post. Read more from Bottomless at http://blog.bottomlessinc.com/2010/04/administe… ….hope that helps.

  • Great point Megan. On the consumer side, not only is privacy a concern but just a clear understanding of what people are opting into and how the settings work. While people may opt in, or simply start using the functions, they may not realize the communication implications down the road.

  • You're right. I don't think people are even aware of it.

  • Levi's is also using social media strategy by placing facebook options on their webpage! It is allowing people to directly share it on facebook even though you are not logged in to their website! I believe that is a great strategy to find out other interests and move accordingly! But it is not just enough if we have a many people who like our things rather people who can become our customers! So as a part of engaging people into your network you need to focus on the leads as well !

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