Reading Sang Kim’s, CEO and Founder of Ripple6, excellent Why Facebook Is A Tactic, Not A Strategy article got me thinking. Is Facebook friend or foe, hero or villain? Can one site really manage 300,000,000 people fairly with loving kindness for all? Could Facebook become a Chimera, “"a thing of immortal make, not human, lion-fronted and snake behind, a goat in the middle, and snorting out the breath of the terrible flame of bright fire”? *
Sang Kim’s company Ripple6 helps companies create social networks. He doesn’t hide his agenda, but offers expertise and insight. He is VERY insightful about how Consumer Package Goods companies operate. I’ve worked for a few CPG’s, as Sang liked to call them, and he is right on their social psychology. We discussed how pendulums tend to swing violently in CPG land and how manic this can make marketing.
Facebook is the current online marketing rage. As I write this there are probably hundreds of large company IT groups combing Facebook’s API to see how to embed their presence inside of FB’s network like 1-800 Flowers. Sang asks an important question. Does your company / brand belong in Facebook? Ever crash a party? How well were you received? I’ve only crashed a single party and got pushed into the pool. Not fun.
Sang points out any market of 300,000,000 can’t be ignored, but he also tells you why you will never address 300MM people. Facebook isn’t stupid. They’ve kept their advertising in proper scale, small and off to the side. They use sophisticated algorithms to fire ads RELEVANT to your profile. They also, and Sang hints at this, retain 100% control of your presence on their site. That is worth repeating. Your store using Facebook’s API is NOT, in the end, in your direct control. You have to hope the rule of mutual benefits protects your FB store from double secret probation rules you broke not even knowing they were there or a change in management philosophy or direction. Would Murdoch or Cuban run Facebook the same way?
If you see sand castles as you read you are getting it. The secret code inside of Sang’s Tactic or Strategy article is be careful of tides you don’t and will never control. Facebook with too many commercials becomes MySpace. This is an old problem. I like to live in funky places where artists live. Problem is money follows cool and money always changes things. Money changes the very things you moved to a funky side of town to avoid and this is true for downtown real estate and online properties.
I respect anyone who can turn down a check for a billion bucks and the young Mark Zuckerburg’s fidelity to his beliefs bodes well for Facebook’s ability to walk a fine line between community and commercial. I agree with Sang’s advice suggesting presence and his counsel to keep options as open as possible. He suggests Ripple6, his social network in a box software. I’ve been looking for social network in a box and there are several, but Ripple6 seems the most “like me”. Ripple6 understands my CPG mindset and frame of reference better than anything we’ve found.
Red oceans are why I would never follow a manic marketing crowd. Red because the ocean is so crowded fish are eating each other. What does it mean to have your brand underneath Facebook’s? For some, FB’s brand will lift legitimacy and credibility, for others it will be neutral and it will LESSEN THE VALUE OF SOME BRANDS. A house is what you are buying or building and you are building it on THEIR property. I am not saying DON’T use Facebook in your company or brand’s marketing plan. I am saying use Facebook in ways that are beneficial to your company such as:
- Facebook makes companies feel more like living organic entities, something they always are since any company is made up of people.
- Facebook used in creative ways supports any brand. Look at how Ideo uses FB to reinforce their out-of-the-box-creativity (click on the sticky note below Open Conversations), an important part of their brand, without giving away the farm. Ideo is Ideo and Facebook is Facebook in this application. Ideo respects FB's boundaries and limitations. This respect means Ideo’s brand message is supplemented by FB not eroded.
- Facebook’s psychology is positive so respectful presence can feed off of an existing positive emotional infrastructure, but make no mistake about Facebooks NO LOGO message. If protesters carry signs about your company protesting the WTO move onto Facebook VERY carefully. You’ve entered a room where there are many who HATE you and can pull in large groups of friends to HATE you too. If you are honest, transparent, walk your talk and have dedicated resources ready to run down every problem and respond to every nit then, and only then, should you be thinking of a FB presence. If when I say, “No Logo”, it means nothing to you then you aren’t ready (by half). Chance favors the prepared mind and the Internet can grid up an unprepared mind in about a second, so do your homework BEFORE you mistake a tactic for a strategy.
- Absence from Facebook can make you and your brands feel old hat, out of touch and been there – done that. Here’s the thing. If your brand is old hat then no amount of Facebooking will help. Truth is the only currency that lasts on the web and it can take a LONG time before truth sorts itself out. If truth is your brands are boring and dying then fix the problem. Make great cool stuff or go home. If you don’t make great cool stuff and are on a milk run that’s fine, but don’t spend a dime trying to artificially “cool up” your brand. Doesn’t work and just makes your brand or company look older and more out-of-touch. Embrace your truth whatever that truth is. Facebook can’t fix brand cracks it just accentuates them.
- Sang’s point about appropriate conversations in appropriate places is a very important Facebook marketing concept. I recommend movies and products to Facebook friends all the time, but IT IS MY IDEA TO DO SO. See the problem? To the extent you smother my natural curiosity you wreck what you are trying to accomplish. If that sounds like CATCH-22 it should because it is. I noticed this CATCH-22 writing to press years ago. Better to write a “here is who we are and we can help if you want” note than a traditional press release. Create the relationship and you can have the conversation. Blather at me and I have 9 different ways to make you go away or worse. What is worse than being ignored? Tick off the wrong connector and your brand is screwed, blued and tattooed. If Seth Godin blogs about the lousy meal at your restaurant, dirty room at your hotel or lousy customer service on your site I suggest 1. KNOWING about the problem via monitoring services,2. FIXING IT and 3.BLOGGING IT (or Walling It) after asking permission to do so. It is important to get your story out to Google. Seth is a good fair guy. If you fix it he is liable to spend more words, think of words in this context as money because they are, giving praise than he spent noting the problem. Since FB is omnipresent, it can serve as a universally understood way to provide feedback. Once something is on the wall other fans may help you resolve the problem (NIRVANA) or your response can bring out similar problems helping you resolve previously hidden problems (NIRVANA AGAIN). This type of Facebook application uses the power of the group in your favor keeping your company involved in conversations about your products, brands, people, service or whatever…
I write this post knowing some young Brand Manager is banging on the Facebook drum this minute. “We got to be there,” I can hear her saying to her boss, “X, Y and Z are there.” Red oceans are red because there are so many fish there they eat each other. Facebook is pink now and be red soon, so build a small castle that contributes to your brand and company’s power. To that young brand manager I would advise, as Sang Kim does, UNDERSTAND Facebook is a TACTIC not a STRATEGY.