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TechnologyJan 21, 2010

“Face” the facts and join the trend: The Facebook eCommerce Partnership

Anna Lubinsky

In need of a new, cost effective marketing campaign? Creating a company Facebook page is the answer. I joined Facebook in 2004 when I was a sophomore in college. At the time Facebook was only available to a select group of colleges and required a specific “.edu” email in order to become a member. Back then Facebook allowed users to create their own public relations campaigns shared primarily between close friends and classmates. So much has changed in the past six years with the addition of applications, a live news feed, photo albums, video and fan pages. Now any and everyone can register for an account and many of the top e-commerce businesses have capitalized on this social networking resource to create “souped up” public relations campaigns to market to consumers, i.e. their “fans.”

I took a look at the Internet Retailer’s “2009 Hot 100 Retail Web Sites” list and selected ten companies across industries to research: Amazon, Walmart, Blockbuster, iTunes, Gap, Estee Lauder, Dunkin Donuts, NASCAR, Staples and Best Buy. My method was simple: visit the company’s website, search for the link to Facebook, and browse through the fan page looking for any parallels. Of the ten, half had Facebook affiliation advertisements and four had direct links: Walmart, Blockbuster, iTunes, and Estee Lauder. NASCAR made me scour through tabs (Community then Widgets) to finally come across an advertisement but no direct link. Of the four companies who were proud to broadcast their Facebook affiliation they all dedicated the bottom third of their homepage real estate to placing a small widget icon. My favorite of the web sites was Walmart’s whose icon provided a link to their “Connect & Save” page that highlighted all their social networking mediums. Specifically for Facebook, they itemized their three fan pages (Walmart, Walmart Beauty and Walmart Soundcheck) suggesting that they take their social media affiliation efforts seriously. As for the other companies: Amazon, Gap, Dunkin Donuts, Staples, and Best Buy there were no provided links or Facebook advertisements on their home pages. Amazon happened to garner the year’s top e-commerce honors and probably turned their nose up to Facebook simply because their service demand is always through the roof.

Now let’s look at the specific fan pages on Facebook. These pages provide a one stop shop for all demographics who just want a quick update on some of their favorite stores or services. Nine of the ten companies had company created fan pages with Amazon having only user created pages. The most popular features were to be expected, ones that most effectively market and advertise to users: photos, video, featured items and events. Of course I was more interested in companies that stepped out of the box like Walmart and Staples and used their Facebook real estate to highlight their charitable organizations and environmental campaigns, or iTunes and Best Buy that offered their fans gift ideas based on holiday, gender, and age. Two companies decided to network with Twitter: Dunkin Donuts advertises opportunities for their fans to “Tweet and Compete” in various naming contests and Best Buy points users to their Twelpforce to ask tech related questions in “tweet” form. In an article on mashable.com by Samir Balwani called “5 Elements of a Successful Facebook Page” he highlights this social media cross networking advantage. Other elements include: creating a resource so your page is not just a connection hub but also provides demographic specific information, create contests, and empower a pre-existing page that has already been created by fans (an unsanctioned page) and partner with them to really “soup up” your advertising efforts and simply reward their dedication.

So take advantage of the world’s most popular social media platform. “Face” the facts of capitalizing on an ever increasing trend, take a “page” out of some of 2009’s hot retail website Facebook pages, and incorporate some of Samir’s top elements to create a new, cheap and effective marketing campaign! While you‘re at it create your own personal profile and start networking!

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