Facebook does two things particularly well. The first is to spread awareness of your brand – particularly when it’s not a household name yet. When you put smart tactics to use on FB such as fun contests or custom polls, people let their friends know about them. That builds awareness of your brand. When an evangelist posts a comment on your FB page, it also shows up on their FB wall. That also builds awareness. When you run ads on FB that direct people to your page there, that builds further awareness.
Even for well-known brands, more awareness is never a bad thing (people have busy lives, and they tend to forget). So what about loyalty? That happens when your fans begin to feel like they have a ‘voice’ in creating what your brand is all about. You encourage loyalty by asking for opinions, rather than using FB as a place to sell. A good rule of thumb: the more you involve evangelists in decisions about product, packaging, good works programs and even marketing, the more loyalty you inspire.
If you think about product purchase as something that begins with brand awareness, you start to see the true value of social marketing. First, people have to know you exist. Then they can find out more about you. Brand evangelists and other marketing efforts allow that to happen.
So even though Facebook, Twitter and YouTube aren’t customer acquisition tools – they are the best tools available right now for getting your brand name in front of potential customers.
It’s important to remember that product purchase is a path. The path begins with awareness. Next comes consideration. (This is where brand personality, reputation and product benefits come into play.) Finally, there’s the choice of whether to buy your product, or not. Facebook doesn’t have much to do with the 3rd step, but it’s all about the first.
When you use social media correctly, that’s when it works best to help potential customers down the path. Make the journey fun for them. Show fans that they matter. Keep them in the loop. And of course, make sure you’re creating something that they’ll feel really good about when they ultimately do decide to become one of your highly-valued customers.