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Do brands have what it takes to help facebook succeed?

March 4, 2012

Consumers clearly have a problem with the current state of brand content; a new study by ExactTarget identified it as a key reason that people are breaking their connections with brands.

Reasons for unsubscribing from emails

- 49% because the content became repetitive and boring over time
- 25% because the content wasn’t relevant from the start

Reasons for un-liking brands on Facebook

- 44% because the company posted too frequently
- 43% their wall was becoming too crowded with marketing posts
- 38% the content became too repetitive

Reasons to stop following brands on Twitter

- 52% the content became repetitive and boring over time
- 41% their Tweet stream became too crowded with marketing posts

It was against this challenging backdrop for content that Facebook announced its determination to play a key role in transforming the nature of brand communication.

The company made its intentions clear this week with the massive launch of the new suite of tools for advertisers.

The evolution of Brand Pages with the addition of timeline gives brands something of a formidable challenge. The Brand Page as newly imagined, is an entirely new channel in its own right, because it’s a place for brands now can use a diversity of content to connect with consumers, but it’s not about campaigns, or news stories, but instead it’s a new canvas for brands to connect.

The media giant is also offering advertisers the chance to accelerate their reach and frequency with the imaginatively named- Reach Generator, which seems more of a traditional digital play and a way to expand the reach of good content, but it’s one where it remains to be seen how consumers respond to the potential bombardment. The whole thing could easily backfire, given what the ExactTarget data (highlighted at the start of the post) tells us about marketing overload.

As the Facebook presenters made clear at their conference, success on Pages with Timeline isn’t going to be about advertising campaigns, but about the continuous creation of compelling content through storytelling that generates ongoing engagement.

This is new and potentially revolutionary because it’s going to require considerable effort, discipline and imagination on behalf of brands and their agencies to get right. This is not Facebook as usual, it’s going to demand deep strategic thinking, first-class creativity and attention from senior brand leadership. This isn’t something that can now be delegated to a junior, or falsely believe that it can be managed itself. Think real-time co-ordination and response of multiple internal and external resources that all need to be channeled around a single entity.

First out of the gate, we’ve seen brands opening up virtual museums, using timeline to tell their history, but hopefully this is just the first stage of many that we are going to see moving forward.

It’s clear, we’ve been waiting a while for Facebook to offer a compelling canvas for brands to engage with consumers and it seems that they now have it. The problem is that it’s now more challenging than ever- it demands brands pay much more attention to what they are doing on Facebook, they invest more time and bandwidth into creating compelling content, not just once, but all the time.

It remains to be seen how brands and agencies respond to the multidimensional challenge (strategic, creative, financial, organizational) and if they seize the potential that lies at the heart of Brand Pages to find new ways to engage, if not, brands and Facebook are unlikely to see the returns they want and so desperately need.

In short, Facebook’s future now depends on the willingness of brands to invest not just the money, but also the considerable time, effort and energy that its going to take to transform their communication approaches and that answer depends entirely on one thing, ROI.

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