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2012 is Facebook’s Year: Three Key Trends for Advanced Digital Marketers

2012 is Facebook’s Year: Three Key Trends for Advanced Digital Marketers

By Priya Ramesh (@newpr)

We look forward to another year of providing valuable insight on hot industry trends affecting PR and Communications pros.  Last year same time, I blogged about getting serious with Facebook marketing. Boasting a 800 million user database and reporting close to $1.6B in revenue last year (according to industry speculations), 2011 was definitely the year when Facebook “came of age” as rightly pointed out by Jon Russell of The Next Web. http://thenextweb.com/facebook/2011/12/30/2011-the-year-facebook-came-of-age/. Key developments that marked the growth of Facebook last year include the introduction of the Timeline feature which is now available to all users, the acquisitions of location-based social network, Gowalla and mobile developer Snaptu and more importantly a public apology from founder Mark Zuckerberg on the numerous privacy issues surrounding the network.

While Google+ has amassed about 60 million users since its launch last year and is officially the No.1 contender for the King of Social Networks (Facebook), I still stand by Facebook to be THE social network where brand marketers especially B2C will be investing a substantial portion of their 2012 budget. The biggest reason why I say this is because a good majority of brands are still in the fan acquisition mode and less on the engagement mode. As long as brand marketers focus on quarterly increase in fans and following over engagement, Facebook will continue to be the number one channel to attract new “Likes” because that’s where millions of consumers are spending their time online. According to Neilsen, the average U.S. Internet user spends eight hours a month on Facebook which is four times the amount of time spent on Google.

So as an advanced digital brand marketer, what are some of the key Facebook trends/changes to watch out for in 2012?

1.       Facebook IPO could be both good and bad for users: Even though no official announcement has been made of a possible IPO this year, numerous financial leaks and the Wall Street Journal recently predicted a $10B IPO for Facebook in spring or early summer putting the company at a whopping $100B in valuation. Besides having a huge impact on a global technology scale, the Facebook IPO can mean both good and not so good things for users. Tech Crunch and Forrester predict that as a public company, Facebook will have to be more focused on quarterly numbers to keep Wall Street happy and hence shift gears to more advertising than engagement. This could lead to Facebook becoming an advertising channel versus a “social” channel. Marshall Kirkpatrick, formerly with Read Write Web looks at the Facebook IPO for bigger opportunities for acquisitions and investments in enhancing the platform. Either ways, brand marketers must keep a closer eye on what this IPO holds for them in terms of consumer engagement.

2. Timeline for brands means more story-telling than mere posting of updates: The timeline feature for brands is not released yet but is in the horizon. What
this means for brands is that they need to act more like story tellers than pushing out daily updates. The timeline feature offers a great opportunity for brands to humanize themselves and connect with its community at a deeper level. Just like personal pages where we show off our journey, accomplishments, milestones using the historical timeline feature, brands will also be able to share their evolution. Think of Coca Cola and Ford, two of America’s reputable and oldest brands sharing their brand evolution on Facebook using the timeline feature. If you have spent significant time and money on creating a brand persona, now it’s time to tell your brand’s story on Facebook. If you are putting together your digital calendar for 2012, wear the hat of a story-teller for your brand and try to think of ways to engage your audience through story-telling
on Facebook. Here’s an excellent post from HubSpot on “How to Master the Art of Story-telling to Increase Social Sharing.” 

3.      Facebook gears up for Mobile Ads push in 2012: The social network expects its next 1 billion users to come mainly from mobile devices, rather than desktop computers. More than 350 million users already access Facebook through their mobile devices and with a wealth of social data on a person’s interests and associates; it can help advertisers target potential customers more directly than mobile Web browsers or applications. The acquisition of Snaptu last year signals that Facebook will soon let companies reach out to potential customers with discounts based on location. Facebook is considering putting “Sponsored Stories,” or status updates that involve major brands, within the news feed of its mobile apps and sites, according to a Bloomberg report. With “Sponsored Stories,” brands can choose to pay for an update/Like/engagement and make it an advertisement to increase viral buzz and reach a larger distribution.
I wish you a metrics-driven year of social engagement in 2012. Please be advised that 2012 is the year when social media moves on from the honeymoon phase to a more data driven engagement model. Plan your social media engagement wisely and start with a well thought out strategy before jumping blindly on tools. If you are a consumer brand or involved in cause marketing, Facebook is THE social channel for you. Don’t be carried away with new tools, take your message to digital platforms where your audience is already spending considerable amount of time and kick butt this year!

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