New Facebook Tool Lets Marketers Host Real-Time Chats With Celebs

But will organic reach issues force more spend?

Jackie Evancho blows up on Facebook.

Twitter has long had a reputation as a real-time marketing platform, making it a go-to site for brands to host Q&A sessions with celebrities and personalities. But Twitter may be losing a few followers as marketers move chats over to Facebook.

VH1, Discovery Channel and Sony Masterworks are a handful of brands testing a new Q&A tool on Facebook powered through marketing platform BumeBox. Previously, the platform only gave marketers moderation and analytical tools to manage social chatter on Twitter. Opening up chats to Facebook will now allow marketers to manage significantly larger fan bases.

Sony Masterworks ran its first Facebook campaign earlier this month to help America’s Got Talent star Jackie Evancho promote her new album. The hour-long Facebook Q&A generated 734 percent more comments than any of the singer’s posts so far this year.

“Jackie Evancho was a no-brainer as a first use because of the great, loyal fan base on Facebook,” said Melissa Goldberg, general manager at Total Assault, Evancho’s social media and digital marketing agency. Based on the results, Total Assault is now looking to run a similar effort on Twitter. The teen singer has roughly 270,000 Facebook and 90,000 Twitter followers.

Discovery Channel also recently ran a campaign on Facebook. The network set up a chat last week to promote the reality show Fast N’ Loud with cast member Christie Brimberry. Discovery Channel boasts 29 million Facebook “likes” and 2.8 million Twitter followers.

But marketers might face different challenges on Facebook than on Twitter. Unlike Twitter, comments on Facebook pop up based on popularity and are not chronological, making it difficult for fans to follow a chat in real time. Plus, Facebook’s organic reach has slipped over the past year, meaning that brands will likely have to layer paid ads on top of earned efforts when running a Q&A to reach a specific audience.

That means brands still need to use both Twitter and Facebook for these kinds of initiatives, said Julie Ask, an analyst at Forrester Research. “This isn’t a question of either-or—this is a question for brands looking for more of their consumers in more places,” she said.

At the same time, more marketers are experimenting with mobile messaging apps—including Snapchat, Whisper and Line—as alternatives to traditional social media for chatting. Advertising opportunities on these apps are still nascent in the U.S., but some apps in Asia have already shown promising results for celebrity marketing.

For example, South Korea’s KakaoTalk brought in $203 million in revenue last year and includes a feature that allows users to follow and chat with their favorite celebrities.

“Does Facebook have an advantage?” asked Brian Blau, Gartner’s research director of consumer technology and markets. “Yes, it has a big audience, but to be honest, there are more technologies that brands are going to experiment with over time.”

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