Brands Can Survive Facebook’s News Feed Changes Through Advocates

By Justin Lafferty 

When Facebook’s redesigned News Feed was announced, with filtering options, many brands worried that users would simply use the “all friends” feed and bypass their messages. But there are still ways that companies can market to fans, and do it through the all friends feed. As Chelsea Hickey, marketing manager of Zuberance, explained to AllFacebook, companies can still get their messages across by catering to brand advocates.

The concept of a brand advocate on Facebook is nothing new. While many people may share content from brands’ Facebook pages, not all users are created equal. Some have a little more clout than others, and are generally more influential when they share content.

It’s these types of Facebook users, Hickey says, that brands need to cater to. People trust a message (even a marketing message) much more if it comes from one of their friends, instead of a company. So when a user sees a coupon offer from their Facebook friend, they’re more likely to engage with it, compared with if the coupon offer came from the brand’s Facebook page.

Although ads can still show up in the all friends feed, according to Facebook, they are not as common as in the main News Feed. Getting into that all friends feed will be important for brands that want to gain influence as Facebook gives users more power over what they see when they log on, Hickey said:

I’ve seen my friends sharing a lot more from brands lately than I’ve seen brands sharing themselves. Also, my friends who aren’t in marketing are really happy about filtering their content. They don’t want to see the brands, but … I think when they’re seeing content only coming from their friends about brands, then they’re more receptive of that information.

Hickey cited a Nielsen global online consumer survey from 2009, showing that 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from people they know, but only 37 percent trust search engine ads and 24 percent trust online banner ads.

How does Zuberance identify people who would be most willing to share messages? Through social media and email, Zuberance asks fans and followers to grade a company on a 1-10 scale. Those who rate the company a 9 or 10 are then noted as brand advocates.

Hickey has helped Mexican restaurant Rubio’s find and reward brand advocates through a simple technique. Fans are asked to join the Beach Club for exclusive offers, and they get rewards for joining. Many times, people will share this to spread the offer of free tacos. Rubio’s also asks fans to remember stories, such as the first time they had a fish taco. Hickey says that these kinds of prompts actually get shared pretty far.

Education institute DeVry has also used brand advocates to grow its influence. The company asks students and graduates to share success stories, and Hickey said that 64 percent of the stories shared on the site were also shared to Facebook. She noted that nearly every shared piece of content also drew an inbound click from a Facebook friend, showing that the message can be easily spread — without buying ads.

As brands that lack high-powered ad budgets seek some way to stay relevant on Facebook’s redesigned News Feed, Hickey said that advocates could be the key to the future of Facebook marketing.

Readers: How often have you shared brands’ message on Facebook, simply because you enjoy the products?

Photo courtesy of Robert Kneschke |