Facebook Groups: A Consumer Feature that Doubles as Tool for Brand Marketers?

The following is a brief excerpt from the October 2010 edition of the Facebook Marketing Bible, the comprehensive guide to marketing your company, app, or brand on Facebook.

Facebook Groups — and much of Facebook itself — was not originally intended for marketing purposes. And yet, people all over the world, in every imaginable demographic, have become so highly engaged with the site that brands have gravitated towards its features as tools for promotion. This article discusses the ways in which the newly launched version of Facebook Groups offers opportunities for creative niche marketers looking to target specific audiences organized around shared interests or experiences.

In a simple marketing implementation, guerrilla marketers can join Groups related to their product and post messages to the wall, start conversation topics, ask questions. However, marketers that default to spammy forum posting behavior will most definitely not succeed. Today’s Facebook users are both savvy and sensitive, and Facebook itself has responded to this evolving user standard for promotional material by tightening their own guidelines governing advertiser behavior on the site.

Groups differ from Pages in a few key ways. Unlike Facebook Pages, Groups are not a communications channel designed for brand marketing. Pages allow you to communicate with Facebook users who are your fans – in other words, users who have opted in to receive promotional content that you publish from your Facebook Page via their news feed. Groups, on the other hand, are organizations of Facebook users who have opted in to receive content from (or create content for) their peers with whom they share a special interest or element of identity.

As a channel designed for marketing, Pages offer numerous ways to broadcast to and communicate with users who are fans and with those users’ friends. With a Group, however, admins can send messages to members, but, aside from invites from members, there are no viral acquisition mechanisms to bring new users to the Group.

Why then, are Groups valuable to marketers? Pages allow you two-way communication with Facebook users who are your fans or friends of your fans — they are Facebook’s premier brand marketing tool. Facebook Ads allow you one-way communication with users who are not yet your fans, but whose profile information matches that of your target audience. Groups are different from, and complementary to, both of these options because Groups, if used wisely and sparingly, allow you to communicate in a personal, bi-directional way with Facebook users who are not your fans, but who could be.

For the full article, including specific, adaptable use-cases, please see the Facebook Marketing Bible, October 2010 edition.

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