What Does Facebook Connect Mean for Agencies?

pickardThis is a guest post by Jesse Pickard, Social Media Specialist at Razorfish. You can find Jesse on his blog or Twitter.

After spending the last few months digging into the intricacies of Facebook Connect, I’m here to go on the record: Facebook Connect is much more than the latest bright and shiny object. It has the potential to transform the way we interact with the web and the way agencies like Razorfish for which I work to build online experiences.

At Razorfish, I’m tasked with helping our clients integrate community into their web experiences, to make their sites more “social” for lack of a better term and also to deploy marketing programs across the web that foster two way conversations between brands and their customers. In order to be successful, it’s imperative that I constantly question a brand experience’s ability to make people care enough to do things like write comments or build profiles.

When you’re in the thick of a project, there’s a temptation to overestimate how much people actually care about your site. And that’s what’s so exciting to me about Facebook Connect: because users are able to bypass building profiles and a social graph all over again with just one click, building sophisticated social features is now possible for many more brands. Let’s dive into the reasons why.

Higher value user generated content

With a one-click login to Facebook Connect, websites have access to an unprecedented amount of user data. Using this data, sites now have the ability to redefine the way they display user generated content.  Gone are the days where all you will see is content from random avatars. Now sites can surface UGC from actual friends. If your friends haven’t made any actions on the site, then we can surface UGC from people like you – maybe fellow alumni or co-workers.  Say I’m shopping for a TV on Amazon, the 400+ reviews from people I don’t know have limited value to me compared to a review from my friend or even someone I don’t know who is similar to me.

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Get brand content in Facebook without advertising

The strategy of fishing where the fish are is timeless. When time spent online was dominated by the big portals, our media dollars went to buying up ads and unique sponsorships on Yahoo and the like. Although Facebook Connect isn’t an advertising buy, it can accomplish the same goals as one (and in an unintrusive manner).  Brands can get their content into Facebook’s viral channels by letting visitors post news feed stories, status messages, photos, events, and more without leaving the website.

Smart brands and agencies will learn that the key to getting content into Facebook is about providing a meaningful value exchange for each Facebook Connect interaction, not prompting their user to post to Facebook at every turn. If a site is successful at giving users a good reason to post content to Facebook, it can make a world of difference to reach and visibility. The strong impact is only partly due to Facebook’s traffic. When brands appear in Facebook via Connect, the impressions interpreted as an individual’s endorsement of a particular product and are not subject to ad tune-out, making the impression far more valuable.

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Faster logins, instant profiles, and individually relevant services

Facebook Connect and the like are going to make “social network fatigue” a very short-lived buzzword. With Connect, the social network fatigue-inducing process of registering for site, creating a profile and connecting with friends can be completely bypassed with one click. The value of this cannot be understated. While other Facebook Connect benefits can be slightly unclear, skipping registration is something any mainstream web user can appreciate.