Austin F

Critical Lessons from Facebook in Modern Marketing

Est. Reading Time: 12 minutes

Approaching its 10 year anniversary as a platform, Facebook has come a long way from the dorm rooms at Harvard. Despite its humble beginnings as a social sharing site for undergrads, Facebook has expanded and matured to be the number one social site in the world with apps, a marketplace, and even its own currency. Facebook has no geographical boundaries, and the amount of information it collects from a billion users across the world is staggering. The potential of such information is enough to make any marketer salivate.

The wonderful thing about Facebook is that it is continually growing and evolving. Even today, there are potential uses for Facebook that just haven’t been exploited to their fullest effect. It all boils down to the marketing goals. Some companies are content to use the standard post and comment features to create a 1-on-1 engagement with their customers. Others use it as an opportunity to leverage the viral nature of Facebook and bring in new customers through that portal. Even long established companies have found ways to foster new communities around their brands. Still more have created their own applications, e-commerce portals, and coupon delivery mediums. The list is mind-boggling. With so much variety and potential, it’s difficult to nail down any one way to use Facebook successfully. That being said, there are solid and well-supported guidelines to follow.

Facebook is about community, not bottom lines. That’s what Facebook is at its core; a large and dispersed community with a myriad of interests. A successful Facebook campaign will position itself to identify the known target segments and offer them something valuable in return for being a part of that community.

Using Facebook as a marketing tool is a bit like setting off fireworks. If you know what you’re doing, the results can be spectacular. If you don’t, then the blowback can cause serious damage to your reputation. Among other things, Facebook is highly visible, so having a solid plan in place is critical to success.

Companies that have used Facebook successfully take different approaches, but at their core, they are customer-centric. The following are examples of techniques successful companies use to engage customers:

  • Establish fan communities around their brands and offer exclusive content, tips, and contests.
  • Offer content that customers find useful, informative, or fun for free.
  • Interact with customers on a one-to-one basis and take interest in their personal cases.

Companies that fail typically:

  • Use Facebook as a means to blast ads on their walls and customer newsfeeds.
  • Offer no unique content or helpful information, or frequently talk about themselves.
  • Rarely respond to customer contents or show little to no signs of even monitoring the page.

Although the concepts aren’t new and are certainly not unique to Facebook, companies continue to make common mistakes that result in either a lot of wasted effort, low ROI, or even damaged reputations.

Marketing Applications

Because of its versatility, Facebook has an unimaginable number of applications in marketing. One of the wonderful things about Facebook is that because the barriers of entry are so low, there is more opportunity to see creative strategies emerge than in traditional advertising media. The following are just a few examples of some great campaigns and some not-so-great ones:

Home Depot

thumbs-up Home Depot’s page focuses on the customer. The most obvious graphic on the page is the cover photo, which speaks to concerns customers might have: organizing their homes or updating their bathrooms. Home Depot also tells their customers very clearly what to expect on their Facebook page:

“Welcome to the official page of the Home Depot — a fun and collaborative place for home improvement doers to find inspiration and motivation to tackle their next project.”

In one succinct sentence, Home Depot welcomes the customers, confirms who they are, identifies the type of people that would be interested in this page, what customers can expect to find there, and, for added benefit, lets customers know that it is meant to be fun.

In addition to the standard Facebook features, Home depot has several tabs and application to make their page more engaging, such as Photos, Create a Giftcard, Instagram, Events, How-to Videos, and Locations—all centered on what their customers might want. They also show it by monitoring their wall and responding to customer concerns.


thumbs-up Coke’s page is also customer centric. Their cover photo shows people from around the world and shows the company’s support for the UN Global Survey. They too have a well-written about statement:

“The Coca-Cola Facebook Page is a collection of your stories showing how people from around the world have helped make Coke into what it is today.”

Coke also has apps for “Your Stories” videos, and photos. The common thread between these two pages is they both leverage the power of user-submitted content. Customers are more likely to share their own pictures with their friends rather than something an ad agency has come up with. According to, the Coke page is the top performing consumer brand page on Facebook as of April, 2013.

thumbs-down Many companies make the mistake of duplicating marketing efforts on Facebook, thinking that by attacking users with the same messages they’ve seen before in a different medium, it will somehow have a more consequential effect. Such tactics are often ignored and can even be reviled. For example, a company with a typically poor reputation will find itself an immediate target for diatribe and complaints. Best Buy, for example, suffers from operational, policy, and customer service problems, all of which surface on their Facebook page. As of August 11, 2013 at 3:35 pm EST, the top three comments on Best Buy’s page are all complaints. Though monitoring customer dissatisfaction is a perfectly legitimate use for a public forum, it is more of an operational tool than a marketing tool at that point (unless of course great customer service is part of the marketing plan).

If we breakdown BestBuy’s page, we see that their cover photo describes the company as “America’s Back to School Techfitter.” The About statement tells nothing about what users can expect to find there. “Making technology work for you.”

There aren’t many areas for user-submitted content, unless you count complaints. And their photo album is packed with promotional material telling customers what is available at Best Buy.

bestbuy album

Although the company has over 6.7 million likes on its page, that alone does not tell the whole story. For instance, a clever campaign to offer discounts to anyone that “likes” their Facebook page. The results are inflated likes, but no more brand loyalty than before.

Best Buy’s page is a good example of what not to do. They make everything about the company, not the customer, as a result, much of the page shows unheeded advertisements and customer complaints.

Other Marketing Tools on Facebook

thumbs-up Facebook offers a flurry of other tools for marketing purposes as well. For example, Facebook has its own pay-per-click advertising platform, where business can create ads and target them similar to Google Adwords. One of the benefits of Facebook is that targeting can be deeper and more relevant because of the amount of information Facebook collects about user interests and likes. Ads can be targeted on gender, location, likes, page fan-status, and more.

For any company with a development budget, Facebook also allows custom applications. Many companies have taken advantage of this by offering games, quizzes, tips, sign-up forms, contests, and daily coupons just to name a few. Savvy marketers also know that these applications can be a source of additional analytics, such as clickthrough rates and different conversion rates.

Since Facebook opened its doors to the general public and provided support for businesses, countless companies have tried to utilize the platform to its own advantages. What companies found were that the nature of the audience was drastically different. Users didn’t go on Facebook to see advertisements. Despite the sophisticated levels of targeting, Facebook ads have never come close to the ROI from advertising on the Google Ad Network. Successful companies adapted to their strategies to better conform to how users behaved on Facebook. Other companies that tried the more traditional internet advertising and one-way communication styles saw their returns quickly drop.

Performance Metrics

When Facebook opened its doors to businesses, many companies joined up, especially smaller companies and startups because the cost of entry was free. But the metrics they found on Facebook weren’t the familiar clickthrough rates or conversion rates. Instead, they were faced with terms for Engagement, like “likes” “virality” and more. These measures illustrated the fundamental difference in the role Facebook would play in a marketer’s communication toolbox.

Every Facebook page has an Insights application open only to page administrators. This app allows admins to gauge how much interaction their pages are getting. The types of metrics are as follows:

Posts: how many posts the company has made on its own page.

People Talking About This: the number of unique people that have created a story about your page.

Weekly Total Reach: the number of unique people that have seen any content related to your page.

Engaged Users: the number of unique people that have clicked on a company post.

Virality: the percent of people that have created a story about your page post out of the number of people who have seen it.

Likes: the number of unique people that like your Page broken down into the following demographics and location categories:

  • Gender and Age
  • Countries
  • Cities
  • Languages Spoken
  • New Likes total
  • Unlikes
  • Like Sources (i.e.: news feed, page, or website)

Reach: the weekly total reach is further broken down into the following demographics and location categories:

  • Gender and Age
  • Countries, Cities, Languages
  • How people were reached
    • Organic: the number of unique people that saw your posts in their news feed, ticker, or company page.
    • Paid: the number of unique people that saw an ad or sponsored story that pointed to the company page.
    • Viral: the number of unique people that saw a story about the company page published by a friend.
    • Total: all of the above

Unique Users by Frequency: How many times a unique user viewed the company page.

Visits: the number of visits to the company page is broken down as follows:

  • Page views: this is the raw number of page views
  • Unique visitors: this is the number of unique people that visited the page
  • Total tab views: the number of times each of the company page’s tabs was views.
  • External referrers: the number of times people arrived on the company page from outside Facebook (i.e.: Google Search).

Facebook has recently updated their insights application to better breakdown the engagement from the Page, posts, and how people interact by breaking down likes, comments, shares, and post clicks.

Sources of Information

Fortunately, there are ample sources of information for any company interested in using Facebook as a marketing tool. A few internet searches will churn up countless pages outlining best practices and offering examples of what and what not to do. The following sources show some of the main sources where any market should start.

Facebook Marketing (

The Facebook marketing page is great to follow because it offers tips and best practices for companies looking to make an impact on Facebook. It also details terms of use and other important information that marketers need to know.

Facebook Developers (

The Facebook developers page is where companies create custom applications. This site also has helpful information on the technical aspects of developing for Facebook.

Facebook Business Success (

This page offers advice to businesses on how to use Facebook to its full potential and also provides case studies of other companies that have used the platform successfully.


Facebook is a valuable tool for any marketer when done right. It is a chance for a brand to show off its personality, to engage users where they spend most of their time, and to build the long-term relationships that can result in higher brand loyalty (and sales). Companies that approach the platform as a way to build relationships invariably triumph over those that don’t. Companies that focus the message on themselves fail and end up running a customer service forum rather than offering a fun, engaging online experience.