Product and its place in your Facebook timeline

Photo: Pat McGrath/Ottawa Citizen

The products in our everyday world are as much a part of who we are as the friends we keep, according to Jordan Banks, the managing director of Facebook Canada.

For this reason, it’s as natural for brands to be a part of our Facebook timeline as important life events like marriage, the birth of a child, or a new career, he said Tuesday during a lunchtime address to The Canadian Club of Ottawa.

In his presentation titled ‘Organizations are better in a connected world,’ Banks spoke of the early days of Internet, which began as rudimentary browsing and searching. It has evolved, he said, into a domain filled with social context.

“It was all about search,” he said. “it had no social context; it was using an algorithm that had nothing to do with you.

“People want personalized, timely results that reflect who they are and what their friends are interested in,” he said.

Since Facebook introduced Timeline for profile pages last fall, reaction to the “online biography” has been mixed. (Earlier this month it announced Timeline for business pages).

“Timeline is a way of displaying your life,” Banks said, and showed a quick upbeat video of his “Friend Scott’s” Timeline, from birth, to college, to marriage, having his own child, and throwing said child into a snow bank.

Big moments in a person’s life, boiled down to points on a Facebook page.

Brands are just as meaningful, Banks said, and they can now be relevant in a person’s timeline.

Spotify owns the word ‘listen’ on Facebook, Banks explained. A person can type what they are listening to on Spotify into Facebook, and any of their friends can click on the link and listen to the same song, at the same time – regardless of geographic location.

Nike owns the word ‘running’ on Facebook. If I buy the appropriate Nike gear, download the app – and some of my friends do the same – we can go for a virtual run at the same time, regardless of whether or not we’re in the same place.

You might scoff and say that you can go for a run with your buddies whenever you feel like it without Facebook, but keep in mind that the Nike app has 330,000 monthly active users on Facebook.

Those are all Nike runners.

Banks says that as Facebook friends share brand awareness, there is a “democratization of connection” as knowledge of a company goes from “anonymous crowds, to anonymous machines, to wisdom of your friends.”

Indeed, our true north strong and free is also a “Facebook-mad nation”, Banks said. Eighteen million Canadians are active on Facebook, 12 million go back every day, and on average Canadians have 225 Facebook friends. (You are probably checking how many friends you have as you read that.)

Marketers have taken greatest advantages of Facebook, Banks said.

“How do you identify what people like, when you don’t know what they want?” he asked rhetorically, and pointed to the demographic information that Facebook provides advertisers. (Incidentally, Banks said the fastest growing Facebook demographic in Canada is the 50+ woman.)

“You have access to commentary in real time,” Banks said. “Starbucks has real time intelligence pulled out of Facebook.”

The key to success as a brand on Facebook, he said, is to take offline behavior and tie it to online loop.

“When you see an ad on Facebook, or your friends like the company on Facebook, you are two times more likely to remember the message,” Banks said.

He pointed to Burberry as a case study. When the company wanted to get into the fragrance business, it decided to give its Facebook fans first crack at getting a free sample. More than 500,000 people wanted the fragrance, and once delivered, Burberry’s Facebook page lit up with people talking about it.

Burberry focused on its likes, but also took note of the new ‘people are talking about this,’ statistic that Facebook now provides. It started with a simple conversation about the fragrance, Burberry’s Chief Marketing Officer explained, and now the company has six million fans and their 500,000 connections.

And it has seen more people connecting to directly from its Facebook page.

Not ready to paint your Timeline Burberry plaid?

Take a look at Huggies Hong Kong’ Facebook approach. Knowing it was second to Tokyo’s diaper giant (Pampers), Huggies encouraged moms to post baby photos on its Facebook wall. The top 60 babies, with the most likes, would be put on a bus. The initiative created 120,000 fans of the Tokyo Facebook page, plus their estimated 7-millions friends.

Huggies Hong Kong had so many baby photos it took a 30-foot-long segment of wall in the subway and plastered it with baby photos from its Facebook wall. At one point, one of the marketing executives exited a subway train to see a woman holding her child up to its photo on the Huggies Facebook wall, taking a photo.

This was then posted to her timeline.

Banks pointed to this as an example of a company connecting with consumers and their lives.

Ticketmaster has released an app that will allow Facebook users to see where their Facebook friends are seated at an event.

“You can click on friends, and zoom to their seat,” he said with a smile, clearly impressed with Ticketmaster’s app.

Banks outlined how companies can best build on their brand:

  • Connect
  • Engage
  • Influence – make someone your brand evangelist
  • integrate – take the momentum on the first three and start building and developing apps (as in the Nike example).

“Facebook is built around putting people at the centre,” Banks said in closing.

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