There’s no “R” in “Facebook”...if you’re focused on “Likes.”

July 18

With nearly 700,000,000 users, marketers are realizing Facebook has shifted from opportunity to obligation. As if 700 million users isn’t enough, Facebook can tout that those users spend 700,000,000,000 (billion) minutes on its site each month, an impressive stat in a digital ecosystem where content is abundant and easier than ever to consume. However, despite all of this, Facebook made an important observation early on: even though people were spending a significant amount of time on their site, they realized they were spending more time off of it. This acknowledgement was the genesis of Facebook’s social plug-ins. Since their launch in April 2010, an average of 10,000 new websites integrate with those plug-ins every day, allowing marketers to extend the reach of their Facebook content out beyond the walls of Facebook.

This information, in concert with the opportunities the network effect provides, has reaffirmed the necessity to be there. Go where the people are. And most of you have.

Now what?

Well, now you’re one of 900 million...wait, 910 million...wait, 920 million pages, groups or events on Facebook. You’re sand at the beach.

How do you know if your presence is paying off? Is it working? What’s the definition of “working”? Don’t worry, you’re not alone in asking these questions. Marketers of all sizes, in all industries, are asking the same questions. Investing in Facebook has an inherent challenge: defining the “R” in “ROI.”

If you read Mashable or follow other sources of digital news and trends, you’re increasingly being exposed to Facebook “case studies” which demonstrate the wild success consumer and celebrity brands have had on Facebook. And generally speaking, the unit of measure that defines the success of a presence on Facebook is a “like” (formally “fan”). “Likes” are valuable because they help activate a casual fan, and studies have shown active fans are 3 times more likely to participate in a brand and equally more motivated to share – the holy grail for marketers. However, when you add 700 million people and 900 million brands, groups, and events, plus things like Farmville, where advertisers can trade “likes” for in-game currency (which Farmville players have demonstrated they’re more than willing to pay actual currency for), you’re faced with authenticity issues. These are the challenges consumer marketers are faced with every day and which make defining the “R” an ongoing challenge.

What about recruitment marketers?

Recruitment marketing is faced with a whole different sort of challenge. First of all, if I’m currently employed, I’m probably not going to “like” your careers page on Facebook. Why? Because it’s likely that some or most of my “friends” are also colleagues, and liking your careers page on Facebook is obviously an acknowledgement of interest in an employer other than mine. Now, you haven’t lost this audience – you just have to communicate with them differently, and making sure you have a presence on Facebook that provides them with the tools and resources necessary to explore your company, your people, and your career opportunities is an important first step.

Second, engage your employees and ask them to advocate. Remind them often and encourage them to participate. Profile seasoned vets or new hires, and highlight promotions or achievements.

Third, and most important, is to create content worth sharing. If the well seems dry or the content doesn’t feel compelling, look to the consumer side. A big product launch has the built-in audience you’re looking for. Capitalize on that by highlighting the people that made that launch possible and the opportunities to work alongside them. Focus on content that highlights the reasons people want to work for a company – the location, the people, the benefits, the story. Tell the story.

Once you start generating content, then advertise. Then measure it all. Don’t focus on “likes.” Those will follow and will probably fluctuate as candidates use your resource as a means to learn about the company. Facebook provides great attraction, engagement, and interaction metrics which can be used to help demonstrate the value of the presence and ensure you’re defining the “R.”

Facebook Statistics, May 2011

How much is a Facebook fan really worth?

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