How To Turn Facebook Into Your Single-Most Effective Marketing Tool

by · July 18, 20128 comments

The most common marketing mistake is focusing on the product and not the customer. Messages about the product and its benefits without reference to the person who will use it constitute announcements, not marketing.

In order to speak to customers so that you will be heard, you need to make sure that they feel that they are being heard.  And the only way to make the kind of impression on a customer that makes her choose your product over the myriad of options is to speak to her emotions.  This requires having a deep understanding of your customers.

The potential for using Facebook to help understand your customers is seriously undervalued.  In this respect Facebook can be your best friend.

Facebook provides a way to really get to know people, to promote conversations and to listen to customers in a way we never had before.  It’s an opportunity to be a fly on the wall of real conversations about your brand, and to hear the language, desires, and emotions of the people who Like it.  Research may claim that a good percentage of people Like a brand to find out about discounts, but using Facebook as a discount delivery system is missing an opportunity that could make a real difference to the bottom line.

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One of the best ways to integrate your Facebook experience into your marketing is to use what you learn to build personas.

Personas are the life stories of several particular people — a composite of traits — that help you visualize and intuit the needs of your customers.  Personas help avoid the impossible task of speaking to hundreds of thousands of people in an intimate way or the opposite — which is to speak to the single image companies tend to have of “our customer.”

Creating a persona is not about research, it’s about relationships.

Four years ago, when we first tried to create personas for our customers at Lion Brand, it was a real challenge.  The personas were somewhat superficial and there was more guessing than understanding.  Today, thanks in large part to the way we communicate on Facebook, we have been able to flesh out several personas who who represent the majority of our customers.  We know their political views, what inspires them, what other brands they Like, what other hobbies they have, what their concerns are for the future, how they feel about the places they shop for our product and so, so, much more.  Anecdotal? Yes. That’s what a persona is.

Research is not the answer to understanding your customers.

Companies spend over $7 billion a year on market research, yet about 8 out of 10 new products fail.  While that can’t all be blamed on the ineffectiveness of market research, it doesn’t make a great case for the value of using market research in understanding the customer.

When our company makes changes to the copy on our website, plans a new product, creates an ad, or develops content for our blog and newsletter, we have a point of reference.  That point of reference is not ourselves and our own ideas. It’s our ability to understand and think about the real people who value our brand.

Here is an example of a brand that started a conversation on Facebook, with a certain assumption that came from referencing their own ideas.  Sephora, most likely wanting to know more about whether to focus their blogger outreach by age ranged asked

“Do you want to read a beauty blogger close to your own age?”

But what they learned was that for some customers, age isn’t the main issue with comments like these:

  • “Kind of – I don’t want someone too old nor someone too young but I also prefer people closer to my skin color and skin issue.”
  • “I look for beauty blogger with my or similar skin tone and coloring! That way when they recommend something I know it will work for me .”

The information that Sephora received was not in the question. It was in the conversation.

Here are 7 tips to help you connect with the people who visit your Facebook page, and facilitate the kind of meaningful conversations that allow you to develop personas.

These are not the same tips that are designed to strategically raise your Edgerank, although they are likely to do so.  The point is to understand people on a deeper level.

  • Speak to people in a down-to-earth way that reflects the way that you would speak to a customer if you were her friend. (also known as authentic brand voice)
  • Mix up the type of update.  Real people don’t always shoot questions at other people. They don’t always show photos of what interests them. Communication is not a program that you automatically generate.
  • Ask open ended questions.  These are questions that start with “What,” “Where,” “When,” “Why,” and “How.”
  • Ask thought provoking questions. Your questions should leave room for a reader to ramble a little to get to something you didn’t even imagine to ask. These questions tend to start with “If.”
  • Study the numbers.  What kinds of conversations generated the most comments?
  • Read every single comment.
  • When you see a comment from a person who you feel represents one of your personas, click through to her Facebook page to learn more about her.  Depending on privacy settings, you’ll have an unparalleled opportunity to get to know her as a true friend might.

How do you develop consumer personas? Do you incorporate intelligence gathered from social media interactions? What do you think about incorporating the ideas above? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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About Ilana Rabinowitz

Ilana Rabinowitz

Ilana Rabinowitz is the vice-president for marketing for Lion Brand Yarn and blogs about social media at Marketing Without A Net. Rabinowitz approaches marketing with an uncompromising focus on the customer and a grounding in psychology and neuroscience to understand what motivates people to make buying decisions.  She believes that businesses need to develop their own media as a means of creating a branded experience for customers.  She has spoken at digital marketing conferences including Web 2.0, Blogher Business and Internet Retailer. She is the author of a book about psychology, a book about mindfulness and co-author of a book about the culture of knitting. Follow her on Twitter at @ilana221.

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  • http://www.puredriven.com Patrick Garmoe

    Nice post Ilana,
    Good advice on using Facebook for customer personas. We mine Facebook pages at times as well, when deciding what our ads should say, in order to use the same language the people who frequent the page do. 

    Sort of a slice of what you are discussing here.

    Would love a follow-up post on how you advise creating customer personas, because I’ve seen advice ranging from doing hefty customer surveys to simply brainstorming what your typical customer looks like. I feel like Lee Odden at Toprank did a nice job explaining in a nutshell how they are done, in his book Optimize.  Most agencies ought to be creating customer personas for clients, but in my experience many don’t, perhaps because it seems like too big an endeavor with no direct deliverable to give to the client that helps them sell today. (Of course it’s critical to know your customer, but I think many brands don’t have more than a basic idea in their heads of who they are selling to.) Perhaps my experience is not the norm though.

    • http://twitter.com/Ilana221 Ilana Rabinowitz

       Hi Patrick,

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful response. 

      I agree that most brands don’t have more than a basic idea in their head of who they are selling to.  It helps to have people working in marketing who are the customers.  It helps a great deal because creating a persona is in large part about getting into the hearts and minds of people by focusing on unique individuals.

      I appreciate your suggestion about writing more about how to create personas and I’ll think about how I might communicate a process.

      Ilana

  • James D

    I keep hearing people say utilize facebook. Facebook charges for advertising but businesses are advertising facebook for free on all their marketing campaigns. If you don’t pay for advertising for people to come to your FB page they will never find your page unless you tell them. It is actually smarter to have your website promoted not FB. You can see what people are saying on FB but it is very hard to get them to convert to anything. Everyone on FB just likes to hear themselves talk. Good only for feedback sometimes.

    Businesses should not be fooled into thinking FB is actually good for getting new customers. 
    It is not and it has been proven. Large companies are cutting their losses and jumping ship from paying FB anymore advertising dollars. 
    http://www.Angieslist.com does better for your business than FB will ever do.
     We have tested this FB thing from many different types of small businesses including musicians and very few times have we had any new leads that led to profit.FB is hyped up because they make millions off of advertising regardless if any of their customers make profit. They tricked everyone into thinking you should say you have a facebook page on your commercials, radio, advertising campaigns, etc. It was a great scam that worked for them.No one really becomes profitable due to FB but FB. The stock market scandal should have taught everyone that the company is not as legit as you may think. It is not the key to everyone’s life as we have been programmed to believe either.If you are a smart entrepreneur I hope you won’t fall for the Facebook Hype! Do not spend any money with them on advertising. Spend your time and money creating content for your own site not someone else’s.  

    I like the article because it does explain if you are going to use FB to communicate with people than this is the way to do it. 

    I have seen a lot of SBO’s and start ups waste their time and money with no results when it comes to FB. It is unfair to our economy if we allow our small businesses to be overcharged for marketing. Utilize FB but do not pay FB! Listen to people like this smart lady and FB can be used to get into the people’s minds without paying for it.

    I hope this prevents good people from wasting their money. Thanks James D

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