With more than one million users in the UAE and 9.7 million users in the region, Facebook offers a great opportunity for brands to market and expose their products and services directly to end users. Using pay-per-click advertising is one way to generate traffic, but to tap into the social benefits of Facebook can be of higher ROI in the long term. Direct interaction with consumers and tighter brand engagement are becoming more and more important in the current age of connected online users.
Social media is not the easiest form of marketing, but if done well can be very effective and therefore an essential element of a marketing strategy. As opposed to display advertising, social media is about gathering your target audience around you by creating your very own social space and community, and not just targeting them with an advertising banner.
The benefits are clear:
• Direct interaction and engagement with consumers
• Research opportunities and marketing that will last longer
Facebook, at the moment, is an ideal place for consumer and retail brands to connect with their customers due to its social nature. Interaction with consumers is key for success when using Facebook as a marketing tool. According to the official Facebook stats, the average user has 130 friends. So, as a marketer, it is important to get exposed to these friends and their friends and so on.
An individual joining a Facebook group or “fan page” is making a personal statement and at the same time telling all their friends about it automatically; this can be anything from becoming a fan of a brand, to sharing negative feedback about a brand. Influential marketing is an integral part of social media marketing and building up an effective social graph will lead to better results.
A recent competition we ran for one of our clients over a short period resulted in over 1,000 fans and over 4,000 user contributions. On other popular social networks this would mean a tenth of the population while on Facebook there is still plenty of room to grow
Keep in mind
Content is key and posting service-related company updates on a Facebook page is one way to generate content, but not always enough; especially for smaller brands, a stream of conversations should be generated to create ongoing activities and therefore exposure. Social media content also plays a key role in search engine optimisation and should be planned accordingly.
PR should also be an integrated part of a social media strategy, it’s worth involving other divisions of a business; International brands for example saw results in involving sales, customer care and technology into their social media strategy with great success. The more authentic the person on the other side, the better.
Regional companies are often concerned about moderation when it comes to online media and user generated content. However it is important to understand that pre-moderation on social networks is not possible, but at the same time the advantage of Facebook as a platform is that moderation is less required as most users post with their real identity. In turn more genuine content and conversations are the outcome. Some users may make negative remarks about an organisation; however the question is, does a brand prefer to be in control and monitoring these comments or not.
With over 5 million users in the region and the identified problem of a missing online advertising infrastructure; Facebook provides an appropriate platform for regional marketers. Facebook itself is changing and evolving from the super-poke-fun site where individuals stay in touch with their friends to an open community of people sharing parts of their identity, as well as their likes and dislikes with the world. This behaviour is progressing naturally and is driven by a community of 400 million users. Standard marketing strategies will, therefore, not survive in the future social marketplace as users will define and rule this based on what they desire.
Connect, the dedicated interactive arm of Omnia (an integrated communications agency established in Dubai in 2005), was created out of a demand for a wide range of advance interactive digital media solutions. Connect has worked with a wide number of clients in industries such as hospitality, IT, banking and finance, amongst others.