If you aren’t familiar with Facebook – as of January 2009 the social networking site is 175 million members strong and growing at the rate of 5 million per week – and the site’s addictive, randomly generated newsfeed that is the site’s homepage, informing members of their friends status updates and fan groups their individual friends have joined, then perhaps you need to come out of the cave you call home. After all, it’s a Facebook nation – and as marketers, small and large, we need to harness the word-of-mouth, viral power that drives this beyond popular site.
In order to illustrate the viral aspect of Facebook, lets look at the site as a very large, but ultimately intimate, party-family-picnic-office-function-high-school-reunion-spontaneous-get-together. At this Internet soirée all the people you know, or at least 95% of the people you know, no matter how casually, are in attendance along with ALL their friends, family, and acquaintances. Your mom, that friend of yours she didn’t approve of in high school, your husband, your BFF, your golfing buddy. However, unlike an actual party, where each person doesn’t hear that you eat Tasty Cakes new low fat products when you have a craving for sweets, or that you love getting your coffee at Wawa every morning, because you are only able to talk with a few people at once, on Facebook, everyone at the party potentially hears you or knows you have joined a group.
Here in is where the psychology of great brands like Apple, Nike, and Coke come into play in the viral landscape: belonging is a basic human desire. On Facebook, belonging to the group, for the fun of it, at this big Internet party, is just one simple click away. In fact, there is a good chance (80% according to a recent study by a sociology PhD at the university of Pennsylvania) that people will join once they see a friend of theirs has joined. Yes, because they love the brand, but also because they want in on the fun.
Certainly, letting your customers in on the fun – to become a part of your brand’s dialogue – gives them not only a sense of belonging but also an vested interest. You can give your customers that sense of belonging by starting with as few as 50 members or less and within weeks build your group fan base to 1,000 and even 10s of thousands. Now, here is the real bonus: you are now actually engaging DIRECTLY with your customer base. The group is compiled of your brand evangelists and a good majority of their friends.
The cost of joining Facebook – nothing. The cost of getting people to join your group – nothing. The cost of not taking advantage of this viral wonder – potentially, thousands.
Cost aside, with 175 million members, and growing, certainly, marketers need to hone-in on Facebook-enomics. In a world where brands daily compete to have their message heard, Facebook is a megaphone.