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The Marketing Truth Which Surprised Mark Zuckerberg

IMB_MarkZuckerbergThe first time that brands were ever allowed on Facebook, the only way they could advertise was by offering a specific promotion. No brand awareness campaigns or focus on engagement … just a simple offer. It was a symbol of how Facebook (and Mark Zuckerberg in particular) saw brands entering into the previously sacred space of the Facebook social network in the early days. Brands were once a necessary evil, something that had to be endured so Facebook would be able to continue to pay the bills and pay back all their VC investors. 

Fast forward several years and you will really appreciate this stunning statistic – the "Like button" is clicked a total of 91 million times every month. And many of those clicks are for brand sponsored pages. Earlier this week I was lucky enough to be invited to attend and speak at Intel's internal conference focused on social media. More than 125 social media pioneers from within Intel came from around the world to participate, and one of the speakers was Aimee Westbrook from Facebook. Among the many interesting facts about brands working with Facebook that she shared was this data point which should make any marketer sit up in their chair: 50% of all the people on Facebook have clicked the "Like" button on a brand page in the last 30 days.

It was thanks to this affinity that more and more people are sharing around connecting with brands they like that Mark Zuckerberg changed his view of brands on Facebook. Brands were no longer the soul-sucking necessary evil Facebook endured so they could afford to run their business. Brands had a place on Facebook because people WANTED to connect with them in a social sense. More than anything else, this is a profound argument for the importance of social media as a communications channel.

On the world's largest social network, where people are connecting with long lost friends and loved ones separated by oceans can share their lives, brands no longer need to be online equivalent of the intrusive telemarketing call at dinner that everyone hates to get. They have a seat at the table, and if they behave themselves, they can even share the meal.

Finally there is a place where brands could be welcomed into an authentic conversation with their customers.  Whether you are Mark Zuckerberg or not, it's hard to imagine anything more surprising than that.

  • Alex Hillinger

    This post is particularly insightful.

    At once it does seem like a quantum leap for brands and people to have a relationship that’s not based on “ads” intruding into “content”. At the same time, this makes complete sense. Brands are one of the primary ways people express their values to each other, so brand affiliation and endorsement is a powerful shortcut to communicate about what sort of person someone is, or more likely, wishes to be.

    What’s maybe the most innovative thing about this is that brands now have to have legitimate relationships with their fans if they want to have enduring influence and popularity within social media. If they’re just corporate creations without souls, eventually that is going to become excruciatingly obvious and separate the social brands from the charlatans.

  • Robin Mayhall, APR

    Excellent article! I have just one point of disagreement. Honestly, I don’t believe that just because people are clicking “Like” on Facebook means that they want “to connect with [brands] in a social sense.” I submit that Facebook makes it incredibly easy to FEEL “connected,” with a single click of the mouse, and that a lot of those likes are in response to offers and prize drawings. I would love to know if anything like this was discussed at the conference you attended. Thank you for sharing these insights!

  • Ryo Yamaguchi

    Rohit, this is a great post and absolutely encouraging. I think Alex Hillinger has great points in his comments, especially the second paragraph. I do agree with Robin Mayhall though and wonder how large of a hole the idea of fans liking brands for special offers punches into those brands’ legitimate relationships with their fans.

    Largely, I think we should be cautiously optimistic about the notion of social media providing more meaningful relationships between consumers and brands. I think it does, and your post brings huge evidence for that, but we should make sure we really understand what motivations are at play.

  • Michael Fox

    Very insightful article. Bottom line – target audiences are being sold to by their peers rather than directly by a sales and marketing team. You could see two posts for exactly the same subject/product but if one had 0 likes and the other had 50, the inclination would be to click on the well-liked link to see what all the fuss is about. This might be moving the needle towards a buying decision in a very small way, but it is a low cost and highly effective way of establishing initial brand awareness and credibility.

  • Art

    Basically all Mark Zuckerberg did was cross the line between business and friendship. Facebook was originally a place where people could meet up with old friends or make new friends. Brands on Facebook take on that same sense of friendship. People feel comfortable there. Yet that does not mean that comfort level translates into sales. Converting that LIKE into something of monetary value is still the hard part.