Facebook Marketing for Microsoft Partners: A Primer

New functionality additions in the social networking tool mean creative Microsoft partners have more ways than ever to get the word out about the great things their companies are doing.

With the rollout of Facebook's new makeover this spring a fait accompli, many Web-savvy businesses are rejoicing that some of the service's new features will make it much easier for them to market on the social network -- both creatively, and from a business analytics perspective.

Millions of Facebook users have been watching the latest evolution of the service -- which includes a new look and feel for everyone who has a Facebook account -- metamorphize across the network since late 2010.

"If you look at Facebook's growth you can see that by 2012 about half of the U.S. and a big chunk of the global population will be using Facebook once a month," says Simon Solotko, a senior advanced marketing manager at chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices Inc. "That's a tipping point in terms of the scope and influence in social connectivity of people everywhere."

One of Facebook's most anticipated marketing changes is the network's new ability to easily add framed content to a Facebook page -- technically known as content presented within iFrames. Essentially, the change enables any business to easily mirror the Web design on its Web site on a Facebook page -- as long as it's within an iFrame.

Scores of Web designers are celebrating the move, because attempting to duplicate the look and feel of a company's Web site pages on Facebook had previously presented quite a challenge in many cases.

Moreover, Web marketers say the introduction of easy iFraming also makes it much simpler for a business to crunch visitor analytics, including tracking visitor activity on Facebook pages, and thoroughly analyzing how sales and other sought-after conversions unfold on a Facebook page.

One caveat: If you or your Web designer plans to take advantage of iFrames on Facebook, be sure that you protect such content from would-be computer hackers, who can compromise iFramed Web pages if those pages are not secured properly.

Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, has grown the social networking site to more than 750 million registered users.

"Good programming and updates [to all the software you're using] are key to protecting this kind of content," says Catalin Cosoi, head of BitDefender Online Threat Labs, a division of the BitDefender Web security firm. "Actually, this means applying strong security policies to all of the company's Web pages, including those on Facebook."

All told, the Facebook makeover has stimulated marketers to update their best marketing practices for the service in myriad ways. Here are some of the most popular:

Understand Why Facebook Is So Powerful
While social networking has been around for a while -- people were socializing on Web forums long before Mark Zuckerberg got his first tricycle -- Facebook was one of the services that made such networking so effortless, so fun and so multifaceted.

For example, once someone signs up for your "fan" or business page on Facebook, they immediately begin getting info about your business in their News Feed, can instantly share your offers to others in their social network, can effortlessly engage in discussions on your Facebook page, can give their opinion about your products or services and can shop on your Facebook page -- all of which is extremely intuitively. Small wonder Facebook now has 750 million-plus registered users, and growing.

Moreover, Facebook represents a chance for marketers to reach out to an audience that's often pre-qualified, and often already extremely interested in what a company has to say.

"Facebook is a place where there's self selection," says Lisa Dreher, vice president of marketing and business development at Logicalis Group. "People choose what organizations they will befriend. That's unique in marketing. As in most cases, we're putting messages in front of people whether they want to see them or not." Now with social media, the people are choosing what they want to hear about. "It means your audience is highly qualified -- presuming you're doing the right things to get the right people there in the first place," Dreher says.

Get Creative with Facebook's Newly Unshackled Web Design Features
For years, Web designers have bemoaned the fact that they were forced to use Facebook's propriety programming for much of the designing they did on the Facebook site. No more. With the rollout of Facebook's latest makeover, the service is now offering Web designers complete creative design freedom within specified framed areas of company pages on Facebook.

"I, for one, am thrilled with this long-awaited news," says Janet Driscoll Miller, CEO of SearchMojo, a Web marketing firm. Essentially, any content that appears within these specially designed iFrames is no longer subject to the limitations of Facebook's design format. Instead, the content can be easily designed with more robust Web design programs like DreamWeaver or Microsoft Expression.

"This is a huge timesaver when you're trying to program pages to match your corporate brand," Miller adds.

[Click on image for larger view.]
Company Facebook pages no longer need to all look like a running list of status updates. While customized pages were possible before, a new approach called iFrames allows developers to reject Facebook's proprietary programming and create pages with familiar tools such as DreamWeaver or Microsoft Expression.

Take Advantage of Facebook's New Integration with Google Analytics
"Not long ago, Facebook removed some features that allowed you to track your page views in Facebook via Google Analytics," says Miller, who is also coauthor of a free ebook on Facebook marketing, "The Facebook Marketing Update: Spring 2011." That's no longer a problem, Miller says, now that Google allows company Web content to be displayed within the new iFrames model. Essentially, any content showcased within the frame can be completely tracked, sliced and diced with Google Analytics, a free program that has a great reputation for analyzing user behavior on Web sites.

Easily Track Sales and Other Conversions Sought on Your Facebook Presence
"Seriously, this one deserves about 15 exclamation points," Miller says. "iFrames makes tracking conversions from Facebook -- and keeping ad respondents within the Facebook application -- much easier."

Post a 'Like Button'
A recent Facebook innovation, the ability to "Like" a business confers an instant recommendation of your business to everyone within a Facebook user's circle -- be it 12 people, or 1,200 people. You can easily add a "Like" button to your Facebook page through a plug-in available on the Facebook developers page.

Consider Other Business-Friendly Social Plugins
These plugins include "Recommendations," which gives users personalized suggestions for pages on your site that they might like, and "Comments," which allows visitors to comment on content on your Facebook site. Meanwhile, the "Like Box" enables users to "Like" your Facebook page and view its stream directly from your Web site. "Facepile" shows profile pictures of a user's friends who have already signed up for your site. And "Live Stream" allows users to exchange comments and engage in other shared activity in real time as they interact during a live event on your Facebook page.

Post Freely Under Your Business Name to Other Pages on Facebook
With the spring makeover, Facebook also has made it very easy for a business to make a post to Facebook walls. Previously, businesses' messages had been restricted to appearing on the Facebook News Feeds of people who liked you, friends of those people and, of course, on the wall of your own business Facebook page. Used judiciously, this new freedom to post to the walls of other Facebook pages could make promotion on Facebook a whole lot easier.

Post Often, Interestingly and with Plenty of Graphics
The only way to continually attract attention to your Facebook page is via constant updates. Fortunately, you can post to Facebook a few times a week -- or in some cases, every day -- and other Facebook users won't consider you annoying. After all, those who "Friend" you are clearly saying they are interested in what you have to say. Just be sure it's interesting, and it often includes images or video.

"Ultimately, it's all in the content," says Logicalis' Dreher. "If you're sharing information that has value either in terms of educational value or opening and participating in conversations in a meaningful way, it will make a difference."

Engage, Don't Broadcast
If you've had a business page on Facebook for any amount of time, no doubt you've heard this. But it bears repeating. Businesses that use traditional methods to broadcast their brands on Facebook are generally received with a collective yawn -- and sometimes even negative retribution -- from Facebook users protective of the social network's culture. Quite simply, Facebook users expect a conversation from the businesses they befriend. And they expect it to be authentic.

Think Globally
Logicalis' Dreher says that if she had a chance to do her Facebook launch over again, she would have done her rollout in all markets simultaneously, rather than simply starting first in the United States. "Logicalis operates in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Latin America and Asia Pacific," she says. "Having the international scope from the start would have meant a cohesive online presence across all of our geographies. Now we're working to bring our social media presence into alignment on a global level."

Consider Giving Your Facebook Page a Generic Name
While virtually every marketer's first instinct is to name the Facebook page after the company, this may not be the best tactic in the Web's keyword-driven world. Sometimes, simply naming your Facebook page after the most common keyword or keyphrase for the goods or services you provide can ultimately get you more hits. "I chose to not use our [company] name as our Facebook site and use a more generic approach based on what we sell," says Susan Looby, CEO, Ace Microtechnology. "The reason for this was when prospects search on Dynamics GP or Dynamics CRM, our page shows up in the search. I feel this has been effective."

Don't Limit Your Focus Solely to Facebook
While Facebook is unquestionably the 900-pound gorilla in the social networking world right now, there are scores of others where you can reach out to customers, as well as other digital communication formats where you can raise brand awareness, such as on Twitter and throughout the blogsphere.

"We have the Facebook site set up to simultaneously post to the Ace Twitter account and my account in LinkedIn," says Ace's Looby. "By doing this, we not only reach the Facebook audience, but also the large LinkedIn network I belong to -- over 730 contacts and 40 Groups, including a private ACE Group."

Adds Logicalis' Dreher: "Combining Facebook with both other online social media and offline marketing has been most effective. We use Google- and LinkedIn-targeted campaigns and Twitter in conjunction with Facebook and our offline marketing efforts.

"What works well is having your target audience come across your organization in multiple places," Dreher adds. "This helps to build credibility and a sense that your organization is well-connected and valued."

AMD's Solotko agrees: "I think it's important not to work in social silos. We try to cross social networks and content resources so people can find engaging content and discussions quickly and easily."