Facebook has the ability to become the single most important platform for grassroots activism on the internet.
This is something that should not go unnoticed.
As the web gets more social, and the individual consumer's voice becomes increasingly amplified, the key to success for brands will come not only from how well they market themselves online, but from how well they manage their online reputations.
If someone shares an opinion on Facebook, that opinion has the ability to grow and gain importance as it becomes inter-connected and amplified throughout the Facebook ecosystem. Facebook gives users all the tools they need to not only create a community around a cause or issue that they are passionate about, but also the tools to grow and intensify the message as well.
At electricArtists, we've been spending a lot of time developing strategies around reputation management and how brands can establish and increase their online influence. It's clear that when it comes to understanding and developing your online reputation, fully understanding how Facebook works is going to be crucial.
For brands entering Facebook, the most important thing is to know what you're getting into.
Wal-Mart, to nobody's surprise, recently learned the hard way the ins-and-outs of how Facebook works. Last month the retailer launched a Back-To-School promotion on Facebook that quickly garnered them attention for embracing social media.
Karen Burk, a Wal-Mart spokesperson was quoted as saying:
"We realize that this is an audience that we need to be talking to, and that this is a channel we need to be on”
But what actually happened to Wal-Mart on Facebook was not as positive as reported in the mainstream media.
Wal-Mart's "Roommate Match" promotion was almost immediately hijacked after it launched. Facebook users quickly turned the promotion into a forum and platform for public opposition to the company's predatory business practices. Currently almost 100% of the 390 comments on the promotion's message board take the company to task for their social policies. Almost none of them engage in any sort of discussion around the promotion itself.
Wal-Mart's entry into Facebook has quickly taught them that "being on" Facebook is not a one-way dialog as they would like it to be.
The problem for Wal-Mart goes back to Karen Burk's quote.
On the social web, it's not about talking to consumers. That's what you do in print and on television. It's about talking with consumers.
For brands like Wal-Mart, the goal shouldn't be to "be on" Facebook. Rather it should be to create something that is engaging and contributing to the community that is inside Facebook.
There's a big difference.
It's important to remember that Facebook is a platform, not a place.
So, what should Wal-Mart have done differently?
They should never have done it in the first place.
What Wal-Mart should be doing is spending less time thinking about promotions that can sell a college student another notebook, and more time thinking about how to better their online reputation.
On Facebook, people's bullshit meter is set at 11.
Sometimes when the clients says: "We need to be on Facebook. Now", the answer should be:
"Given the circumstances, I'm not so sure that would be a good idea."