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Facebook's New Design: Windows into our future

Facebook @ Scale Part 1: Page Architecture and Social Management

Facebook Marketing Facebook marketing at scale presents a number of unique challenges.  Over this five part series, we will explore each of the primary challenges facing major marketers on an evolving platform.

Let's say you are the social marketing manager for a major Consumer Packaged Goods brand.  Within your organization:

  • There are five overall product families. 
  • Within each product family you have multiple brands.  
  • Within each brand you have multiple sub-brands.  
  • Many of your sub-brands are further divided into specialty product lines. 

70% of your overall target audience are mothers.  However, different brands speak to different groups of mothers or different parts of a mother's life.  Should you create a single page for all moms?  Should you segment by your product line?  By target market?  By consumer facing brand name?   

Consider:

Your convenience snack line generally targets mothers shopping for 6-11 year old children, whereas the beverage division speaks to mothers looking to treat themselves to something special.  Your microwavable breakfast brand targets lower income mothers, while your haircare products targets mothers with a good deal of disposable income.  

Will these mothers value one another as a community?  Will your marketing organization go for a unified solution?  Should each of the brands receive it's own Facebook page?  What about the many secondary audiences?  How about the many other common-interests that may join your fans - should you segment by related interest (ex children, cleaning, guilty pleasures)?

Best Practices Common Practices 

There is no accepted market norm or best practice for brand page information architecture.  There are four overall approaches: Centralized, Decentralized, Hub and Spoke, and Tabs As Pages.

  1. Centralized Pages feature multiple brands or sub-brands on a single page.
  2. Decentralized Pages feature individual pages for each sub-brand.  
  3. Hub and Spoke solutions deploy a centralized page segmented by a shared commonality (target, affinity or interest) alongside navigation to decentalized pages.  For example, Kraft has a central CRM/recipe page in Kraft Foods that links out to product pages.
  4. Tabs As Pages is a growing trend whereby brands feature tabs in place of pages.  Tabs can feature identical content and near-synchronized converations across pages.  This provides brands with a horizontal compliment to vertical information archictecture schemes.  For example, a "recipes" application could easily live across all Kraft managed Facebook pages, providing a unified environment for home cooking enthusiasts across brands, products and audiences.

Considerations

  • Centralized Solution: there is value in building a scaled community.  A central community streamlines operations, enables richer ad targeting and provides a greater total engaged audience who will in-turn feed off of one other's energy and enthusiasm.
  • Decentralized Solution: allow flexibility in brand tone and messaging - which often varries greatley between brands.  While most moms share similar affinities (their children), the social-cultural divide between different types of moms doesn't lend itself to one-size-fits all community building
  • Hub and Spoke Solution: The Hub and Spoke system requires additional investment in resources, as well as alignment across social managers.  When dealing with dozens of individual pages, coordination and collabortion becomes manpower exhaustive.
  • Tabs As Pages: Tabs are not pages.  A few developers (such as Vitrue) offer the ability to push/target wall posts at only fans/likes who have Liked a tab.  Managing an editorial/wall post calendar segmented by Tabs Liked adds a layer of complexity to an already complex channel.  Overall, the tab environment is very different from a complete Facebook page.  That said, this approach is a nice compliment to a strategic page infrastructure.

Key Page Architecture Considerations

When considering the right solutions for your brand, consider each of the following:

  • What is your current Facebook brand footprint?
  • Who manages each of these pages?
  • Who are your targeted audience demographics? Where do they overlap?
  • What interests do your many audiences have in common?  
  • Are your desired brand voices similar or at least complimentary in a single page framework?
  • What are your available resources - human, financial, creative and technical?
  • What are your geographic considerations?
  • What is your internal management infrastructure?
  • How collaborative is your cross-product or cross-division culture?
  • How do product teams report on success?
  • How does your organization manage cross-product investment?

The Challenges of Legacy

Look at any of the major CPG marketers on Facebook.  Look at their many brands and sub-brands.  You will notice something remarkable.  There is rarely a single page architecture scheme being used.  This is no fault of the organization, their agency or their leadership.  It is the responsibility of the social manager to take these lemons and make the best damned lemonade possible.  Much of the time, there isn't yet a single manager or team directing the lemonade making, resulting in both a metaphor that has been stretched too thin, as well as an inconsistent product.

Social marketing and by extension, marketing on Facebook started largely as grassroots phenomenon.  Pages were often started by junior brand managers, interns, niche agencies, or even fans.  With the exception of certain rare circumstances (ex brand squatters), Facebook generally does not allow brands to migrate fans.  Pages can never be renamed.  When it comes to page infrastructure, the best approach I can recommend is to do the best with what you've got.  Phase out pages from campaigns and products that are long dead.  When there is a significant fan base, consider broadcasting a series of messages telling your fans that this page will be closed, but you look forward to seeing them at _____ (the appropriate new page).  As an industry, we're still building on accidental or at best, incidental foundations.  Random page names and all.

The Challenges of Evolving Platforms

Social gained increased prominence within the corporation and across the communications industry before the solutions providers or platforms had all of the right answers.  Brand Page functionality has and continues to evolve.  Techniques, technologies, policies and best practices have and continue to evolve.

This near-constant change challenges not only investment in an unknown future, but makes yesterday's planning look like yesterday's solutions.  If you wait until Facebook is done evolving, you'll be out of a job and your competition will have a significant lead.  Plan for agility.

The Challenges of Growth

A strategic social manager needs to be both firm and agile in planning for growth and scale.  While it is important that you develop a process and guidelines for adding new tabs and pages, it is important to remain nimble.  I recommend considering each of the following:

  • Education and Alignment: As your organization grows, it is essential that you become an educator and a facilitator.  Teach your organization about social and share your social mission statement/brand value statement.  Give them the tools to advocate for you and let them know what you would like of them.  Embrace your more junior advocates and recruit senior support.  Sell social and sell yourself.  Prepare for the likely questions - how can I get involed?  What can I do for my team?  
  • Executive Decisions: Remember that not everyone will agree with you or appreciate the well defined strategy you have set up.  A senior stakeholder from another side of the business may bring in another agency or solution without consulting you.  They may make the decision to add a new Facebook page without consulting you.  They may not appreciated the many points that go into getting it right.  Carefully consider where to stick your ground and when to go with the flow.  This is particularly important in the case of crises management.
  • Talent: Many social managers started as community managers.  Being a community manager at scale is unlike being a community manager for a small, intimate community.  Performance analytics and media are also somewhat different at scale.  Recruiting, training and managing the right talent demands not only a working knowledge of the platform, but strong marketing management chops.
  • Internal Management: As you become more successful in your position, it is entirely possible that senior management will place increased importance on social performance.  If you are young, it is entirely possible that you will be assigned  to work under an older manager who has less social experience.  This may feel like one step back.  Make it your two steps forward.
  • Process and Policy: As your efforts scale, it is essential that you define everything from your brand guidelines through editorial calendar process.  Don't expect everyone to know every aspect of your business.  Expect some bumps along the way.  

The Bottom Line

There are four constants in social marketing.  

  1. Not everyone will like you or your brand.
  2. You don't know what tomorrow will bring or what Facebook will change.
  3. Not everyone will appreciate the complexities of social marketing.
  4. The world is yours for the taking.

Now figure out what you're going to do about it.

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