Around the world, in places near and far, social media gurus are gathering in secret Starbucks locations they've discovered on Foursquare, engaging in one of the most important debates of our time. A discussion so profound, it threatens the very social frameworks we all hold dear -- should brands have a single global Facebook page or multiple, local market Facebook pages? What are Facebook's big f8 announcements likely to mean for this debate?
Historical data on the question is clear. According to Syncapse research, local Facebook pages drive 36 % higher engagement than does a single global page. The question is … why?
The benefits of local lie with harnessing the power of the social graph to create digital word-of -mouth campaigns that engage fans, drive organic impressions, leverage influence across the brand network, and create goodwill for the brand. But how to you make a global brand a local presence on Facebook?
Step One: Understand the power matrix of your company
In order for Facebook marketing to actually "work" for a company, it needs to function the same way the company does. Our friends at Altimeter Group have done a good job of documenting the various Facebook page structures that are being deployed. In particular, Jeremiah Owyang suggests that companies organize for social in one of five ways: Centralized, Distributed, Coordinated, Multiple Hub & Spoke or Holistic.
In practical terms, a company's Facebook page architecture should be based on the organizational physics of the enterprise. If marketing dollars are managed both centrally and locally, asking local teams to support or "contribute" to a centralized presence, with limited creative control, regional relevance, and input, will not ignite a desire to make the program successful. Local marketers will continue to focus on areas within their span of control, resulting in lost opportunities to incorporate social media into their marketing plans.
Recent f8 announcements appear positive for marketers because they are likely to increase their ability to be even more targeted with their communications. Organizations that support targeted messages and empower local teams, are more likely to succeed in this new environment.
Step Two: Put the customer first, not internal politics
Different brands require different strategies. I can't tell you how often I have been told that a global brand team requires a single global Facebook page, based on the principle that the brand is "global". This is usually followed by a 15-minute discussion about how the brand is in different lifecycle stages or positioned differently across markets. Seasonality comes into play for many campaigns (think "Back to School"), but timing is different across the world. Product launches frequently vary by market, as does availability. Global and local, as with all elements of the marketing mix, need to play nicely in the same sandbox. Don't let internal politics get in the way of connecting with your consumers in the most meaningful way. Local pages allow marketers to put the "social" in social media. Facebook doesn't facilitate this structure natively, but there are technology platforms and solutions that can render this turnkey.
Step Three: Determine how important measurement is to you
There are measurement challenges linked to a single global page approach. For example, with global posts (that do not apply geo-targeting filters), brands are unable to identify which geographies are contributing to or driving engagement. As a result, marketers lack the data necessary to help improve content relevance at a local level. Local pages don't just facilitate measurement, they create transparency and accountability across regional brand teams. Whose page performs best? Can I apply what others have learned?
Step Four: Know Facebook's limitations
Understanding the technology limitations of Facebook's ability to support a single Global page is important. All Tabs that are launched on a Global page are visible to the world, making it harder to operationalize local programs and create locally relevant content and brand experiences. Geo-targeting is possible for some content types, if you post directly from Facebook to the Wall. Ironically, a global page introduces many more opportunities for human error given the complexity of creating and scheduling content across a multitude of geo-targeted posts. It takes only one post, incorrectly published to the wrong geography to spark community backlash and taint a brand's Wall. In addition, photos, video, and events are not geo-targetable on Facebook, causing problems when "local" wants to update something that global doesn't endorse.
My two cents
In nearly all cases, I support a "Glocal" model for large brands. Using this approach, the global Facebook Page is focused on cool content from around the world, corporate philanthropic information, customer support (depending on your brand) and a Tab that allows users to find their local country page. Global community management is based on serving members from around the world.
Local pages are packed with locally relevant content as well as selected syndicated content from the global page, customer support, promotional Tabs for campaigns backed with local agency and media support, all matters that change over time, and vary by market. Community management is run locally, engaging local fans.
The global vs. local Facebook debate is more than just a matter of organization. You've likely made a sizeable investment in your Facebook presence and your fans will appreciate content delivered with their interests in mind.