If brands wants to maximize social influence and brand advocacy, then there's no better way to do so than by piggybacking on consumer conversations and amplifying their social interactions to their friends.
Facebook's Sponsored Stories ads deliver on this promise. They perform better than standard Facebook units, have higher CTRs and conversion percentages, and require lower costs per engagement when compared to basic display on other sites.
The Wall Street Journal recently examined the way Ford used Facebook as a key component in the campaign for its 2012 Focus model, getting 43,000 users to "Like" a branded page for Doug, the company's sock-puppet spokesperson.
Ford used TV spots and traditional display such as Yahoo to drive consumers to the page, and was relatively successful from a branding standpoint, with 61 percent of Doug's fans saying they were more likely to consider buying a Focus. But when you do the math for the campaign, Ford spent a total of $95 million to get a little more than 26,000 consumers to think about the Focus. Even with a forward-thinking social strategy, Ford failed to take full advantage of the power of Facebook's social graph. By neglecting the friends of its fans, the automaker missed out on the opportunity to tap the ability of those friends to influence millions of other likeminded consumers.
And why did Ford use Yahoo to drive users to a Facebook page? The automaker probably wasted millions of impressions on Yahoo trying to drive users to a Facebook page. For the user who is on Yahoo, and sees a Ford advertisement that then drives them to Facebook, the experience can be summed up in one word: disconnect.
If Facebook has one clear advantage over traditional display advertising, that 's the ability to leverage consumer word of mouth at scale. Brands are quick to drive traffic to their Facebook pages from traditional offline and online media, but too many then miss out on a huge opportunity to market to their fans' friends.
Ford decided to stop buying ads on Facebook's network after hitting 10,000 Likes. Instead, the company opted to buy ads on other sites, including Yahoo, and drive consumers toward the Facebook page. It's hard to understand the thinking behind that strategy. The failure of that strategy says much more about the strategy itself than about Facebook's proven ability to deliver word of mouth at scale.
It's great when an offline call to action directs users to Facebook. But brands shouldn't stop there. Facebook has the tools to spread that social influence even further, without ever sending fans away from the site. Brands that neglect those tools are just wasting money.