iMedia Connection: 4 must-have Facebook platforms

I spend an obscene amount of time on Facebook, both for personal and vocational purposes. I am a fan/connection of a bazillion brands, and maybe half-a-bazillion social media agencies andsocial platform technology companies. Given my line of work, investigative research is part of my daily routine. As you might know from reading my past articles, I have a voracious appetite to discover the latest technologies and strategies to harness Facebook as a marketing channel.
Since 2007, brands have been trying to unlock the formula for marketing success at Facebook. From a brand marketing perspective, Facebook is not an easy platform to work in. It’s closed, the customer service is non-existent for companies that don’t advertise heavily, and broad functional changes are made regularly with little-to-no notice. It’s staggering to think of how successful Facebook has become given how difficult it is for us brand marketers to not only figure it out, but also to leverage on a consistent basis.
With all that brand marketers have on their plates, the last thing they want to focus on is trying to manage their Facebook brands on their own. Plus, with Facebook adding new game-changing features like “Places” and “Questions,” it’s a big challenge simply keeping up with the innovation. As a result, companies large and small are turning to third-party platform solutions for help.
Whether you are a small brand with zero social head count or a large brand with a social army, utilizing one or more Facebook marketing platforms is a wise move. The solutions they provide can help you maximize awareness, interaction, and reach at Facebook. These solutions can range from the template driven, self-service model to the fully functional and customizable model. In reviewing dozens of these platforms, four stand out for their depth and breadth.
Buddy Media
The Buddy Media Platform is a Facebook management system for some of the world’s largest brands and agencies. The platform offers the only solution that allows marketers to launch, maintain, and measure their Facebook presence in any country and in any language. Additionally, the platform has a powerful analytics engine to track metrics far beyond what Facebook Insights can deliver.
Central to the Buddy Media technology is a rich and robust tab management system with incredibly flexible administrative tools. With the Buddy Media Platform, you can create a multi-feature, highly interactive, custom Facebook tab in minutes. The platform features 30-plus social applications (sapplets) such as polls, gifts, email opt-ins, Q&As, Twitter and YouTube feeds, and more. These sapplets can be interchanged by simply dropping and dragging them into the tab.
In addition to their tab management features, Buddy Media has recently added robust new filtering, labeling, and search features to its platform, which allows brand marketers to manage the flow of incoming messages to their Facebook wall. Page administrators can now identify and label incoming wall posts to gain a better understanding of sentiment, tone, and frequency as well as identify customer support inquiries or complaints. This is especially helpful for larger brands that might have hundreds, even thousands, of comments to sift through each day.
Buddy Media is geared more toward established brands and the agencies that serve them than it is toward the small business. Its fee structure is set up as an ongoing license that allows a company access to the tab management, comments filter, and metrics engine. Each license includes a dedicated account management team to help with ongoing strategy, technical support, and custom solutions.
Wildfire Interactive
Wildfire Interactive delivers technology that allows brands to create and manage a wide range of campaigns, including sweepstakes, user-generated video, image and essay contests, e-coupon campaigns, product giveaways, and incentive-based surveys. The Wildfire app includes powerful viral features, such as newsfeeds, friend invites, notifications, share buttons, and comment boards. Campaign data can be accessed at any time via Wildfire’s online admin interface.
Unlike Buddy Media’s ongoing page management solution, the Wildfire app is geared more toward one-off promotional campaigns. The central element of its promotions engine is a sweepstakes management tool. According to Forrester Research, nearly 50 percent of online users like to enter sweepstakes at least once a month, and businesses that offer contests have twice as many social network fans as those that don’t. Where Facebook is concerned, sweepstakes can be a very effective way to gain new fans, as they offer the kind of incentives many consumers want before making a commitment to “like” a brand.
Anyone who has tried to run a sweepstakes on Facebook knows that it can be a complex process, as Facebook’s approval regulations are confusing and inconsistent. Wildfire takes a lot of the guess work out of the equation, providing tools that are smart, simple, and Facebook-compliant. Once your Wildfire promotion is set up, it can be accessed via a tab on your Facebook page. You can link directly to the promotion tab via your website, email, and other marketing communications.
Nearly all of Wildfire’s solutions are self-service. Its campaign wizard enables companies to set up campaigns quickly and easily. Its fee structure is based on a modest flat fee, plus a small daily licensing fee during the term of your promotion. Wildfire doesn’t offer strategy or account management services for its self-serve customers, though it does offer white-label apps and custom solutions for larger brands, which does include some strategic services.
NorthSocial provides a suite of simple-to-use tools that enable anyone to create and manage multiple custom tabs on a single Facebook page. Each NorthSocial subscription gets the entire bundle of apps to install on its page as it pleases. Now, even small businesses can create share-worthy Facebook pages in minutes without writing a single line of code.
The impressive thing about NorthSocial is the breadth of apps it offers. With 15 applications in its app suite (soon to be 19), NorthSocial truly does “have an app for that,” including apps for fan growth, promotion, marketing, content publishing, e-commerce, and more. Special note — check out its “Viral Wave Generator” app. It’s pretty cool. Another appealing thing about NorthSocial is how easy the apps are to set up. The page administrator selects the app it wants to use, uploads static images, inserts text and links, and then clicks enter. That’s it! The tabs can be set up, changed, or removed in seconds. This allows a company’s Facebook page to remain fresh, making for a more dynamic experience for fans.
NorthSocial’s fee structure is pretty straightforward — a very modest monthly licensing fee, which gives the user unlimited access to the entire suite of 100 percent self-service apps. NorthSocial uses the words “powerfully simple” in its USP, not only for the brand, but for the Facebook user. I couldn’t agree more.
Bamboo allows any company to have its own point-driven branded loyalty app right out of the box. The Bamboo platform offers an entertaining and compelling way to deliver awareness to new audiences by leveraging the friends of core fans. Fans who use Bamboo become “brand ambassadors” and gain access to incentives and exclusive content. They also compete head-to-head with other ambassadors by distributing the latest news, videos, polls, quizzes, and special offers via wall posts, invites, and gifts to their friends.
Bamboo works similarly to a social game. Facebook fans of a brand receive wall post communications from the Bamboo app and are incented to share messages, information, and content with their friends. Each time they do, they receive points that can be redeemed for discounts or exclusive content. They also earn bragging rights by way of a running tote board and badge status for users.
All of this activity is tracked in robust metrics engine. Here’s the good part — Bamboo can track what happens to a shared piece of content as it makes its way through the social graph. If that piece of content leads to a sale, Bamboo not only knows this — and reports it — it also knows who the original distributor of the content was and can incent them individually. This takes the “there is no real ROI for social” argument and turns it on its proverbial butt.
Bamboo does not require the knowledge of any programming (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, FBML). Fees can vary depending on the type of program a company wants to run. Bamboo has a sales forecast algorithm to break down costs per share, per lead, and per sale to get a sense, in advance, of how the platform will perform. Unlike Wildfire or NorthSocial, which are self-serve solutions, Bamboo provides strategy, setup, and ongoing support for its customers. This makes it more a fit for companies that have budget allocated to social.
You don’t have to be a large brand to implement sophisticated marketing programs at Facebook. With the right set of tools, you can build your Facebook marketing channel efficiently and cost effectively. As always, even the best tools won’t compensate for the lack of a strategy. But if you have a solid social plan in place that includes Facebook marketing, each one of these platforms can help with the heavy lifting and get you to your goals with a solid set of wins along the way.
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