Back when I started my career, I was in an organization that owned a couple of IT education brands. Those were the heady days of IT education in India, with the likes of Apple and NIIT ruling the roost and peddling everything from teaching C, C++ to Java and other advanced stuff.

The brand I worked for was not in the top league but we had a new web-specific course in the pipeline. And, we had big plans for its on-ground promotion.

I was a flunky back then and one of my tasks was to ensure that the cloth banners of the new course were in place, the night before the day we made the announcement. I went all around Delhi with our banner management vendor to make sure things were in place.

The other part entrusted to me was to make sure that the course’s franchisees had all the promotional literature and curriculum material with them when prospects walked in to know more about them.

Why am I writing this? Because Big Bazaar has a print ad today in Bangalore Times (Times of India’s city supplement) and it too has a Facebook URL. After Basics Life and Mantri Square Mall, here’s the 3rd recent brand that has a Facebook URL in its print ad – at least, the 3rd of what I’ve seen.

bigbazaarHow does my flunky story connect?

For just a mere cloth banner, we were so keen on making sure that the back-end was in place – that there is something of interest to prospects when they walk in. To hook their attention. And here is Big Bazaar, a national brand, that adds a Facebook URL treating it just like it was a standard website URL.

Take a look at the Facebook page. The number of fans is immaterial. The question has always been about, ‘What is in it for me?’ answered from the audience’s perspective.

Is there anything? Nope! It is just a glorified website, under Facebook’s domain. No doubt, the moderator seems interested in answering queries, albeit selectively, but the most important factor, I believe, is, ‘Why should I join this fan page?’

Is clothing at Big Bazaar a fannable brand? Not in my opinion – it is a low cost, affordable clothing brand – not worth flaunting. It’s functional and decent, not a cult brand. So, why should I, the reader, become a fan? The page doesn’t answer that. It has a few videos, photographs and also posts press clippings about its brand! It was the same issue in the Mantri Facebook page too, incidentally!

You could ask – what more can they do? Take a look at Basics Life’s page – they have a frequent buyer program, for heaven’s sake! Now, that’s sensible thought, though there are 3 comments in that tab that show that people don’t understand the initiative!

You, as a brand, has caught the attention of a reader enough to make him go online and visit your page – that is your second level of engagement after having got his attention on the print ad. How can you make him stick?

A website, at least, was and is still is considered a one-way broadcast – so, readers do not visit websites as often as brands want them to. Quite understandable. But a Facebook page is not a website – or, it need not be, at least by conventionally understood principles. It is usually seen as a conversational platform – so how difficult is it for brands to think about how to make a person join as a fan, particularly when you’re putting advertising money behind it too?

Big Bazaar’s affordable clothing line may have a handful of customer categories – the completely interested, value-for-money seeking customer; the occasional shopper; the completely uninterested and so on. So, why is it difficult to add elements to attract at least the first 2 categories?

Right now – as a reader, I do not feel like joining the Big Bazaar page as a fan. There is nothing there that makes me assume it is worth joining.

Adding a Facebook URL seems like an advertising-led, misguided trend to me.

It also seems like an interesting paradox – earlier, when advertising-led models insisted that websites have a ‘registration’ tab to collect user information, it was a slightly lengthy process and people were wary of giving their personal details to join – so the reason for joining had to be spelt out very clearly, in the hope that it may enthuse people to share their personal details.

On Facebook, all it takes is a click, to join. Does the ease of joining mean brands do not need to communicate benefits of joining?

Or, does Facebook, as a platform, does not need communication of benefits, to join and people can just become fans for the heck of it? When I say benefits, it need not always be monetary – it could even be an online community-based benefit – importance/ visibility within the community could also be a valid gratification.

But yes, nothing like a monetary gratification – however small – to get the reader to go the 3rd level, the ultimate touch point – visit the store! It is a small gesture of gratitude from a brand for taking the effort to go from print…to online…to the store!

Comments

comments

7 thoughts on “The Facebook URL: A misguided trend and a paradox

  1. IMO,Brands can hope to effectively leverage Facebook (and other sites like it) only if they provide the following to their ‘fans’:

    1. Coolness by association
    2. An opportunity for Activism

    Any brand that has done exceptionally well on Facebook has one (and in some cases both)of these working for it.Big Bazaar, at this point of time, has neither and I really doubt they will be able to do much with Facebook Fan pages.

  2. Riddheka: Well summed, those 2 points. My point was on how to bring either of the two if a brand doesn’t have them. For instance, if a brand is not cool or does not have an idea for activism-based participation too, how could they still expect people to ‘like’ or ‘fan’ them on say, Facebook? Is there a way for such sad brands? I believe there is, even though the solution is to think on some kind of brand-specific or topic-specific gratification – monetary, emotional, ego-centric and so on.

  3. A point well picked and discussed..Looking at today’s trend and the popularity that these social networking sites have gained over the recent past is phenomenal. And nobody can deny this fact that the users are mostly linked due to its cool quotient and not for anything that brings something back. Its just one space where they can emote..What’s bad in propagating through a channel that engage youngsters? At the end of the day any brand/product wish to have their share of mind space (positioning, as they call it). Benefits or no-benfits is for the user to decide.

  4. Well.. Appreciate your concern towards brands using social media in an inappropriate manner. But, this is a learning stage for all the brands who really wants to embrace this medium. Yes, its very true, that what is there for a user to join a particular fan page, how does it benefit a consumer. I think social media itself is not clear to many brands and they would want to experiment it using multiple mediums. If you look at another Brand of Future Group – Pantaloons (www.facebook.com/pantaloons). They are pretty much hitting the right things in this medium. They create events, properties only for online users. Thus creating a need for a user to go back to the fan page for more stuff for him. They have created events which gives an opportunity for the online users to participate and be a part of the brand’s initiatives. It could be giving an opportunity to inaugurate a pantaloons store or lunch with Pantaloons Femina Miss India Contestant. Everything is been driven exclusively through their facebook fan page. As a Social Media enthusiast, I consider pantaloons is one brand which clearly involves people in their initiatives and keeps it exclusive enough. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Bhanu: Yes, Pantaloons’ page looks pretty good – lots of engagement options and interesting gratification to keep people coming back for more.

    Incidentally, I see some usual suspects who hanker after prizes like its their birth right – I see them in some of the client pages we manage too ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Hi! My thoughts are in line with bhanu about how social media is a learning space. It is a space for us all to interact/be in and some will interact (those that will do well) and some will arrive and hang out but wonder why noone else is joining them. We find in social space just like in any other place whether as brand or as people that it is when we make the effort to be interested in what others think and to engage them that they will respond in turn. We need to network with them. We need to make a contribution to the knowledge, and we need to participate in the discussions. You are so right about brands “doing social media” because they want to “have one of those” as it were – e.g. a Facebook fan page. So they roll out their campaign and hang their digital banner as if a website. But when they use it to improve their customers’ experience by asking questions about how they like a product, but offering contests, events etc. (I will have to see Pantaloon!) and also when they give the customers a place where they can share their experiences and have the control to step back and allow those conversations, that is when they will be successful. As you note in stressing the importance of offering something that will entice them to stay and to actually be drawn to the physical plant, the brands that are best able to demonstrate to visitors that their feedback is appreciated and needed may be able to win a customer upon a first or hundredth visit.

  7. “Is there a way for such sad brands? I believe there is, even though the solution is to think on some kind of brand-specific or topic-specific gratification รข?? monetary, emotional, ego-centric and so on”

    The only solution for such ‘sad brands’ (love the phrasing btw) is to provide information that makes the consumer’s life easy/better in some way. That could be in the form of info on special schemes or initiatives that allows a ‘fan’ to experience said initiatives before non-fans (exclusivity)etc. I wouldn’t display the fact that I’m a ‘fan’ of a ‘sad brand’ on my Facebook profile unless I get something good out of it.

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