Friday, November 18, 2011

Creating Automatic Brand Advocates

How else would you know that your friend secretly likes to listen to European pop music while on the computer? Thanks to the Spotify app on Facebook, we can all know what our friends listen to, for better or for worse. And this is only the beginning of a wave of new apps that are a part of Facebook’s Open Graph development. This allows apps to share real time information about a user’s activity without having to ask for permission every time.

As a current Integrated Marketing Communications student at Northwestern, I have seen the many ways companies often try to artificially get word of mouth and how those attempts all fall flat. Brands have flocked to Facebook looking to find ways to get their customers to discuss and share their products. As many have found, it is a lot harder than just creating a Facebook page. So now the idea is: if our customers won’t talk to their friends about our brand, we will do it for them. By placing in the news feed that so and so listened to this song, companies can let a person’s actions speak. The reasoning behind this is that we as potential customers are more likely to try a product if we know our friends use it. A use is much more powerful than a like.

So far, this strategy has proven to be quite successful. In the past six weeks, songs have been shared 1.5 billion times on Facebook (Mashable). More developers are sure to take notice as this application can be extended to numerous categories. But there is certain to be some backlash. Users who are not aware of what they have agreed to may not exactly want all their friends to know every little thing they are doing. You may be a brand advocate and not even know it. There is also the risk of filling up people’s news feeds like what happened when everyone started playing Farmville. This will only further the debate over privacy and Facebook, but we have repeatedly seen that users are definitely willing to give away a little information for free perks.

Alex Greenwald, Graduate IMC Northwestern, @agreenw

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