Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Is Facebook a free customer database?

We're in the process of organising the first Hong Kong PR Network social event - set to take place on Wednesday April 30. The audience will be those 100 odd PR professionals who have joined the Facebook page I set up about 6 months ago.

The event, sponsored by the council of Public Relations Firms Hong Kong (cPRFHK), will be a first hand experience of how social media networks can really bring together groups of like minded people.

I had lunch with Doug White, Founder of Prosperity Research, and discussed whether corporate widgets on Facebook were a waste of time, and came to the conclusion that yes it was! However, by leveraging the basic initial purpose of Facebook, a networking and information sharing platform, I think it could still prove a valuable weapon in the customer interaction arsenal. It is in essence a free customer database with willing people who want to know about you (since people have the free will to join a group or not).

The effectiveness of Facebook groups to target consumers has yet to convince marketing and communication managers in corporate organisations, mainly because it is still primarily seen as a consumer platform rather than in a B2B or even B2C environment – which it is.

As a social media advocate I have been proposing the platform and its ‘group’ function as a cost effective and simple way to interact with people who may be interested in the company or its products – but to little avail as yet. I am hoping this event could prove to be the first case study (on a personal level) of how it is possible to reach out and bring together people who have a similar interest solely on the basis of a Facebook group – which has so far not cost me a penny. In effect, I believe it is a simple and harmless route to dip the corporate toe into the social media world with potential huge benefits.

Although an old topic, it is an ongoing debate. It will take someone to prove it works or that it doesn't before it is taken seriously or dropped quicker than US interest rates. I'll let you know after next week's event.

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