Is Facebook the new brand website?

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There was a clear pattern to online activities of Indian brands a little while ago: create brand website, drive traffic to it through web banners in mass or niche portals. The content on these brand websites too followed a pattern: information about brands or the current campaign, videos of ads and the mandatory wallpapers for download. Sometimes I wonder why anyone would think that a user would replace his current desktop wallpaper of a nature shot or that of his favorite celebrity with a wallpaper from a toothpaste brand. Anyway, things seem to have changed now.

I think it dawned on all concerned that its an expensive proposition to [a] attract traffic to your own web property [b] its difficult to create content that would make your consumer come back every day to your website [c] even more difficult to create engagement & provide ‘brand experience’ on your brand website especially for brands that satisfy regular, mundane everyday needs. Consumers could interact with a brand website on a regular basis when it comes to banks or a telecom services. Or when you are on the lookout for a consumer durable – a laptop, camera or some such. But if its a floor cleaner, mouth wash or a fragrance its rather difficult to justify repeat visits to a brand website.

Nowadays, the Facebook fan page seems to be the favorite port of call for brands when it comes to online activity.  The logic: fish where the fish are. Since consumers are flocking to social media website everyday as a habit, one might as well engage with them over there. In a 2010 article, AdAge noted that for many US marketers, Facebook fan pages have become their largest web presence.

2010 data. Source: AdAge

In India too, several brands have fan counts running up to millions on Facebook: [Tata Docomo – 5.2 mn; Dove – 4.4 mn; Fastrack: 2.5 mn]. In my view, the reasons for their popularity are varied:

– the brand category [how relevant & exciting the category is in consumer’s lives]

– the brand’s equity [arising either out of its heritage or recent marketing activity]

– quality & reputation of its products

– quality of their content on Facebook and other social media [ads on YouTube, posts, contests].

Not all brands have the wherewithal or ‘newsworthiness’ to emulate or replicate this. But making a beginning through a Facebook page where some consumers can engage with a band seems to be a better option than creating a brand website which no one is aware of. In the aforementioned 2010 article, AdAge notes that the Starbucks web page continues to garner a high level of traffic alongside its Facebook page. But that’s Starbucks. And the quality of content on their website.

When P&G re-launched Ivory recently, the URL was simply a conduit to re-direct you to their Facebook page. Several popular apps on the iPad use Facebook as ‘support pages’. In India, in the near future, brand websites will continue to exist simply as a means to provide detailed information about brands & the company. Or to link it with a current TV-led campaign [a la ‘Hum main hai Hero‘]. For many, Facebook presence has become de rigueur.

Your views on this? Do comment in.

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  1. I don't think that facebook pages will replace brand pages. The brand websites will continue to provide opportunities for creative edge, to wow the consumer, to glue different social networks together.

    I don't know how many people login to their facebook accounts to view a brands profile page. Users login to see their newsfeed or timeline and its very difficult for a brand to differentiate itself and standout.

    Every update has the same look and feel, so just like the ad banner blindness today, tomorrow users will have brand comment/update blindness.

    • bhatnaturally Reply

      Thanks for the comment, Sreekanth. I agree that brands are essentially intruding upon conversations between friends on FB. And most of the brand's FB pages have begun to look the same. They all have similar content in terms of posts, polls, quizzes & contests. Maybe setting a brand page is just a fad. There are certain brands which have the FB page as the only option for contact [App Developers for example].

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