Store Owners Need to Stay "Facebook" Informed
The latest changes with Facebook community pages and applications are being met with mixed feelings. Like any social site, there are pros and cons to its use and implementation. Online store owners, however, need to consider the shopper when it comes to implementing features.
"Fan" is now "Like." No longer do Facebook users become fans of companies; now they simply "like" them. If your store has "Become a Fan" buttons they should be changed. Of course, "Like Us" sounds pretty corny, so get creative. Just be careful about using the word "follow" because that has become synonymous with Twitter.
Open Graph integrates web pages and Facebook. It will take some time before anyone truly sees the overall stats on this, but the feature isn't that new. Glue has been around for a while now, though it requires a separate account, as do other social media plugins and features.
There are key differences between the new Facebook feature and it's competitor features, like Glue. For example:
Glue puts an overlay at the bottom of the user's browser, and it's controlled entirely by the user. Users still share and comment on products, movies, and content, but it requires no interaction by the actual web page itself.
Facebook's new "like" implementation is put in place by the developer of the site. Thus, you include code snippet on the page and the user (if logged into their Facebook account) then opts to "like" or comment on the content. Their activity is fed back to Facebook and appears on their activity feed. This implementation is more akin to publishers posting a Kaboodle button on a product page, however, the user is never taken off the current page.
Some users are furious over Facebook's latest implementations, because they feel it makes things too open. However, they can block the functionality altogether by blocking the application and staying logged out.
The same day Open Graph was announced, even some of the nation's smallest news sites had already integrated the feature. Online stores can also benefit by seeing the feature as a "word of mouth" tool. Sure, you can still utilize the standard Facebook share feature, whereas the visitor clicks a button, enters text, and posts your link and information to his wall. The like button, however, simplifies the process. It provides, in real time, stat counts directly on the page - so you can always see just how many people "liked" the product or article. It also posts to the user's Facebook stream, so others also see what they liked and can click a link to go right to the page on your web site.
Further functionality allows "publishers" (i.e. the store) to target users better by displaying content based on the users profile (what he or she has already "liked" on the web). It also lets Facebook users see what their friends actually think about the page (if they've liked, recommended or commented on it, that is).
While some also speculate Facebook will use information to feed ads throughout the Internet, that's something likely farther down the road. Though, we should keep eyes open to make sure any such changes don't affect the actual shopping experience (or even send people off our own pages).
Whether or not you should implement the like feature on your store pages is dependent on a few things:
Are you wanting to reap the benefits of social media? That is, are you hoping to gain more customers by word-of-mouth advertising, which is already readily apparent on sites like Twitter and Kaboodle? Facebook users could already do this, but this method makes it simpler and more instant.
Does a decent percentage of your target audience take part in social networking? If not, you might consider using the features, but making them less prominent on the page. Most tech sites sport social media icons as either part of the articles or in their own column on the page. This is because these types of stories are often shared across the web by highly active users. For an online store, however, you need to consider if making them too important on the page impedes "add to cart" and "checkout" buttons.
Will you keep in-the-know? If you rarely keep track of latest offerings and only sporadically even look at your store's pages, you need to think about this. You want to make sure that missed-announced changes don't wind up contradicting your main goal of selling.
Will you also work on promoting your products? You can expect better results and more interaction if you also partake in social media and give key shoppers reasons to visit your store.
If you opt to implement any or all of the new features, don't compromise your prime real estate space. No social icons should confuse the shopper or otherwise delay the purchase process. This can be tricky if it requires new page layouts (and many times, it actually does).
Some key benefits:
Lacking customer reviews? The comments feature may help promote more sales. Since most sites require a login to post a review, a good percentage of shoppers don't take the time. With Facebook, they need only type and click.
Hoping to sell to existing customers' friends? Seeing that other Facebook friends like or recommend a product lends more credibility.
A standard platform/method. Forget about what the pros say, we're talking about the average Facebook user. If a user wants to click "like" and recommend throughout the Web, why not? Yes, there's a great risk of over-saturation here, but we're talking about feeding desires today, all the while staying prepared for changes tomorrow.
More work. Not only does the code need to be implemented, but you also have to stay on top of updates and check for changes in the feature itself.
Misplacement. As previously stated, many stores need a study to determine the proper place for any social media features.
Potential conflicts. Technology, including compatibility with web sites and older browsers, is ever changing. Be sure to test any updates in various browsers and versions prior to pushing live.
Almost everyone in the world of Internet business is aware and knowledgeable of social media especially Facebook, but only a few know how to really make most of it and that is the case you want to show here. Nevertheless as you said it depends on them. Thanks for sharing, Pamela.