If your company has a Facebook page, be advised that your Facebook page is your No. 1 flagship store. It is your brand completely laid open to the world, with at least 300 million Facebook members invited to share your space with their personal appreciations, advice, comments and perspectives. It isn’t a physical space, of course, like a usual retail flagship. It’s a flagship of your brand character, brand values and brand behavior, in an ongoing dialogue with all your Facebook “fans.”
On Facebook, a brand transacts its future
No money changes hands on a brand’s Facebook page, but what does transact is a brand-driven social and moral exchange that’s every bit as important. In effect, on Facebook every brand transacts its future. Brands are judged on Facebook across social, moral and political dimensions that may well determine a brand’s future. What is the brand’s agenda? Where is it leading the world? How is it a force for good? What are its positions on vital issues A, B and C? Does the brand listen? Does it speak with a human voice, or is it a PR bullhorn? Prepare your Facebook flagship to answer these questions. They will be asked.
Over time, a brand’s Facebook page can reveal a brand’s blind spots, program shortfalls and inefficiencies. Brand ready to listen—and to act—can translate this experience into strategic opportunities.
There are no pedestals on Facebook
There are no pedestals on Facebook. Brands are tenants on a page, co-equals with everyone else. On Facebook the brand is brought down to earth, shorn of its corporate cloak, poked and prodded, queried, challenged, and perhaps told to shape up here and there—just like any new member of the crew. This process is called brand engagement. It’s a two-way street. Brands can’t script it. They learn from it. And what they learn can be invaluable.
It’s your flagship, but many of the flags aren’t yours
What’s unique about your flagship presence on Facebook is that many of the flags won’t be yours. They’ll belong to your “fans,” in the shape of the eye-catching profile images that grace their comments. In very rare cases your Facebook page may be visited by individuals or pressure groups with their own causes, as the recent Nestle brand crisis so vividly demonstrated. Flying their own flags, these “fans” may try to turn your own identity against you, possibly using variations of your symbols and trademarks for their own campaigns.
Strong brands can take steps to preclude such eventualities, and can handle unexpected events if they do occur. On the other hand, a weak or backward-facing brand may be overwhelmed by aggressive fan behavior on what it considers its proprietary Facebook turf. Worse, it may find itself in a nightmare of its own making if it reacts by dictating rules of behavior to the “fans” who share its page.
Flagship brand, Facebook culture
In the brick and mortar world a company will use its retail flagships to help build a unique brand culture, every square inch designed to amplify the brand experience. On Facebook, a brand’s flagship presence must be built within the neutral Facebook frame, and within the Facebook culture. This is a culture that sees itself as open, egalitarian, informal, tolerant, supportive and respectful. That’s the culture your brand must embrace. Brands that come across as patronizing, arrogant, corporatist or legalistic invite a serious culture clash, which the brand can’t win.
A brand’s Facebook page is social property, not private property.
A brand’s Facebook page is social property, not private property. It can’t be structured as a walled garden where the brand promotes itself from behind the parapets. The purpose of the brand is not to privatize but to socialize, by leading its customers (and Facebook “fans”) to better ways of being and doing (that can also build the business). Brands are their outcomes. The more social the outcome, the stronger the brand. You fly your flags with verve and grace and wit and style and compassion. If your flags fly true, your Facebook fans will follow.