Till Facebook Do Us Part?

By now we’ve all heard the news that Facebook gained its 500 millionth user this summer. And next month, Columbia Pictures is set to release The Social Network, a movie about the founding of Facebook. Clearly, social networking is here, and here to stay. Thanks to Facebook, I now know more about the people that I went to high school with than I did when I was actually in high school, my parents have friended me, and I recently overheard a woman at the mall twice my age talk about Facebooking and FarmVille. But this past weekend, I was at a wedding and was struck by just how deeply Facebook has seeped into our culture. 
Sure, the wedding was lovely, and the bride and groom couldn’t have been happier. But as a marketer and media strategist, I was decidedly impacted by some of the officiant’s dialogue during the actual ceremony. He explained that he enjoyed getting to know the bride and groom as a couple. He already knew the groom and said that he enjoyed getting to know the bride, and he noted that he particularly liked getting to know her “on the Facebook.”
Wow. What started out as a platform to extend the college experience to the Web (get those tickets for The Social Network) has now moved into our ceremonial fabric — which put wheels in motion for me as a person who helps companies carve out a social media presence for their brands and products. When that wedding officiant mentioned the word “Facebook,” I’d wager that most people thought about finding college friends or a funny video or picture they recently shared. That’s because at a fundamental level, social networking speaks to a basic human desire – the desire to connect and share. Their frustrations, their successes, their stories, their thoughts.   
So if people are online to satiate a natural desire to connect with others, where does this leave brand marketers and their products and services? I’m sure that when the wedding officiant mentioned Facebook, people didn’t immediately think about products or companies they’ve “liked.” That’s in no way to say that Facebook doesn’t have a place in the brand marketing mix. It absolutely does. Its use just needs to be carefully considered, which begins with the most important thing a marketer can do: Listen. Listen to the currents of online conversation to understand how a product or service or company can seamlessly become part of online dialogue.
In an online space where people are talking about what they’re doing this weekend, or sharing pictures of their children, or sharing a funny piece of conversation, it’s more important than ever to ensure that we’re mindfully reaching consumers. It’s our world vs. their world – and we’ll win in their world. It’s not about controlling the conversation or giving messages to a blogger to spit back. It’s about meeting the consumer in their space. And when that happens, success comes far more naturally and easily.
I was listening at that wedding last week. So how about you – are you ready to listen?