If there is one sector that has the most to fear from putting its brand names on social media, it may be the luxury industry. Luxury brands like Tiffany were among the last to the Web during the 1990s. But as their customer base shifted to a younger and more digitally-inclined generation, luxury brands saw the writing on the wall and followed them there. New luxury e-tailers like Gilt Groupe and Net-a-porter helped pave the way.
Facebook would seem to be the ultimate challenge for luxury brands, between the lack of ownership of your presence there, and Facebook's democratic ethos (how do you maintain an air of exclusivity when suddenly anyone can be your "friend"?). But luxury brands have taken the plunge, with nearly all of the top 100 luxury brands managing their own Facebook pages.
Big Brands Stumble the Most
But do luxury brands get Facebook? While some have quickly built huge followings, they don't all understand the "social" aspect of the social network. In fact, a recent study of luxury brands on Facebook by L2 found an inverse relationship between size and sociability: many brands with the highest numbers of fans have the lowest rates of interaction with those fans. (Many of whom they may entice with paid advertising.)
Other luxury brands, large and small, are doing Facebook right, however.
Here are 8 best practices for brands on Facebook, drawn from the luxury industry:
1. Offer premium content. With the tools for building custom apps within Facebook pages, brands can now create rich, interactive content that attracts fans. MAC entices its fans with a social game called "Cute Pinball" that lets users challenge friends and update their scores to their own profile page. LancÃ´me lets visitors upload a photo and virtually try on makeup with its "magic mirror" app. Mercedes-Benz lets fans listen, download, and explore music from its long-running "Mixed Tape" series featuring up-and-coming artists.
2. Keep up the conversation. Brands on Facebook need to be sure to post to their wall regularly, so that they appear in the Facebook feeds of their fans. But not too regularly. Five to ten times a week, as brands like Swarovski do, is probably ideal. More than twenty times a week is overkill and annoying (hint: Oscar de la Renta). Responsiveness to customers is critical too. Brands like Aveda and Dewars make a point of replying to nearly 50% of all posts on their wall by fans.
3. Give customers a voice. It's hard to interact with your customers on Facebook if you don't give them a place to express themselves. The L2 study found a shocking 20% of luxury brands don't even allow their customers to post on their wall (Burberry was the most notable offender). By contrast, Tory Burch inspires hundreds of customers posts each week, and thousands of fan photos and videos can be found on BMW's page.
4. Ask customers to be creative. The most savvy brands inspire their customers to do more than simply upload a pic of their favorite product. Jaeger-LeCoultre invites visitors to design a virtual piece of art featuring one their custom Reverso watches; BMW's "2Originals" app invites you to create an original film with your Facebook photos to share with your friends.
5. Offer "gated" rewards to only your fans. Facebook's functionality allows brands to offer specific content and pages that are visible only after "liking" the page--a nice way to attract fans, and reward those who love you most. Belvedere vodka's landing tab offers photos from an exclusive "haus party" to those who click the "like" button. Oscar de la Renta offered free samples of its new fragrance at launch to Facebook fans only.
6. Integrate Facebook with the rest of your web presence. Facebook is only one part of a brand's online presence. Smart brands like Audi integrate it with Twitter, YouTube, and their own websites, linking out to them from Facebook, and linking to Facebook prominently on their own websites. Brands like Tory Burch integrate Facebook into every product page on their own website, with a simple "Share" button.
7. Balance global and local. As with any media, international brands must balance global reach with local relevance to customers. The L2 study found that luxury brands that offer localized Facebook tabs or pages (Johnnie Walker has 33 different national pages) have much higher rates of interaction by their fans.
8. Tap into F-commerce. Facebook isn't just for making friends. It's good for selling too. Even brands that are not yet selling products entirely within their Facebook page can use it to showcase products, guide the customer to a purchase decision, and then transfer them back to their corporate site for the sale. Bulgari's customers can browse products in Facebook and click to go directly to their purchase page on the company's own website.
While luxury brands were a little late to the Facebook party, the best have become true experts. Their fan pages offer lessons for any brand that is looking to convert Facebook fans into brand champions, encourage sharing in social media, and inspire new purchases.
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