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Like many of you, I have for some time been following with interest developments in the digital space and specifically in social media. Opening my inbox on Wednesday I found an email from IABC regarding the VIIth /Bi-Annual GAP Study of senior communicators in the USA.

Among the key findings were that the responsibilities of corporate communicators were expanding – into community management among other things – and that social media had become mainstream. Now this is hardly revelationary. However, it did make for an interesting context in which to attend Wednesday night's Social Media Club Melbourne gathering at The Bottom End – to discuss all manner of matters Facebook.

What can they tell me about Facebook? Well may the question be asked. After all, I have had a personal profile for many years. I post. I like. I share. I comment. I don’t Farmville or Bejewelled Blitz but consider myself pretty much across the functionality of the platform. I also manage our corporate page at work. According to the Facebook power user infographic published on Mashable the other day, I am definitely what is regarded a Facebook frequent flyer. So getting back to my initial question: “What can they tell me?” Well…much to my surprise, the answer seems to be… “a lot”!

Firstly, one of the interesting peculiarities of the Australian cohort of Facebook users is that 6 out of almost 11 million of them are “regular daily users”. At a 75 per cent daily return rate we have the highest rate of repeat visitors in the world. This is a pretty compelling statistic for any communicator or marketer. The good ladies from Facebook tell us that at these rates we are something like the fifth largest market worldwide. Pretty amazing given our relatively small population.

Also of interest was that more than 50 per cent of users access the platform via a mobile device. This replicates findings of our own email campaigns at work. The upshot of this is that Facebook is now being optimised and designed (using html 5) specifically for mobile devices .

As well as these compelling numbers, the Facebook team shared some interesting insights into effective brand and corporate pages. Firstly, and this may seem obvious, but when creating content for corporate and brand pages, remember that you are competing for attention with peoples’ family and friends, the people they love. Post in a manner that would compel you – as someone’s friend – to read a post.

It’s all about engagement. Replicate what you do off-line, on-line.

Facebook is a visual medium. Colourful, non-blue and white (as this will just blend into the Facebook architecture) photos with a witty caption attract the greatest engagement. To get people interested, talk about things related to your brand but not directly about your brand. For example, Huggies getting people uploading photos of their babies rather than talking about nappies.

For those who are old school and prefer "word of mouth" – Facebook takes the power of word of mouth and blows it into overdrive. Good engagement with a post gets elevated and becomes your advertising on Facebook.

Of particular interest was the discussion about new apps being developed around verbs associated with your brand, for example “running with” Nike or “cooking with” Cadbury cooking chocolate. The trick to these is to find a verb associated with your product – or a verb that people like to share – and develop your app around that. Interestingly, when I went to look at it, the Nike app wasn’t working and the page had a big apology from the developer on it – but as a concept, it has legs.

To help all us extroverted non-techie types, the good people at Facebook have developed a model to help companies self-assess where they are in terms of their engagement with Facebook, CEII or rather: connect, engage, integrate and influence.

In terms of reach, the global benchmark is now apparently 16% organic distribution and it was suggested that this is what we should aim for.

Another interesting and not altogether surprising statistic was that two thirds of people who “Like” a page actually like it. The other third do it because it is a good way to vent and complain about a product or service. When managing a brand or corporate page – keep your timeline about brand expression and identity. Turn on private messaging – this is available for brand and corporate pages – and move customer complaints off the wall.

Again not rocket science – people will buy your brand if they think it is the most popular – so multiple party corroboration is an extremely valuable thing. By developing good content that a lot of people “like”, you are greatly increasing prospects of consumers confirming a “buy” decision when they see their friends having “liked” a product or brand.

The presenters also referred to a couple of useful resources such as ‘Facebook studio’ and, before finishing up.

This was my first Social Media Club Melbourne event and it was great. Their next event – on bloggers and brands – is on 27 June 2012. For those of you interested in marketing communications, social media and digital communications, check it out if you haven’t already. You can find out more about sociam media club Melbourne here. If you happened to be there on Wednesday – what did you think? And what excites or irks you about the platform in its business and brand applications?

Contributed by Monika Lancucki, VP – IABC Vic

Disclaimer: The thoughts and opinions in this blog post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of either IABC Vic or my employer. I believe that the content is an accurate. Any errors are entirely my own and were not made intentionally.