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How to Solve Facebook's Customer Advocacy Problem

Posted by Bill Lee on June 26, 2012 at 01:08 PM

From the Harvard Business Review blog site

One of the most enticing possibilities for Facebook is helping businesses identify, cultivate and leverage customer advocates among its billion users. Facebook's current challenges with Sponsored Stories are significant, of course. Identifying users who "like" an advertisement as advocates, without clear and explicit permission, violates the basic trust that real advocacy requires.

As Influitive CEO Mark Organ put it, "It would be like the phone company recording snippets of conversations about some product, and broadcasting that information, without context, to other people loosely affiliated with the people being recorded."

But such missteps need not, and should not, be anything more than a stumble. The potential is too great for customer advocacy on Facebook. In addition to having a billion users, Facebook is establishing a distinctive identity, and carving out an especially valuable and timely niche, in the minds of corporate users: it's where companies can become human in the minds of customers and prospects, where they can show their personality, where actual people (employees) can engage naturally in authentic conversations with customers and prospects that help build relationships — which are key to successful customer advocacy.

Needed: A Customer Advocacy Apps Exchange
That said, two major challenges exist: Facebook is a platform, with just a few thousand employees. Thus, at this point, it is unable to develop and innovate the sort of software that could realize the full potential for customer advocacy and engagement on its platform. Corporations with Facebook pages can't (or simply don't) do this, either. For the most part, they haven't yet developed the skills necessary to build such genuine engagement. As a result they view their Facebook page as just another channel for traditional advertising and PR — an approach that's typically antithetical to authentic customer advocacy.

The answer, of course, is some kind of apps exchange for corporate customer advocacy programs. While most companies aren't there yet, there are several that have built superb advocacy programs over the last decade or more. The experience and lessons learned at firms like, Intel, Procter & Gamble, Intuit, Microsoft, USAA and others can act as a model for advocacy apps developers. And the advocacy vendors who've been serving these companies for years can kick start a vibrant apps market for Facebook's platform.

Read more about how a Customer Advocacy Apps Exchange on Facebook might look.


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