The Facebook Effect: Strategies That Work for People-Brands

Aside the time suck factor inherent to using any social network, there’s one Facebook-related aspect, that only Twitter, so far, managed to drag users in such large numbers: marketing. If you manage to cut through the noise generated by so many marketers marketing to marketers, there’s as much value in using Facebook as a marketing tool as your skills, charisma and (luck) can put into it.

Facebook is one of the major cultural trends of the past five years, but also, one of the major marketing tools of the web – as long as you know how to interact, that is. Most businesses that use Facebook as a marketing tool fail because they don’t understand the difference between broadcasting and interacting. And most businesses need to interact, unless their main purpose is to broadcast. Who are the broadcasters? News sites, like BBC, CNN, AlJazeera, and so on. They all have Facebook fan pages that provide a whiteboard for fans to discuss headlines, but are rarely “managed” by humans (reporters) who also reply to comments.


While the brands above don’t always need the interaction, smaller businesses have no real chance without it. And the same goes for people-brands – like Diana Nyad, a world-champion swimmer of the 70s, whose PR agency is managing a social media presence on Facebook. Diana Nyad is in her sixties now, but is still an active swimmer. This summer alone she completed a 29 hour swim, 59 miles, off the Cuban Shores:

“Through the Facebook page we spoke with fans and the press about Diana’s swim. We received press from The Today Show, CNN, and other national press that quoted and mentioned the work we did through social media- both FB and twitter. Diana was set to be the oldest woman in the world to swim that length, and people responded to her,-” told us Michael Tomasetti, of ChatterBlast, the online PR agency that took Diana’s Facebook page from 0 to over 11,000 fans. He added: “Without her social media presence, she wouldn’t have had the same amount of online buzz had she not had a facebook page.”

And this is not a singular example. People-brands come in many forms and they can experience the same success using Facebook, through either self-managed profiles, or agency-managed profiles. Stefan Pinto, model and freelance writer, landed a New York Times Fashion & Style feature for his photo campaign on Facebook for Estee Lauder, with the Lab Series Skincare for Men Ab Rescue Sculpting Gel.

A Hard Man Is Good to Find cover.

A book cover designed to sell.

Another good example of people-brands are those writers who don’t only depend on publishers to promote their books. Some, like Seth Godin, choose self-publishing strategies, others, like James W. Lewis, create their own publishing companies, than harness the power of social media to promote them and the publications they issue.

Lewis has founded The Pantheon Collective with Qwantu Amaru and Stephanie Casher. For his book A Hard Man Is Good To Find, Lewis held a contest for participants to win a $50 gift certificate, and used the cover as a Facebook profile for a whole week. Only seventeen people joined in on the contest, but the book did sell, as Lewis told us:

For seven days, A HARD MAN was continuously exposed to over 7,000 people without me doing anything, many of them not knowing who I was or about the book until they saw the profile pic cover. Based on the profile pic alone, people bought the book, many times out of simple curiosity.

There are many factors that contribute to the success of a Facebook campaign, and there are also many ways to measure success. ROI should not translate in number of fans and likes, but in the concrete results of a Facebook campaign. Media exposure may be one result, then sales and comments – whatever shows genuine interest and engagement from people who come in touch with a Facebook profile.

The examples above show different strategies that worked in their own ways. Some people-brands will employ agencies, because more often than not, agencies know how to engage communities in more than one way. But there are also people-brands with the charisma, and the skills to become web celebs. Those without great abs and who cannot employ agencies, need a different approach. Emulating the strategies that worked for others is one way.

The problem is that the internet offers no concrete answers for those who don’t know where to look. The Facebook Effect is the first of the series. We will try to provide concrete examples for all niches in time.

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