Most of the headlines gained recently by Facebook Groups have been around Groups that have been used to protest about certain issues. The most interesting use of Groups though is by retailers trying to create a deeper engagement with their consumers. Some are doing things very well, others are finding that it is not working as well as they had perhaps anticipated!
Hitwise have recently analysed data from Facebook and found that over 1,900 retailers received traffic from Facebook in August - much of this generated by related groups and applications. Five of my favourite examples (good and bad) are below:
87,192 members in the Facebook Group PRIMARK APPRECIATION SOCIETY! People share views about their shopping experience or to exchange tips on what to buy or which stores to go to. It doesn't appear to be a corporate Group and there are no special offers, no discounts or pictures of latest fashions - it just seems to be a spontaneous gathering of consumers developing a common identity around a retail label.
2) Virtual Bookshelf application
Great use of an application. This application allows you to go into Amazon, select books and show them on your profile on a 'virtual bookshelf'. You can group books into categories - have read / reading now / want to read and you can also write reviews.
The application also shows what other friends are reading and allows you to see their recommendations. It will then link directly into the Amazon website to enable you to purchase recommended or books on your 'want to read' list. Instead of being 'other people who bought this title, also bought', it becomes signifcantly more powerful to see 'your friends are reading x and thought you would like it.......'
There are various Nikon appreciation Groups. Not strictly a retailer but a great example and one that retailers could follow. Encouraging users to post photographs they have taken with their Nikon cameras has encouraged a dialogue and has enabled consumers to exchange tips and interact with each other in a way that would not have been possible pre-the Web 2.0 world. (There is no reason why a retailer could not use this format to encourage consumers to show off things they had bought etc).
There are over 2000 photos on this one group alone and I think this is a powerful way of engaging with the consumer and building brand credentials.
Tesco fall into both good and bad. Whilst they do not appear to be running any official Facebook groups there are over 500 Groups featuring the word Tesco in their title. There are appreciation groups and also groups complaining about Tesco. Some of the more interesting ones are below:
A group available for current and past employees. There are some interesting revelations aswell as entertaining photos from around the store!
Another staff group is this one:
"If one more person asksme a stupid question in Tesco i'm going to kick them" http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2260377453
This group is for employees to discuss how 'stupid' and 'irritating' customers can be. Quite entertaining in parts and a nice picture of a 'Value Droid', though again not quite sure how well this sort of thing would go down with senior management?!
There are other groups like 'I Love Tesco' and various 'Tesco Appreciation society' groups, but I think the groups highlighted above show the potential dangers to a corporate brand that Facebook can present.
Perhaps the most ill-thought out move into Facebook has been carried out by Wall-Mart in the US.........
5) Wal-Mart - how not to use Facebook to promote your store!
After a disastrous attempt to use MySpace (10 weeks before it was pulled), Wall-Mart have ventured onto Facebook and set up an official group. They are aiming to promote Back-to-college products, but the strategy is not working.
The way this was PR'd, and the way the group is (over) designed, feels alien in the Facebook world. As such it is viewed as a cynical, big business, corporation trying to muscle into a personal medium in order to sell stuff.
This has not gone down well - there are hundreds of wall posts and few of them are complimentary. Even the photo section has been hijacked by anti-Wal-Mart protestors and I am not sure how long it will be before Wal-Mart pull the plug on their Group - it seems to be doing more harm than good at the moment. (Even finding it involves wading through hundreds of anti-Wal-Mart posts!)
The examples above show how careful retailers have to be when trying to engage their customers and employees through Facebook Groups. The Primark Group is a great example of how well it can work when things go right whereas Wal-Mart have given everyone a great case study of what not to do!
Facebook usage statistics
Largest groups on Facebook part one
Largest Facebook groups part 2 + difference between 'I am a fan of' and 'I am a member of'
Largest Facebook fan pages