Facebook was founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard University student at the time. Zuckerberg recalls, “I just thought that being able to have access to different people’s profiles would be interesting. Obviously, there’s no way you can get access to that stuff unless people are throwing up profiles, so I wanted to make an application that would allow people to do that, to share as much information as they wanted while having control over what they put up.”
Within 24 hours of its launch, nearly 1,500 Harvard students had registered on the site. A month later, half the campus had joined. Initially, only Harvard students could view and use the site, which had relatively simple profile and navigation tools at first. The early momentum was tremendous, though, and Facebook soon expanded to include students throughout the Ivy League and then other colleges. The initial decision to keep the site exclusive to college students was critical to its early success. It gave Facebook a sense of privacy, unity, and exclusivity that social media competitors like MySpace did not offer. In 2006, the site opened its doors to everyone.
Today, Facebook is the most popular social networking Web site in the world, with more than 1.3 billion active users. It allows users to create customized personal profiles with information such as their hometown, work experience, educational background, and relationship status as well as an unlimited number of photos and albums. To interact with each other, users send messages, “poke” each other, and “tag” or label people in their photos. They can post comments on friends’ “walls,” join groups, upload and view albums, plan group events, and create status updates viewable by everyone. In summary, Facebook is on its way to fulfilling its mission: Give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.
Facebook is not only an important part of many people’s lives but also a critical marketing component for just about any brand and company. Its pages provide a way to personally interact and communicate with consumers no matter the size of the company. In fact, Facebook is a great way for smaller companies to build strong, long- lasting one-to-one relationships with their initial consumer base and listen to consumer feedback. Even politicians use the site to push their campaigns and communicate with supporters on a local, personal level.
Facebook provides companies a place to expand their personalities in an inviting and nonthreatening environment where they can show a softer side than they might in traditional marketing media. Marketers can launch videos and trailers, unveil promotions, run contests, upload images, and post news. Some companies tie into charitable causes through Facebook. Pacific Bioscience Laboratories, maker of Clarisonic face brushes, pledged to donate $1 to charity each time a Facebook user clicked the “Like” button on its page and raised $30,000 for women suffering from cancer. Burt’s Bee’s uses Facebook to introduce new products to its loyal consumer base first and hear their immediate feedback. Old Spice has successfully used the site to take its humorous commercials viral. The brand has millions of fans and believes Facebook was one of the key factors in revitalizing a 70-plus-year-old product among young consumers.
Facebook also offers highly targeted advertising opportunities with personalized messages. Ads—the company’s major source of income—can target individuals by demographic or keywords based on the demographic and interest information they have placed in their profiles. Many ads include an interactive element such as polls or opportunities to comment or invite friends to an event. Facebook can include “social context” with the advertiser’s marketing message, which highlights a friend’s connection with that particular brand.
In one survey, college students named Facebook the second-most popular thing in their undergraduate world, tied only with beer. The site offers a unique opportunity to engage consumers on a personal, meaningful level and even reach new ones through its targeted advertising options.
Source: Kotler Philip T., Keller Kevin Lane (2015), Marketing Management, Pearson; 15th Edition.