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Facebook adds "Get more Fans with SMS" feature

Facebook_logo I was poking around Facebook's Fan Page features the other day and came across something new that they just released. You'll find it on the left-hand navigation of any Facebook Page that you administer, labeled Get more Fans with SMS.

First, definitions: SMS stands for Short Message Service. Basically, it's a fancy term used to describe the standardized system for exchanging text messages between mobile devices.

Second, how does it work? When I clicked on the option, I got this message:

Tell people to text "fan lavarow" to 32665 (FBOOK) from their mobile phones, and they will be added as fans instantly. Standard charges may apply.

When you signed up for Facebook, chances are good that they asked you to enter your mobile phone as an account identifier in addition to your e-mail address. So, Facebook already knows your mobile number, meaning that if you send the text message "fan companyname" to 32665 (Facebook's shortcode), they will associate the phone number with your account and automatically make you a fan of companyname.

One caveat: An organization's Facebook Page must have a username (a.k.a. "vanity URL") activated for this feature to work. For more information on usernames for Pages, click here.

Third, what does this all mean? The obvious, immediate benefit to companies with Facebook Pages is an easy, quick method for gaining more connections with an audience unchained from their desktops or laptops. It won't be long before you see Text "FAN COKE" to 32665 (FBOOK) on the sides of Coca-Cola packaging.

Looking ahead even further, I won't be surprised when Facebook offers out-bound SMS marketing features to companies with Fan Pages, meaning that an organization could "push" some form of messaging, offer or coupon to opted-in Fans via text message. Sending SMS messages isn't free, so Facebook could potentially charge for this feature and monetize the service with some sort of set-up or maintenance fees.

The main takeaway here is that this move will add another powerful component to Facebook's marketing toolbox for businesses.


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If your mobile/SMS device is already tied to your personal Facebook account, you will need a separate mobile device to make this feature work, correct?

Great post Nate.

I would caution businesses on the use of this feature. If you are Miley Cyrus or Joe Jonas, the feature sounds like a good idea. For a company targeting a more discriminating demographic however, I would advise caution.

Signing up with SMS is no problem. The problem arises with the inevitable "push" aspect you discussed. How are your loyal fans/customers going to react when they start to receive Facebook SMS spam? If the spam is under your control, that is one thing, if Facebook decides to use it to advertise your competitor, that is quite another.

For more established companies with a more discriminating customer base, I suggest waiting this one out, until the tween set has a chance to run it through its paces. In this case, an ounce of prevention is certainly worth a pound of cure.

Janet- thanks for your question. To make the "Get more fans with SMS" feature work, you just need to be an administrator of a Facebook Page (which you already are) and have a "vanity URL" set up. That feature is in no way tied to your personal mobile phone # that you may have entered when setting up your personal account.

Brett- Good points on mobile marketing. Facebook will absolutely need to develop opt-in features to give Fans control over how Pages push messaging to them.

Nathan, thanks for the reply. In order to get the Vanity URL, however, you have to verify or validate your account with a mobile number. Since I've already validated my personal page with my cell phone number, I'm unable to validate the Page without getting a separate mobile device. At least, that is the impression I'm getting by trying to follow the links to get the vanity URL.

Facebook does not require account validation via mobile numbers for "Vanity URLS" (usernames) for Pages.

Go to http://www.facebook.com/username/ and click "Set a username for your Pages." Select your Page from the drop-down list and it will let you check the availability of usernames for your Pages. When you decide on a username, you can activate it directly from there.

I think this is a great step forward in enabling marketers to better leverage the tools Facebook has given them, but I would also hesitate as a company to start promoting this.

For one, I think there are already too many "follow us on INSERT-SOCIAL-NETWORK-HERE" cries from companies and brands, most without compelling reasons to do so. It's one thing to have it available on your website as an option, but to use it as a key message you are sending out just doesn't jive with me.

With the advent of this option, I can already envision companies including this as another message going out, instead of focusing on why they are using social media in the first place.

And although social media seems to be making its way into the mainstream, I don't think consumers are ready to get updates from most companies or brands via text messages yet.

Great find on this tool though. I'm sure there will be some who can leverage it well, namely those with customers who live through SMS and Facebook. ;)

In regards to consumers not being ready to get updates from companies or brands via SMS yet, I'd point to the success of mobile marketing companies (Catchwind being a local example) as proof that consumers are ready for that, and have been for years. The key phrase I'd stress here is "opt-in," of course. From what I understand, opt-in mobile marketing performs very well in businesses that are promotion-heavy, ie. nightclubs, restaurants and casinos. Are consumers willing to get generalized messages from big brands like Coke or McDonalds? Probably not - it has to be targeted, relevant and specific.

Thanks for the call-out, Nathan. Yes, consumers are absolutely ready for SMS sent to their phone when it is targeted, direct, and opt-in. We've been there for a number of years.

It will be interesting to see where Facebook takes this new feature.

There is a difference between becoming a fan of Jason Brown on Facebook and opt'ing in for specials & offers from your local Panchero's franchise.

As I see it, permission-based marketing is very different from social networking. When you "follow" someone on a social network, you are doing just that, following. You are not saying, "advertise to me." With permission-based marketing, the first step is for an advertiser to get you to opt-in, in which case you are saying "please advertise to me." This happens when you sign up for newsletters, SMS offers or drop your card into a fishbowl.

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