Facebook is getting ready to connect powerful brands and the customers who love them for Black Friday.
Facebook has 300 million plus users, and they're all potential customers for the hundreds of thousands of retailers and brands with a presence on the Facebook site.
So-called Facebook "Pages" allow retailers and brands to build an official profile, and sign up "fans" to whom they communicate updates and news. This holiday shopping season they're hoping to turn that communication stream into a goldmine, by engaging consumers with news about Black Friday specials.
I had an exclusive interview with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and she explained how the business works. Facebook doesn't get a cut of purchases made through the site -- though I think it would make sense of they did. Facebook is hoping to grow traffic as consumers hunt for deals and spend more time on these Fan pages. Facebook is working off a pure ad model. The more useful Facebook is to users, the more traffic it generates, which helps sell more ads. And voila, the more profitable the social network becomes.
MasterCard has a pretty cool "GiftFinder" toll on its Fan page that recommends gifts for your Facebook friends, and then directs you to Amazon to make the purchase. You can scroll through your friends to decide to whom to give a gift, and then you can input your budget, their age and interests. If MasterCard was smart it would mine all the information on your friends' profile pages, but here it just makes it easier for you to. It gives you some suggestions and sends you right to Amazon to buy. (I can't vouch for the accuracy of the program-- Sheryl Sandberg tried it on me, and it suggested she either buy me an espresso machine, which isn't a bad idea, or a pink bunny suit, which is odd, and out of left field).
Other retailers use their space as a way to get consumer excited about new deals. Toys R Us gives its nearly 400,000 fans an early look at their Black Friday deals. Toys R Us Fans can also vote on "Cyber Monday" deals to decide what the retailer should give the best deals on next week. Sears is also pushing towards Black Friday. Fans can enter a contest to win a $500 gift card, and 25 lucky Sears Facebook fans will be able to shop Black Friday deals two days early.
Intel is engaging consumers with a group buying initiative that's designed to get more people engaged with the Intel Fan Page . The more people become fans of three laptops, the more the computers prices will drop for Cyber Monday.
The question now is how these retailers and Facebook maintain the customer engagement after the Black Friday deals are done.
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