April 15, 2011, 3:08 PM

The many ways of marketing on Facebook

1-800-Flowers.com uses varying methods to reach shoppers on the social network.

Zak Stambor

Managing Editor

Lead Photo

1-800-Flowers.com Inc. has a wide-ranging customer base that ranges from the stay-at-home mom who only sends flowers to friends and relatives, to the corporate shopper who sends gift baskets to clients. That means the retailer has to follow a multipronged approach to marketing—particularly on Facebook, says Chris McCann, president of 1-800-Flowers.com, No. 40 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. “We have a broad customer base that requires us to try to speak to different customers in different ways,” he says.

For instance, one recent wall post on the retailer’s Facebook page posed a Buffy the Vampire Slayer trivia question, while another noted that it was Administrative Professionals Week.

The same idea holds true for the retailer’s Facebook ad campaigns. The flowers and gifts retailer runs both Marketplace and Sponsored Stories campaigns that are targeted to different customer niches. The ads target consumers based on the information they provide Facebook, such as a consumer listing golf among his interests.

Marketplace ads appear on one of four slots on the right side of a Facebook page under “People You May Know.” Sponsored Stories is an ad service that companies can use to have their logos appear alongside content from consumer posts that mention the company.

Using information that consumers have provided Facebook, a retailer may target consumers who play Facebook games such as Farmville with an ad that says, “Get 50 Facebook Credits for your farm and 15% off flowers and gifts for Valentine’s at 1800flowers.com.” Facebook Credits are the social network’s virtual currency. A consumer with different interests would see a different offer, says Kevin Ranford, vice president of marketing. “With Facebook we can slice and dice our audience so that we get the right message in front of the best audience for that message,” he says.

The personal nature of Sponsored Stories is particularly effective at drawing consumers’ attention, says McCann.

In one version of its Sponsored Stories ads, the retailer highlights that a consumer’s friend Liked 1-800-Flowers.com. When a consumer views the Sponsored Stories ad he can click that he Likes the ad directly from his newsfeed, his Facebook home page.

That minimal friction is important because it makes it easy for a shopper to Like the brand, says McCann. “In the world of e-commerce, and especially the world of social commerce, the fewer steps the better,” he says.

During a three-week span in which it ran Sponsored Stories that highlighted when a consumer’s friend Liked 1-800-Flowers the retailer more than doubled its Like base to some 120,000 consumers.

“They show you your friends engaging you, not the brand reaching out to you, and that draws your attention and gives the ad an intrinsic level of trust,” he says.

That may explain why the retailer’s Sponsored Stories had double the click-through rate of its normal Facebook ads, he says.

David Fisch, director of business development at Facebook, will speak at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2011 in a session entitled “What e-retailers need to know about Facebook."

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