PR News Q&A: GolinHarris’ Idil Cakim on the Blending of Brand Site Visitors and Facebook Community Members

As senior vice president of Interactive Media at GolinHarris, Idil Cakim knows how challenging it can be to build online communities and drive brand awareness for her clients. But Facebook’s latest features are making this job a little easier for PR practitioners. In this Q&A, Cakim gives a preview of the new Facebook features she’ll be discussing at PR News’ Facebook Conference on May 24 in New York City as a speaker on the panel “Facebook as a PR Tool: What You Don’t Know and What’s Next.”

PR News: What is new about Facebook that can be leveraged for PR and marketing?

Idil Cakim: Two recent changes have favorable implications for brand Web sites and other types of owned content. First, Like and Share buttons merged in functionality. If a user clicks on the Like button [when] they see a product or article on a Web site, they immediately start sharing a synopsis of the content area on their newsfeeds. The feature brings brand sites and Facebook user feeds closer. Brands do not have to rely only on their Facebook communities to drive awareness and participation. 

Also, now sites can embed a Facebook comments feature. Users can log in to a comment feature with their Facebook ID and their comments can appear both under the article and on their Facebook newsfeed. While the jury is out on how users and developers are adapting the comments feature, this can be a potentially powerful promotional tool for brands.

These features have the potential to expand brands’ presence beyond their Web sites and Facebook communities. Brands can now turn their Web site visitors and these visitors’ friends into community members and fans. 

PR News: How do you recommend PR practitioners blend Facebook strategies with their “traditional” PR strategies? Are they one in the same?

Cakim: They are one in same, indeed. Underneath it all, it’s about reputation and communication. What a brand does offline and online can be different in format, but they need to ladder up to the same goals and principles.

PR News: What are the key metrics to consider when measuring Facebook activity?

Cakim: First, take a look at conversion. Facebook activity reports will show how many people viewed (i.e., active users) versus becoming fans of a community (i.e., likes). I would say this is an important ratio to track. Second, take a look at the percentage of users who are engaged in activities on the page. Third, when building custom features, ask for metrics that reveal participation and pass-along. 

PR News: What would be your first piece of advice for a PR practitioner looking to refine their Facebook strategy?

Cakim: First, study your audience. Are they active Facebook users? If so, why do they visit Facebook, how do they use this space? Second, I would consider tactics that will help me break through the clutter on Facebook. A lot of users are going online now to find discounts. Consider if sampling is the right approach for your brand. There are a lot of people who just want entertainment. Third, invest in features that will get you closer to your business goals. Conversation builds awareness and brand affinity, not to mention search presence.

Idil Cakim will join Jason Winocour of Hunter PR and Matt Hicks of Facebook on the panel “Facebook as a PR Tool: What You Don’t Know and What’s Next” at PR News’ Facebook Conference on May 24 in New York.