Facebook Page or Microsite–Where Does Your Online Promotion Belong?

With marketing bloggers buzzing about the opportunity to run free promotions on Facebook, today’s topic is a hot one: Where’s the primary place your online promotion should live, and why?

At its most basic, the answer to this question will always be: “Look to your objective.” For example, if the target audience for your promotion is specifically the Facebook community, then you may want to build your program entirely on Facebook.

If your goal is to reward current, loyal Facebook fans, and you already have a significant number of people who “like” your brand page, then a promotion contained within Facebook makes sense.

But if you have plans to use your social media activity for more than just collecting “likes”–if you plan on moving fans of your brand into a permission-based marketing program so you can qualify them as prospects and nurture them into loyal buyers–then it makes more sense to firmly plant promotion registration and data collection on a site that you control.

Best reason to choose Facebook: Fans

For starters, Facebook may be where your customers are. As of March 2011, 146 million Americans ages 13 and up have a Facebook page. The average Facebook user spends 23 minutes per visit on the site, and visits 40 times per month.

If you’re going to use Facebook, it’s important to align your promotion strategy with the reasons why people go there. People use Facebook to see what friends are doing; to fill down time or “me time” with a bit of fun and entertainment; and, recently, it’s been shown that people use Facebook posts to demonstrate how clever, happy or successful they are.

So if you’re planning a promotion that offers a broad range of people the opportunity for fun and entertainment–or the chance to show off their quick wit–you may find great success on Facebook.

If your brand’s Facebook page already has a significant number of fans, and it’s time to engage and reward the most loyal, then a promotion contained within Facebook may be exactly what you need.

Is your objective to gain new “likes” on Facebook? If so, promotion is a great strategy. According to a 2010 study by ExactTarget and CoTweet, the number-one reason consumers “like” a brand is to get discounts and access promotions. Freebies are an extremely powerful draw!

Just remember that to gain new “likes,” you’ll have to reach outside your own Facebook brand page and draw new people to it. You’ll need to advertise on Facebook, or promote your brand page via other channels. Reach new consumers, and draw them to your brand’s Facebook page. And yes, you can make “liking” your page a condition of entering the promotion.

Best reasons to host it yourself: Control and Metrics

On a microsite, you control every aspect of the promotion, including the look and feel, the data you collect and how you manage it, and details like legal requirements and judging protocols.

You’re not limited to what you can do by a third party. And no one is suddenly going to change the basic layout of your page or the rules of engagement. Facebook is notorious for updating layouts and changing functions without warning, with mixed reactions from consumers and brands.

Host the promotion on a microsite and you have creative freedom to design a promotion that fits your brand personality and guidelines. You don’t have to fit within Facebook’s specific page grid, a format that tends to make many brands look alike to consumers.

Send people to your microsite, and you own the data. You alone receive the information they provide in exchange for a product sample, a coupon or the chance to win. The information you collect can range from emails, mailing addresses and phone numbers, to recipes and survey responses. And, of course, getting a consumer to opt-in to receive future information is key.

On the other hand, if you want full access to the data file generated by a promotion contained within Facebook, you may need to use a promotion app offered by a third-party provider like Wildfire, where out of pocket costs can range from $5,000 to $15,000.

Finally, if you want to reach a specific type of person, age group or professional audience, a microsite may be a better choice than Facebook. Using targeted ad placement–both online and via traditional media–you can pinpoint your key customer profile.

Serve it up on Facebook, and you’re only reaching Facebook users: millions of diverse people to be sure, but not necessarily the group you want to target. (Do you really want to award a prize to someone who has no interest in or need for your product or service?)

So what’s the key takeaway?

In most cases, it’s not really a question of either/or. Within today’s digital ecosystem, integration is key, and providing an offer that’s relevant to your target consumer is essential. Build a promotion strategy that’s based on clear objectives and an in-depth understanding of your customers, and the question of where the promotion belongs should answer itself.