Ivan Fernandes, global director of social media technology at MediaCom
Ivan Fernandes, global director of social media technology at MediaCom
A view from Ivan Fernandes

Think BR: Why brands should Skype Facebook

The tie-up between the two technology giants presents marketers with great opportunities to connect and help consumers, writes Ivan Fernandes, global director of social media technology at MediaCom.

Social media has revolutionized the way people connect, the way they talk to brands and the media landscape in the digital age.

So it’s no surprise that when two of the biggest global social media names get together, marketers should be listening.

Facebook’s deal with Skype opens up a range of potential communications channels that go well beyond conventional marketing.

The formal announcement is that Facebook is working with Skype to introduce video calling.

Essentially, it lets you video call all your friends directly via Facebook rather than having to open up the Skype platform.

So what does this mean for brands?

I believe there are three key opportunities:

Customer service

Most serious brands have some kind of presence on Facebook, just as they do on Twitter.

Often this can act as a lightning rod for any consumer frustrations, with negative comments threatening to takeover their wall.

Using video calling will enable brands to address any customer that is having difficulty with their product or service, find out what is wrong and resolve the issue, quickly and efficiently.

The ease with which customers can now be addressed via this channel - without having to persuade them to shift to the phone or email as on Twitter - will make it far more likely that the result will be a positive status update.

Product set-up

Rather than having to send out a technician to install a new TV or set up a mobile, a customer service assistant might also be able do so via video.

Such one-to-one service might be offered by technology brands or retailers as a more cost-effective alternative to sending staff door to door.

Product demonstration

Brands can make video calling part of their launch strategy as well.

Rather than simply place a film on YouTube, video calling will allow consumers to log on to a 'conference call' where a technology brand might, for example, run through the features of its latest product, answer questions and build excitement within its fan base.

And because everyone will have to friend a brand to take advantage of all these services, companies will also benefit from the fact that more consumers will become part of their networks.

All this, of course, is just the start. The integration of video calling across Facebook means that over time there will be more possibilities for brands.

Key features that brands should aware of in Facebook’s latest update include the expansion of its group functionality.

At the moment groups are used by around 50% of those on the social media platform.

Now you can call consumers into a group chat on the fly, without having to set up a special group.

Adding video would enable brands and marketers to create quick and easy focus groups or brainstorm across offices, for example.

The other key change is a new look for the Facebook chat page, and this highlights how far the platform is now extending beyond the simple PC.

The new design highlights who you talk to most by putting the most frequent correspondents.

It no longer shows whether they are online or offline but simply offers to send a message.

Facebook now assumes that we are always connected in some way, via some device.

Recent research may show that Facebook has peaked in some developed markets, but the depth of service and message integration that is possible continues to develop.

Few media platforms can offer so much to so many parts of an organization, be it marketing, customer service or research.

This deal with Skype extends Facebook’s value immensely. The obvious extensions of that functionality merely reinforce the need for marketers to dedicate serious time to understanding the platform.

Ivan Fernandes, global director of social media technology at MediaCom