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Facebook’s Marketing Conference stopped off in London yesterday afternoon following similar events in New York and Tokyo.

The focus at fMC was very much on how brands should be using the social network to create an identity and tell stories through engaging content, with global brands such as Unilever and L’Oreal giving insights into how social fits into their marketing strategies.

Facebook VP of business and marketing partnership David Fischer introduced three new products to European marketers during an opening keynote: reach generator, offers and premium ads, but this was more of a recap of what had already been announced at fMC New York.

Also, exact details of how much the new tools will cost and when they will become available (four to six weeks is the official line) are still a bit woolly.

The main attraction for attendees was the breakout sessions, with Unilever’s senior director for global media innovation Debbie Weinstein outlining how social fits well with the company’s philosophy of putting people first.

We want to put the power in the hands of consumers so they create our brands with us. We want to hear their stories and how they want to engage with us.

Using the example of Dove adverts that have used a consistent message since the 1950s, she said that the key to encouraging interaction and sharing among fans is creating emotional content rather than cold brand messages.

And it is down to Unilever’s brand managers to create that content.

Brand managers have to have something interesting to talk to consumers about – if not they shouldn’t be the steward of that brand. In order to succeed brands have to have products people can buy and ideas that consumers can buy into.

Brand managers for Domestos and Ben & Jerry’s will be pleased to hear that Weinstein singled them out for praise for their respective involvement in Facebook campaigns for World Toilet Day and Britain’s same-sex marriage debate.

We need people who are willing to take risks and try new things, then we can cascade that learning back into the business.

The emphasis on telling stories was echoed in a panel discussion hosted by Facebook VP of EMEA Joanna Shields and featuring L'Oreal CMO Marc Menesguen, Aegis UK CEO Rob Horler and DDB UK CEO Stephen Woodford.

Menesguen revealed that L’Oreal has a team of 400 staff working in social media who post new content on Facebook everyday.

It’s a lot of work and requires a lot of commitment. The digital revolution is on at L’Oreal and we are integrating digital and social as early as possible in the marketing process.

But while content and engagement is important, he said that the focus always remained on sales and monitoring how social media can aid the sales process.

Woodford highlighted Volkswagen as a brand that integrates social into every aspect of the sales process.

They use it for customer research, after sales, every part of their business. They are looking for a connected journey from the TV ad through to the sale.

He said that in order for companies to build relationships with their Facebook fans they must think about their brand as a person, with the keyword being authenticity.

What makes you authentic is honesty, and that is critical in any medium. We find that the key to honesty in the Facebook environment is opening up, and the degree of opening up that you do.

These same fundamentals are true even as Facebook evolves and becomes a more sophisticated ad platform.

Marketers must think of something that is inspiring about their brand and give fans personal motivation to share and engage.

But this is often easier said than done.

Horler said that while the power and reach of Facebook is irrefutable, brands still had work to do to understand how to use that power for marketing.

We have to get better at measurement and understand how scale and engagement drive sales. But that is not necessarily for Facebook to tell us, we need to figure it out.

David Moth

Published 29 March, 2012 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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