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Making Facebook pay

There may be a place for Facebook marketing, but can it really replace traditional advertising for retailers?

Gap announced last year that it was dropping all TV advertising to focus on digital marketing. Last month saw the launch of part of that new strategy on Facebook.

Working with digital agency AKQA, Gap has redesigned its Facebook page (which has 390,248 fans at present). Fans are invited to click on the “Born to Fit” tab at the top, which links to new interactive promotional tools including video style applications, where users can watch 360-degree views on Gap’s latest styles, and a “Style Tips” community where they can upload their own style tips.

“Born to Share” is the most interactive element on the page. Here users can upload a photo of themselves and attach their own “Born to…” message.

The “Born to…” theme continues throughout, with individuals (be it actors, stylists or designers) talking about what they were born to do on video.

So, does this form of advertising really work? There has been a mixed reaction. While the most popular video shows 196 people “like” what they have seen, comments are mixed and very few seem to relate to Gap the brand, or the jeans it is trying to promote, with many only seeming to be interested in where to get discount vouchers for the store.

Other fashion brands and retailers on Facebook include US young fashion chain Forever 21, which has won 355,782 fans with very little effort. The only addition to the basic Facebook format on its page is the “New Arrivals” tab where product is displayed and users can upload photos of themselves to compete to have the “Look of the Day”.

H&M has a page, which contains a number of extra elements but has a less complicated format than Gap’s, with close to 1.2 million fans.

So can Facebook prove a successful advertising strategy for retailers? The networking site has no plans to charge for fan pages and it can certainly be a great way for brands to engage with their customers. Fan bases can be built quickly by using the Facebook “Become a fan” adverts.

However, brands need to consider the Facebook audience and also remember that it is a social networking community where users openly express their opinions, both good and bad.

Multichannel strategies are certainly the way forward for brands and retailers, but only time will tell if Facebook is the right medium.

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