Facebook is open for business, says European boss


15 May 2009

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The head of Facebook’s European operations Colm Long has said the social-networking site has added better functionality for companies and organisations, and that the service ripe for use as a medium to grow businesses.

The social-networking phenomenon that is Facebook has already resulted in 200 million individuals signing up, and Long believes businesses should be using it as a platform to advertise and reach new customers.

“You can connect with a global audience and make your message resonate based on individual’s interests,” said Long, who will be presenting the keynote at next week’s IIA Congress in Dublin.

“A lot of advertising in the past was difficult to measure and certainly couldn’t be executed or measured in real-time. Also, it was difficult to measure relevancy.

“You can now measure, in real-time, the success of your campaign. You can launch and refine an online advertising campaign within any budget, and the beauty is that you are in control of your campaign at all times,” Long added.

Long said there is enormous room for improvement among Irish businesses and their approach to the internet.

“In the past, and to some extent in the present, many businesses saw their website solely as a ‘brochure’ of sorts. It was designed to give the customer or user an idea of what their line of business was, but didn’t necessarily allow them to transact in any meaningful way.

“Of course, now the web and new technologies are allowing businesses of all sizes to reach customers, globally, at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing or advertising campaigns.

“The web has been a great leveller in that businesses of all sizes can benefit – it can be the engine for your business, rather than being a peripheral concern. Combined with the potential of mobile, I think you will see very exciting developments in the next few years.”

When it comes to online advertising, Long believes businesses are much more aware of the power of the medium.

“And in tighter economic times, the relevance and measurement benefits are very clear. And then there’s reach – Facebook has over 200 million users now.

“While there is always a fear of the unknown, once people see more and more success stories they will get more comfortable and then allocate more budget to their online campaign. Online spending in Ireland is starting from a pretty low base, so it only has room to grow,” he said.

When it comes to finding the best way for firms to get a return on investment from their web strategy, Long said: “Launch, measure and refine would be three words that come to mind.

“Set realistic expectations and put the necessary resources behind them. Anyone can set up a website or online campaign. ‘Online’ requires the same kind of thought and creativity that has been evident in ‘offline’ campaigns,” he said.

Colm Long will be one of the keynote speakers at next week’s 2009 IIA Congress, which takes place on 21 and 22 May at the Crowne Plaza Dublin Northwood. For more information go to: http://www.iia.ie/events/iia-congress/

By John Kennedy