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Facebook’s roll-out of new features lately have been helping brands promote their Fan page without much of a serious effort. The most recent update that had the social media sphere abuzz was the ability for users to tag friends within their status updates by adding an “@” symbol in front of the page title. However, the newest feature to be born out of Facebook Fan pages is the ability to tag Fan pages within photos, essentially allowing users to tag product brands. And if you can’t see how intensely this will change the face of social media marketing, you need to turn your head a little to the right and fill out that contact form and let us explain it to you.  Mono a mano.  Because this seemingly small feature has the potential to be a grand slam for marketers pushing brands online – especially within the apparel, food, and beverage industries.

Facebook tagging is nothing new, why is this one different?

Past statistics point to a growing trend for consumers to take product recommendations from peers – in both online and offline settings – rather than direct advertising, and celebrity product endorsements are enduring a slow, painful death.  So in reality, tagging brands within Facebook photos was a pretty obvious next step, since it allows individual users to tag and promote the companies that they want to endorse.  Personal endorsements + strong customer referrals = increased sales and higher customer loyalty.

How does this work, exactly?

Pretty simply, actually.  Say a user uploads a photo of themselves in a brand new pair of Ralph Lauren pants.  During the photo tagging process, the individual can tag the pants separately with the brand’s fan page – even if they are not currently a fan.  Since tagged photos could potentially jam up a Fan page’s wall, the tagged photos will automatically show up in their photo album – and not in fans’ feeds.  Fans of a particular brand can see all of the personal tagged photos from other fans of the product on the company’s page, while friends of the person tagging can see the tagged photos on their friend’s page.  The most beneficial advertising (real customer referrals) offered simultaneously in two places on a network that sees 250 million unique users a day.

So far, only “Brands and Products” and “People” are eligible for tagging, but other types of fan pages will be encompassed soon, ensuring all types of businesses will be able to benefit from this marketing element.

So what’s the next step for brands?

To take full advantage of this new feature, brands will need to entice users to tag their Fan pages online.  And like most company driven social media incentives, it will likely be pushed via Facebook contests and competitions that involve tagging company products.  No doubt major brands like Coke (featured above) and retailers like The Gap will be using these types of methods to gain a bit of free publicity, but as mentioned in the Mashable article, smaller local companies have the possibility to benefit hugely from this new capability – as long as they understand how to properly harness it’s full potential.  But even if they don’t, the potential for free advertising with no work involved is still there. And who can say no to that?

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