Brands need to do more than get fans to click "Like" on their Facebook page - they need to optimize their social presence and keep fans engaged with regular content.

While many companies have their own Facebook brand page, most do not know how to optimize this powerful social media tool. Getting customers to add a brand to their followed pages does not translate into increased sales - a recent eMarketer report shows that only about one third of consumers want to buy products from a brand after following them on Facebook. For 61 percent, the engagement stays the same.

While the proliferation of Facebook's "Like" button has made this strategy key for all sizes of businesses, the report voices concern. As report co-author Kimberly Maul explains, “...the fact that some companies have made Facebook the primary way they engage with consumers online raises serious questions about the risks and rewards of marketing within another company’s structure and rules.”

Professionals appreciate the low-cost advantage of this type of marketing. Hubspot's "The State of Inbound Marketing" (PDF) shows cost per lead is 62 percent less in inbound-dominated than outbound-dominated organizations. Over half of companies that use blogs report lead generated specifically from their blog - and more companies are using blogs than last year. From 2009 to 2011, blogging businesses grew from 48 percent to 65 percent.

In Hubspot's report, social media was shown to give better brand exposure as the years pass, and the most recent Facebook customer acquisition rate was 48 percent. But presence is not effective without content - just as customer acquisition is better when blogs are frequently updated, successful Facebook pages engage with their audience. In a WDCW study quoted by eMarketer, many brands provide video content, as well as ask fans to share comments and write on the brand's Wall.

The social network most suited to a company does depend on the type of business - B2C companies do better with Facebook, while B2Bs do best with LinkedIn - though both show "similar and relatively high success with customer acquisition through a company blog." Within industry categories, Facebook was most effective for retail/wholesale and higher education, with lowest customer acquisition for manufacturing and technology (hardware or software/biotech).

By Ivory King