By Frank Chung

Brands and marketers are struggling to derive value from their Facebook presence, according to a new study by Forrester Research.

The survey of over 500 US and European interactive marketing professionals found that most were failing to use Facebook to its full potential, due to a lack of focus, understanding, resources, and measurement.

Forrester Research vice president and principal analyst Nate Elliott said: “Marketers worry about how few fans they have, about how few comments and wall posts they get, and about the ROI of their Facebook spending – and many of them have good reason to worry.”

Elliott said Facebook itself exacerbated the problem with its “frequent and unilateral policy changes”, limited analytics and lack of content management options.

Less than 10% of respondents felt their Facebook page offered them deep engagement with their customers.

Shona Mackin, chief engagement officer of specialist Facebook agency Socialface, agreed that brands’ Facebook pages were often neglected.

“In many cases the page is run for a few weeks gung-ho and then something more important or a deadline strikes which means Facebook takes the back seat, the page engagement lags and the message is no longer seen as frequently as it should be,” she said.

In the report, Elliot suggested brands should follow four steps to improve their Facebook marketing: set clear objectives, provide value to fans, use the full Facebook toolkit to increase reach and engagement, and properly integrate Facebook into marketing campaigns.

Forrester Research senior analyst Steven Noble said a similar survey of Australian online retailers found most did not view Facebook as an effective channel for customer acquisition.

“64% let consumers fan, friend or follow their brands. Of these, just 20% say social networks are currently a top-three source of new customers.”

He said the majority used Facebook for brand building, post-sales customer support and “rough ‘n’ ready customer research”.

Socialface’s Mackin emphasised that building a Facebook presence is a long-term process.

“It’s not about creating a great looking logo, or a running a one-off campaign – things that traditionally marketers have been excellent at. It’s about having a conversation, being social, and demonstrating that you’re a company worth doing business with.”

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