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(EMC)—Companies are now spending billions of dollars annually on social media to create brand awareness and lead generation. A significant percentage of this money will be spent on Facebook, with the goal of increasing a brand’s fan base through either Facebook page applications or Facebook ads. The number of Facebook pages with 1 million fans or more has soared from 300 in November 2009 to 3,000 in August 2011; there are now more than 140 Facebook pages with over 10 million fans.

As the race for fan count becomes less rewarding and distinguishing, marketers should take a look at innovative opportunities to increase brand awareness and loyalty within Facebook by hosting or promoting exclusive content on their pages. A significant prospect is for brands to take advantage of new social entertainment opportunities by sponsoring movies, music, concerts and sporting events on Facebook.

Here are a few tips on how today’s social media-savvy marketers can leverage Facebook to differentiate and engage fans:

1. Sponsor popular pages that your fan base would appreciate. Companies can sponsor live concerts on Facebook in exchange for dollars and promotion of the event to your fan base. For example, in June rock band Widespread Panic’s concert was sponsored by companies like PayPal, Heroku, Symantec and others in exchange for partially funding the live event to 19 countries around the world.

Each sponsor was given significant exposure during the event and on the event page, and fans were treated to some of their favorite songs.

Finding partners to sponsor the broadcast of live events will reduce the cost significantly while still creating lasting impressions with fans. While social entertainment hasn’t yet reached a critical mass, there are enough events in the works that could benefit from sponsorship dollars. Early adopters of these sponsorship opportunities are likely to get good deals, so keep an eye out for these opportunities.

2. Host an exclusive event on your Facebook page. Taking the last point a step further, larger brands can host live and recorded events on their own Facebook pages. This helps generate social good will and brand endorsement.

Seek out social events that your fan base would enjoy. In August, Budweiser hosted the first-ever live streaming of a soccer match on its U.K. Facebook page. Budweiser’s U.K. Facebook fan count jumped by 6,000 the day the event was announced.

3. Issue Facebook Credits. Facebook Credits can be used to purchase virtual goods, digital goods and Facebook Deals. On a smaller scale, issuing Facebook Credits that can be used to attend a social event is a great way to reward existing fans and lure new ones.

For example, your brand could issue 30 Facebook Credits to new customers and direct them to a new movie release or live concert on Facebook. Or if a customer makes a purchase at a certain level, they can be rewarded with additional credits. It’s easy enough to identify social entertainment events that you could drive traffic to. Work with a Facebook Credits issuing company (e.g., ifeelgoods) to enable this functionality.

4. Incorporate enhanced social features. With the growing number of technologies available today to leverage the Facebook platform, including features that enhance interaction with friends, will improve the engagement and virility of your brand. New social functionalities allow fans to easily share products, movies and live events with one another. In some cases, brands can offer product placement without interfering with the user’s experience.

Fans have an opportunity to “Like” the product for 15 seconds before it disappears and the next social feature arrives. Leverage the social nature of Facebook by investigating available third-party tools and technologies that can make your campaign more interactive with fans.

These are just a few innovative ways to deploy your marketing dollars on Facebook. Associate your brand with popular celebrities, entertainment and sports by providing a socially engaging and shared experience. While still early, marketers who take advantage of this new social arena can find greater success in connecting with and monetizing fans. After all, Facebook offers a 750 million-plus audience worldwide, why not tap into it?

Dean Alms is vice president of marketing and business development at Milyoni, an F-commerce provider.

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