Facebook 'groups' set up by H&M and Apple

Facebook, the online social network created for students, has forged its first brand ties in the UK, with Apple and H&M, as part of plans to expand into mainland Europe.

It is in discussions with media planning and buying agencies about further brand partnerships ahead of the launch of its first UK office this summer.

Apple and H&M are among a number of UK advertisers set to launch branded 'groups' on the Facebook network, in an effort to target the 3.7m internet users who visit the site each month.

H&M is using the site to promote its recently launched 'H&M Loves Kylie' swimwear line. In return for joining the H&M branded group, consumers are given access to video podcasts, downloadable wallpapers and 'buddy icons' to decorate their personal web pages.

Apple is also understood to be rolling out a UK-specific version of its existing Facebook group, offering consumers free downloads from its iTunes music store.

Facebook has already signed a deal with O2 to encourage university students to upload their photos and comments to the site for the chance to win an O2 campus party worth £50,000.

Facebook members have created unofficial groups in support of brands including Dell, Dorothy Perkins and Homebase. However, there has also been a considerable backlash against the increasing commercialisation of the website, with users setting up groups devoted to preventing the growth of 'third-party' Facebook applications.

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