It's old news that the brands we work with have to get with the social media program or else risk losing traction their audiences. Despite this, many marketers remain vague on how – beyond 'having a Facebook page'.
It's understandable. The web is overripe with blog posts telling you how to be good at Facebook pages, and they wouldn't do that if you needn't have one in the first place, right? Maybe. Maybe not.
To begin with, consider that sharing and engagement is at the core of successful Facebook marketing. Now consider that the majority of Facebook users spend 80% of their time viewing the Newsfeed, made up of roughly 80% updates from friends and 20% updates from brands.
All updates (we can think of this as content) are sorted by the Edgerank algorithm. Popular content is sorted to the top of a Newsfeed, and in a modern twist on a Catch 22, to be considered popular it needs a relatively high number of people engaging with it (sharing/liking/commenting).
Basically, Facebook is built around rewarding good content, and they do this whether your content finds its way to an audience via a brand page or a user sharing it.
Ernest Dichter (in a study of word-of-mouth marketing from 1966) stated that people share because of product involvement (good product experience), self-involvement (desire for attention, inside info), 'other' involvement (desire to reach out) or message involvement (desire to share humour or information).
In 2013, this thinking still applies, and forms the basis of the idea that to be part of conversation on Facebook you don't necessarily need to direct your efforts at having a Facebook page with buckets of fans. You do need to direct your efforts at creating content that taps into one or more of the types of 'involvement' listed above.
Red Bull is a great example of a company that knows this well. Last year, when they sponsored and filmed Felix Baumgartner's skydive from space they weren't just branding a crazy stunt, they were tapping into their audience's 'message involvement' by creating shareable content.
Red Bull did distribute this content via its Facebook page, but it's unlikely this content would have lived and died in social based on this alone.
There are multiple good reasons for having a brand page, but you don't need one to be part of the conversation. Regardless of whether you have a brand page to distribute and promote it, compelling content gets shared.