In the coming weeks, Facebook plans to convert applications’ static “about”-style pages for applications to be more like its existing public profile pages. Some brands are already using these pages to interact with their fans. This change will help brands on Facebook that have applications but not pages build community on the site.

How are pages valuable? Similar to users’ own profile pages, these public pages feature a stream of information about the brand, including notes, photos, or items from other applications. Users can comment and like items that brands share, such as a video, and see activity about the page in their own home streams. And, in terms of applications, brand owners can already integrate third party applications — a video application could be used to feature a brand’s video in the page, for example.

Before looking at the opportunities, it’s important to note a catch with the changes. Facebook doesn’t currently have a way to connect existing public pages to the profile pages of a new application. Users of an application will see an empty new public page for the application, they won’t see an active page’s community already engaging. If Facebook allows new applications to connect their new profile pages to existing brand pages, brands could centralize their community in a single place and potentially generate more discussion and interest among users and their friends.

How brand managers scale profile pages today

A user can click the “become a fan” on the brand profile page to show their affinity to their favorite brands. These brand pages will be listed as fan pages in the user’s personal profile page communicating the user’s endorsement of the brand and tempting their friends visiting their profiles to become fans of the same brand.

In March 2009, Facebook made brand fan pages similar to user profile pages by including live activity streams. This has made the pages more powerful by showing socially relevant information for users by showing their friends’s activities in their feeds.

Still the question remains as to what a brand manager could do to create awareness for their profile pages and get that excitement from initial user’s to virally feed into their social network to attract more brand advocates.

Today, brand managers use one or two out of the following channels to create awareness for their brand profile pages.

1.Facebook advertisements (aka “Social Ads”)

Some Brand Managers purchase Facebook’s social ads to drive targeted users to their brand profile page on specific keywords. Target, for example, comes up as a sponsored site when you search for “brand pages” on Facebook. Target has 298,808 fans today.

Victoria’s Secret and Starbucks both do a terrific job on their public profile pages of engaging audiences with fresh content and interaction opportunities, allowing fans to connect with one another, and leveraging existing social media assets such as videos, blogs, and contests”, says Clara Shih, author of ‘The Facebook Era” and social media strategy consultant. Starbucks has 1,482,711 fans on its Facebook page.

2. Marketing Programs on the Public Profile Page

Some brand managers create programs to build out the fan base. The DEMO Conference (a startup conference that VentureBeat co-produces) recently ran marketing programs to attract brand advocates. It ran an “Entrepreneurs Ask, VCs Answer” program where a venture capitalist was scheduled every week to answer questions posted by an entrepreneur. VCs like Jon Steinberg and Marc Burch participated and drove awareness with DEMO fans. It got 80 new fans each time Jon Steinberg posted a wall post answering questions and the campaign helped DEMO jump-start their Profile Page to a 1000-fan base in three weeks.

3. Create Facebook Applications to drive brand awareness

Brand Managers create applications because they come with many viral channels that leverage social connections naturally.

AT&T ran the Jumbli Quiz Multi Platform Campaign, for example. And the Visa Business Network has focused on promoting an application instead of a profile page and has 7081 active users per month  and 4932 fans today.

“While Fan Pages or Profiles are strong social tools, applications generate agile messaging and interaction instances that promote uptake within the social stream “ says Brett Johnson, Senior Strategist at marketing firm WhittmanHart.

Johnson helped Mountain Dew take a dual approach to build out a facebook application ‘DEWmocracy By Moutain Dew” and Profile Page and promote them to increase adoption through a Facebook media buy with social ads. Today ‘DEWmocracy By Mountain Dew’ application has 829 fans and the Mountain Dew Profile Page has 73,635 fans.

More from Johnson:

Facebook is where you go when you have a minute to take a break, and when you’re in that browsing mode, relevant content looks pretty inviting, so targeted ads do wonders. We did a fan page redesign for Breeders Cup World Championship and saw a lot of activity but not a huge increase in new members. By running a highly targeted ad we doubled the number of members in just over 3 weeks.  At times we had a 10% increase in fans per day and because there were several engagement points on the page fans stayed and played. It was fantastic.

Complicated but beneficial

“It may be a little overwhelming at first,” says Shih, “but I believe having that flexibility and range of options of how to engage customers is a real advantage for brand managers.”

Marketing on social networks like Facebook is still a work in progress. It’s up to each brand to figure out how to use Facebook, and other sites, to reach its target audience.

Sudha Jamthe advises companies on Innovation, Platform Strategy, Social Media Metrics and workflows. She blogs at coolastory.com and tweets as @sujamthe.