Mark Zuckerberg spoke to me last night as I jogged through Central Park. He had parted the water in the pond perfectly, in five unique circles, and was cleverly allocating brightly colored fish to each circle. During this close encounter, he telepathically shared with me four stern warnings for marketers, as he was fearful of appearing to share publicly, given his latest run-in with GQ.
Of course, the dream above never happened. What really happened is far more powerful. Last month I challenged my data team at Syncapse to dig deep into Facebook data and paint a picture of the future, given today's marketing practices on Facebook. After hundreds of hours, several cases of energy drinks and an in-depth review of the 300 top brand pages on Facebook, the picture was clear. If marketers don't get better, they will fail to capture the value of social media marketing.
Engagement on the Facebook walls of leading brands is down 22 %. Brands aren't playing for the long term. Engagement is the crown jewel of a community marketer. It's always talked about and drives the relevance and power of the platform. We reviewed public engagement data for 300 of the top brands on Facebook over a one-year period starting in July 2010. The results show a clear decline in average engagement.
Many are likely to blame Facebook, but it's more likely that marketers themselves have led to this decline. Dissing audiences with bad content, coupons, polls, contests, and boring filler is the way to blow off engagement in the long run, even if it makes a few campaign results shine in the short term.
Not all 300 brands saw a decline. Some brands were rock stars and beat the Street . The winners included brands like Deutsch, Renault, Hermes, Lowe's , and Chanel. These brands didn't have the most fans, but day in and day out, they are performing magic in keeping their fan base engaged.
Local pages drive 36 % better results. Global results are built one region at a time. A few words to the wise from our data wizards:
Bigger is not always better and,
Regional programs perform significantly better then global ones.
This should come as no surprise; relevant local content has always performed better. For a whole host of reasons, including the perceived complexities involved with managing social globally, or the desire to maintain brand consistency, many global marketers have developed models that isolate regional marketing teams, ignore local marketing programs. This is usually "accomplished" by pushing out corporate content to a global audience from the MarCom mothership.
However, the data shows that local Facebook pages perform 36 % better than global ones. Success is driven by great organizational empowerment at the local level, relevant local content, local media support and presentation in a tone of voice relevant to the targeted local market.
These results parallel many things seen in the crazy world of Web 1.0. Global websites often performed worse then targeted local ones. Local marketers often showed little support for global programs, and CRM databases performed worse as they grew bigger and lost focus.
Talk to your fans six to seven times a week at relevant times. Don't be distant or annoying. When talking to your fans, more talk is not better. Many brands drone on 10, 15, even 20 times a week. As the chart below shows clearly, this nets a steep decline in engagement. Speak to your fans six to seven times per week on average. Speak with purpose and ensure the content is relevant. If you have nothing interesting to say, don't say anything.
Understanding the value of a Facebook fan is straightforward. Stop trying to overcomplicate this. The value of Facebook fans is simply the value of an audience to a company. This includes the amount of money fans spend, their propensity to recommend, and the reach, frequency, and impact of their social influence.
Value of fans should be measured and presented in ways your CFO already understands. This means an emphasis on results that go beyond vague terms like "sentiment". Teach your organization to cherish their fans and embrace the power they have on your company's bottom line. Track your progress and understand how the value and the perception of your brand is shifting.
So, what's a global marketer to do? Build a structure for scaling social marketing across your enterprise. This is a business exercise, not a marketing one. The key here is understanding your organization's objectives, processes and structure and then empowering the right people with the right objectives, resources, responsibilities and metrics.
Run your brand's community management in-house and hire someone to do it right. Outsourcing your brand "voice" is not a viable long-term option. Stop pretending you don't have the budget for headcount -- you likely spend millions on media. You can spare some to maintain relationships with your best and most influential customers.
Task your agency to develop original creative content. Engaging videos, flash experiences work best. Stop being so tactical, and quit treating Facebook like a promotional wastebasket.
Most importantly, know and understand your data. Build a dashboard of KPI's you care about. Assign goals and track your progress against industry benchmarks.
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