Social Media Guide

Why Fans Un-friend Your Brand on Facebook

A DDB/OpinionWay Survey of Why Users in Six Countries 'Like' Brands

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The top reason worldwide Facebook users stop following a brand is because it is "no longer of interest to me" or "the information available was not interesting." Those are the kind of break-up statements that sting. After all, what brand wants to be boring on the world's most-engaging platform?

Women are most active social networkers
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A new survey from DDB, Paris -- part of DDB Worldwide -- and OpinionWay titled "Who Are the Brand Likers?" explores consumer motivations in becoming fans of brands. This is the second study of its kind, following a similar DDB Paris/OpinionWay study last fall, offering an in-depth look at the changing attitudes and habits of Facebook fans in the U.S., U.K. and France, and shedding new light on fans in Germany, Turkey and Malaysia. The survey is also the basis of the latest white paper from Ad Age Insights, "The Evolution of Facebook Brand Fans."

Reasons for unsubscribing
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A new survey from DDB, Paris -- part of DDB Worldwide -- and OpinionWay titled "Who Are the Brand Likers?" explores consumer motivations in becoming fans of brands. This is the second study of its kind, following a similar DDB Paris/OpinionWay study last fall, offering an in-depth look at the changing attitudes and habits of Facebook fans in the U.S., U.K. and France, and shedding new light on fans in Germany, Turkey and Malaysia. The survey is also the basis of the latest white paper from Ad Age Insights, "The Evolution of Facebook Brand Fans."

Based on a new survey by DDB and OpinionWay, this white paper looks at the changing attitudes and habits of Facebook fans in six countries: United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Turkey and Malaysia. Attitudes toward privacy concerns as well as features such as games, Facebook Places, messaging and shopping are also explored.

First, the bad news: Fans in the U.S., U.K. and France are following fewer brands; are less likely to press like, post on a brand's wall or recommend it to friends; less inclined to participate in brand pages' games, events and competitions; and, truth be told, would like to hear less from marketers altogether. (This goes double for France.) Facebook fatigue may be a myth, but Facebook brand fatigue is looking all too real.

"Engagement on Facebook brands' walls is down 22 %," said Michael Scissons, CEO of social-media software and services firm Syncapse. "But declining engagement has less to do with brand fatigue in general than with marketers doing a bad job and shoving boring [content] at consumers."

Marketers may have only themselves to blame. To boost the number of fans, many "went for the lowest common denominator, which was free stuff," said Sarah Hofstetter, senior VP-emerging media and brand strategy at 360i. "And so consumers began expecting the freebies. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy."

The good news is that newer users in Turkey and Malaysia are demonstrably more receptive to brands on Facebook, which suggests the greatest opportunities may lie overseas in markets such as Brazil, where the number of users has doubled to almost 24 million in just the past six months. And Americans' growing willingness to pass a brand's content along to Facebook friends suggests that brands able to engage fans on their own terms will reap the benefits of its massively mature social graph.

"Though our study tends to show that consumers create a bond with some of the brands they follow on Facebook, there is no intrinsic value to a fan," said Catherine Lautier, business intelligence director at DDB, Paris, and lead author of the survey. "It all depends on how you manage him to expose him to your brand's message, make him your advocate and activate him through CRM or e-commerce."

Signs of brand fatigue appear when fans are asked about the frequency of information they receive from brands. While most consumers (61%) are content overall, more fans report receiving too much (21%) than too little (18%). This is especially true in three countries -- France, Germany and the U.K. -- while Americans and Malaysians are almost evenly split, and nearly half of Turks just can't get enough (45% say they want more).

This poses an especially tricky issue for marketers, who must tread a thin line between inundating fans with content and risking disappearance from their news feeds completely. That has to do with Facebook's EdgeRank algorithm, which quietly controls what users see in their news feeds. Every piece of content -- every post, every comment, every like, every tag -- is weighted according to your relationship with its creator and how much time has passed since its creation. Your ability to see a post in your feed depends on it having enough "edges" derived from your past interactions. As a result, if fans aren't constantly interacting with a brand's content, its edges begin to disappear, making it harder and harder to drive engagement.

The one question remains, however: What is the value of a fan? It's getting harder to tell when nearly half of respondents (and more in France, America and Germany) nonchalantly report they're just as inclined to buy a brand's products now as they were before they became a fan -- and when all three returning countries report declines in the percentage of fans willing to recommend a brand. (To be fair, the number is still 84% overall, and 92% in the U.S.) French users, meanwhile, appear to be over Facebook brands completely, posting large and consistent declines at almost every level of engagement.

The Turks and Malaysians retain the most enthusiasm for brands, with a higher propensity than the other four country's users to click on a like button, pass on information from a brand to a friend, or recommend that a friend follow a brand on Facebook.

Forty percent of fans polled have already unsubscribed from at least one brand, although the results vary widely by country: Nearly two-thirds of Turks have, three quarters of Malaysians haven't, and more than half of all French have, soaring 17% in nine months.

The most common reason was the most obvious one -- "the brand was no longer of interest to me" -- but the others suggest Syncapse's Mr. Scissons was right about too much "boring" content being aimed at consumers.

"At DDB, Bernbach taught us to behave with respect for the consumer, recognizing that brands are in the hands of consumers, not marketers. Facebook is making it more relevant than ever today. Brands got blinded by the technology, forgetting about the basics of relationships in the way they interacted with consumers," said Sebastian Genty, DDB's planning director. "They need to learn to behave like any human being, with respect and transparency. Rhythm is key, as in any new relationship."

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