With the increasing focus on Facebook, the largest social media platform in the US, we've begun to see brands fall into two distinct camps – the collectors and the investors.
The collectors have entered social media enthusiastically with ambitions to amass a large following. They are interested in a formula to determine and achieve the right number of fans, and see this pursuit as a means in itself. They perceive fans as static and expect the value from volume. They shy away from interactions that extend beyond messaging the fans they've catalogued, and are cautious to communicate too often, or in the wrong way. They are concerned that their collection doesn't grow when left to its own devices.
In contrast, the gains in social media come to brands who approach the social community as an investor. Investor brands cultivate the fans they have to grow a stronger portfolio. They recognize that just as two individual shares may hold a different value, so do two individual fans.
Here are some fundamental principals which can lead almost any brand to adopt an investor stance online.
- Why Facebook? First consider what the brand intends to use Facebook fans for, and establish in advance how your brand interact with them. Have clear communications goals (e.g., exposure and promotion, positioning, customer service, insight and research)
- Know the target. Start with real demographics. Facebook has sophisticated targeting capabilities and a reputation for helping brands overcome barriers (e.g. targeting only legal drinking aged communities by country for spirits brands). Then leverage the rich information available on Facebook to consider community niches, user-behaviors, and the role your brand, your competitors and your category plays in their social experience.
- What "Like" Means - Understand what an individual "liking" your brand says about them today, and set goals for what it should say about them tomorrow. Your core base will come easily. They were already fans of the brand and this is why they have "liked" your page- the brand has not added these fans, it's simply assembled them. It's expanding and winning new audiences that pays dividends.
- Utilize the added insight provided by measurable fan behavior. As with all traditional media, there is some waste as a percentage of your fans will have blocked your updates and do not participate at all in your communications. Unlike traditional media- you know exactly who is an active vs. passive participant. Your most valuable fans will be your advocates and they will drive the value of your brand in social media. This is the real "number" of fans you should seek- those who will grow your relevance and reputation and ultimately influence others' perception of your brand. And while it is a smaller number than the total represented on your page, the impact of these fans is the fuel of social media and the most influential resource.
- Put your fans to work - The sheer numbers of fans have clout only when put to use. Powerful investor brands activate their audience as advocates. Put those who like you to work by giving them reasons to interact with the brand and provide a platform where their enthusiastic support is amplified to their networks. Facebook is a great place for activities. Give your audience things to "like", to use, to share, to post, to comment on. Reward them as appropriate for your industry, segment, restrictions, budget and product- with applications, activities, social currency, exposure, affirmation, discounts, access, entertainment, responsiveness and respect.
- Avoid dead ends. "Likes" aren't the end goal, they are your starting point. You could have millions of "likes" but if all those people just added your page and never talked to or about the brand again, you have missed an opportunity for expanded loyalty and exponential growth.
- Create an ecosystem. Consider how your efforts online and offline echo and amplify each other and set out an editorial calendar that reflects your marketing efforts across other media. Consider ways to limit the barriers of engagement, don't require them to leave Facebook to vote for something on a brand owned site if they can stay in Facebook's environment and "like" the same exact thing.
- Be realistic. There are very few brand efforts that consumers care about unless it was constructed with them in mind. Don't simply repurpose offline content. Aim to add value to the community where interest in the brand is compounded. Converting new fans may take an investment not only in media but also in production of relevant tools, incentives and content, an effort that pays off in an ultimately more valuable fan base, regardless of the total numbers.
- Stay attuned to the lively and constantly changing dynamics that exist in social media. Be actively involved, topical, and responsive. Be early to recognize a meme, and quick to leverage a movement. Cool hunt and trend spot within the interests of your communities to make the most of opportunities that demonstrate clear traction and may be short lived and easily missed.
- Listen to your fans and respond to what you hear. Your Facebook community is a great source of research, product innovation ideas, consumer advocacy, customer service and validation. Monitor consistently and seriously, and be willing to stop and listen at every point and to change and respond and reset expectations when you identify new challenges, and new opportunities. Understand that outside forces can impact your standing online so keep an eye out to mitigate risk and to anticipate if activities have impact on your perceived value. Pay close attention to audience responses and be nimble in your response. Be mindful of privacy and transparent with marketing.
Every good investor understands how profitable their efforts are. The digital marketplace is the most measurable environment- so set metrics in advance of any initiative. Understand what Facebook will and will not report for you and plan or adjust accordingly. Link your communications goals to visible measures and expect there will be some peaks and valleys along the path.
Take a long-term view on building a valuable portfolio of advocates rather than collecting a set number of fans and you will see a measurable return on your investment. If you build relationships with fans through your brand, they'll ultimately have a deeper, more valuable relationship with your brand. "Like" can ultimately become "love" and a two-way brand partnership. That is a real dividend any brand would want from its digital stakeholders.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR|
As president of digital strategy and operations at Weber Shandwick, Chris Perry leads the firm's digital practice and works closely with agency team members and clients to understand the changing media landscape and apply new methods that take advantage of these changes in measurable ways for clients including HP, Verizon, American Airlines, Standup2Cancer and CKE Restaurants. You can follow him on Twitter.