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
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
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
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
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."