Social media has been the buzzword in the digital marketing space for quite some time. It has become a must for brands to have a fan page on Facebook or a profile on Twitter. Amassing a huge number of ‘likes’ from fans on Facebook has become important as well.
According to a research paper ‘The Power of Like’, released in July 2011 by digital marketing firm comScore, social media is redefining the way brands communicate to their audience in the recent years. comScore conducted the research taking three brands in the US as case studies – Starbucks, Bing and Southwest Airlines.
The paper reveals, “Facebook has facilitated two unique consumer experiences of interest to brand marketers. First, the ability for consumers to identify brands of interest and connect with them has enabled sharing between brands and consumers in new ways: brands and their consumers can now create two-way relationships and share content, news, and feedback.”
“Social media has also facilitated innovative ways of sharing information about brands between friends. Whether consumers are voicing their affinity for certain brands or their experiences with products and services, Facebook not only encourages this type of sharing, but can also accelerate its reach and virality,” it added.
But what really is the value of a Facebook fan or a ‘like’ for the brand? When a user ‘likes’ a brand’s page, it indicates his/ her interest in the brand. This interest, according to comScore, can be for reasons “that may include self-expression, communicating positive associations of that brand to others, staying in communication with that brand, or receiving deals and promotions”. This could mean that fans of a brand do make Facebook a powerful marketing and advertising vehicle.
Need to look beyond…
According to Sanjay Trehan, Head, MSN India, “Facebook ‘likes’ is definitely a good idea for brands. But the brands ought to go beyond ‘likes’ and ‘fans’. The brands need to build a model on social that goes beyond just accumulating fans to one of an active engagement with these fans.”
Sabyasachi Mitter, MD, Interface, noted, “One has to fully understand what a “Like” really means. 99.5 per cent of all interactions between a brand page and its fans happen not on the page but through the users’ News Feed. Hence, a “Like” is equivalent to getting an opt in subscriber to an email or SMS database.”
Within Facebook, a user spends maximum time on his/ her homepage, which features the Newsfeed. According to comScore May 2011 data, 27 per cent of engagement on Facebook occurred on the homepage and Newsfeed, followed by profile viewing (21 per cent), photo viewing (17 per cent) and usage of apps and tools (10 per cent). Thus, the report reveals that highest exposure of branded content occurs for a brand in the Newsfeed section.
Mitter added, “The beauty of Facebook “Like” is that there is no cost for future communication to the community, unlike SMS and email, where there is a cost to send the communication.”
So then how should the brand leverage these likes to their best advantage? Trehan believed that when a user became a ‘fan’ of a brand, brands could co-opt the consumer to their advantage. “For example, he/ she can be made part of a decision making process for say the launch of a brand’s new product. This way the fan begins to feel that he/ she owns the brand, and their loyalty goes higher. Ultimately, I feel that social need not be a tick mark for a brand in terms of digital media, but it has to involve an active engagement and interaction with the users,” he added.
Another important point that the comScore report brings out is for brands to reach out to the friends of fans. The report analysis reveals, “A Facebook analysis of the top 100 brand pages suggests that for every Fan, there are an additional 34 Friends of Fans that can be reached (with significant variance among brands). This multiplier grows even larger as we look beyond the top 100 brand pages (81x on average among the top 1,000 Fan pages).”
It is also important for brands to note that growing their fan base organically will help their brand more. Rajiv Dingra, Founder and CEO, WAT Consult, explained, “A fan that organically “likes” a brand has more potential value than one that likes it because of contests or ads. More than the like itself, the value is in the interactions and engagement that a user does on the page. This allows for viral reach via the facebook social connections.”
Going beyond acquiring fans, acquiring customers is also becoming the focus of brands now. Shekhar Sharma, National Director, Search, GroupM, said, “It is also important for brands to note that while they may have a presence on Facebook and manage their fan page, they do not own the website. Thus, Facebook likes are not the right metrics. Clients are now looking beyond likes to a certain fan page, such as is the user doing repeat visitations on my page. Thus, it has gone beyond likes and adding, and extended further to some kind of retail and social commerce, like getting new customers through Facebook.”