When Facebook released a list of its most popular pages last month, the first two—President Barack Obama and Coca-Cola—were fairly predictable. But No. 3? What was Nutella doing up there?
When the concept of a social media "fan" emerged a few years ago, it held out the promise of enabling meaningful, one-to-one conversations between brands and consumers at unprecedented scale. But that promise has yet to be delivered. Think about it: do you know whether your fans are moms, or sports enthusiasts or country-music aficionados? Do you know which ones are "superfans" and consistently engage with your programs, and systematically use that information to increase word-of-mouth?
One of the most sought after answers in Social Media is whether or not engagement in social networks such as Twitter or Facebook directly correlates to customer acquisition, retention, and advocacy. Before we can earn customers however, we have to recognize that at any given time, they are also prospects. And, prospects require information and confidence in order to make decisions, in your favor of course. The answer to our question lies in social engagement.
The social networking audience in the US has reached critical mass. eMarketer estimates that 57.5% of all US Internet users, or 127 million people, will use a social network at least once a month in 2010. By 2014, nearly two-thirds of Internet users will be on board. Marketers have been chasing this audience for several years, but the question remains: Do consumers notice, or care? “Those who still think that social network users are too busy engaging with friends to notice marketers must change their viewpoint,” said Debra Aho Williamson, eMarketer senior analyst and author of the new report “Brand Interactions on Social Networks.” “Brand interactions are real, valuable and growing. “ According to a February 2010 survey by Chadwick Martin Bailey, a market research firm, 33% of Facebook users have become fans of brands on the network.
As business professors at Kettering University, formerly General Motors Institute (GMI) in Flint, Michigan, we have focused on trying to identify strategic solutions for the automobile industry. Our search led us to Nashville, where unemployment runs only 4%, to talk with Henry Juszkiewicz, Chairman and CEO of Gibson Guitar. Juszkiewicz began his career as a student at GMI in an automotive engineering co-op program and later moved on to Gibson, where he revived the now-thriving guitar company. We asked him what he thinks the auto industry can learn from the music industry.
Now another airline, JetBlue, is introducing a marketing initiative that seeks to convince consumers how much better traveling on JetBlue can be. The campaign is scheduled to begin on Monday as a video-rich online effort — JetBlue is calling it a digital brand experience — whose Web address is meant to say it all: experience.jetblue.com. (It will also be reachable by visiting the JetBlue Web site, jetblue.com, and clicking on “experience.”) The initiative, by a digital agency in New York named Firstborn, is an example of what is known as experiential marketing, which aims to bring brands to life in tangible ways that eschew traditional advertising tactics like television commercials.
Facebook last week took another step toward redefining the relationship between its users and brands with the introduction of "community pages." The initiative will encourage users to start community pages for brands, entertainers, and politicians rather than unofficial fan pages, which have been a source of some confusion on the site. Big brands that have seen their official Facebook fan numbers hindered by third-party fan pages will likely welcome the move. For instance, even Coca-Cola - with its Facebook-leading 5.3 million fans - stands to benefit. A Facebook search query for Coca-Cola produces more than 500 fan page results, and some have been started by individuals who have accrued thousands of fans of the beverage company. There's the five-month-old fan page, "Coca-Cola In A Glass Bottle Is Way Better Than Plastic," which has built up a following of nearly 400,000.
A new study shows that those who are fans or followers of a brand on Facebook or Twitter, respectively, are significantly more likely to buy products and services or recommend the brand to a friend. Specifically, the study by Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies found that consumers are 67% more likely to buy from the brands they follow on Twitter, and 51% more likely to buy from a brand they follow on Facebook. Moreover, they’re 79% more likely to recommend their Twitter follows to a friend, and 60% more likely to do the same on Facebook.
Until August, Honda had been reticent about using social media platforms in a big way. The company had a MySpace page for the Element, and started dabbling in Facebook with the Fit compact car and, more recently, the Insight hybrid. Then, this year, Honda told its agency, Santa Monica, Calif.-based RPA, that it needed a plan to talk about Honda's core values but on a tight budget. Thus began the Facebook-centric "Everybody Knows Somebody Who Loves a Honda" effort launched in August without ad support. Last month, the Torrance, Calif., automaker added traditional media directing consumers to Facebook. Ads show real Honda owners talking about themselves and their cars in sliding pane-like frames that go from one owner to the next. Each owner is somehow connected to the previous one.
Sports fans love to talk about their teams, and more and more of that chatter is happening in social media. Naturally, the TV networks, purveyors of live events, are not about to be left out. ESPN today is launching Section 140, a service that will live on many of ESPN's platforms (mobile, PC, Gamecast) and let fans in different places join a central conversation about college football. President of Sales and Marketing Ed Erhardt calls the Windows Phone-sponsored initiative the company's "first real strong foray into virtual, social conversation around college football."
I know it's all PC and cool to say that numbers don't matter. Number of fans, followers, readers of your blog -- none of that matters. It's all about just writing and sharing great content because that is the core of social media. [dramatic pause while I hug myself] Personally, I disagree. I think it's easy to say numbers don't matter when you have 30,000 followers on Twitter and 10,000 fans on Facebook or an email list with over 100,000 readers. And it's easier to fall prey to that thinking and not challenge it, poke at it and see if well maybe... it's flawed somehow. I think numbers do matter for two reasons.
Facebook fan pages are the future for three reasons: They're free, easy to create and build a nearly instantaneous pathway to evangelists, prospects or the curious. When fans interact with a fan page on Facebook, that interaction is sent through the fan's news feed, which goes to all their friends, practically daring a chunk of them to see what the page is about. Compared to Twitter, Facebook fan pages rule. You're not limited by Twitter's 140-character posts, plus it's far easier for fan page members to preview a photo, video or weblink than what Twitter offers. What more could a brand manager want?
Congratulations, you have a million friends. But what's it getting you? Marketers have worked hard to make friends online, but the benefits have been elusive at best. The real juice is word-of-mouth referrals from trusted sources, but you can't tap into that with a sledgehammer. Red Robin, a casual-dining chain that focuses on premium burgers with outlandish toppings and sweet, frothy drinks, recently asked its customer-satisfaction vendor to help drive social-media buzz. Empathica, which handles surveys for Red Robin among other brands, had recently developed GoRecommend, an application that asks consumers if they'd like to post a recommendation on their Facebook page when they seem to have had a particularly pleasant experience. In short, it's addressing a challenge many brands are trying to tackle in social media: how to turn passive fans into real brand ambassadors.
It’s hard to justify the time spent on social media account management. But there are ways to measure the real value (monetary or otherwise) of fans on Facebook and followers on Twitter. These top two social media websites offer free advertising, an open customer service and communication platform and a demographics database all wrapped up in one, so knowing the value of fans and followers can be a big help when deciding how much time should be allotted to social media efforts. Here are some of the ways to measure how much Facebook and Twitter users are really worth.
Great brands tend to gather passionate fans. But can a brand harness its loyalists' passions to produce even greater results? As part of a recent freelance media project I have been studying various network marketing (multi-level marketing) companies. While the study itself was to measure the effectiveness of that business model in tough financial times, I was able to learn a great deal about that industry's branding and marketing. Let's briefly contrast a "traditional" distribution platform, and a "multi-level marketing" platform.
Conventional wisdom about how to “get the word out” about your products is focused on finding and relating to the “influencers.” If you do this, so we’re told, you will get the “big hit” from a mention in a powerful blog or mainstream media publication and that will drive traffic to your website, generating leads that turn into closed business. Now, there’s no doubt that a TechCrunch, Scobleizer, or New York Times can, sometimes, serve as kingmaker, but here’s the equation to consider. Is the return on your effort really worth it?
Motivating collective creativity among a group of loosely connected individuals with a shared interest requires more than just an offer of prize money. Brands can harness social and personal desires to inspire crowds to come together for collaborative endeavors.
When Facebook re-launched its fan pages earlier this year, companies were thrilled. At last, there was a solid way to have a presence on Facebook (Facebook), and users were actually responding positively. Within a couple of weeks it seemed as though every major brand had put up a page. However, very few are using them well. Sure, anyone can build a fan page in under 10 minutes, and some big brands may even attract fans without any real effort. But even if you have 3 million fans, if the extent of their involvement with your brand is that at one point they “became a fan,” is that really benefiting you?
Every brand should be using the web to attract and connect with their most ardent fans. And they should do it by cultivating a distinct personality.
It should come as no surprise that the entire sports world is reaching out to fans with social media tools. But just how engaged are these groups with the latest in communications technology? Because the National Basketball Association (NBA) is in the thick of its playoffs, we’ll use them as a guinea pig.
You should listen to the people who tell the most people about you. Listen to the people who thrive on sharing your good works with others. If you delight these people, you grow.
Boxee, a free software package that pulls together multiple sources of Internet video in an easy-to-use interface, has quietly been building an army of ardent fans. But what is it about Boxee that is driving the technorati wild?
Pop quiz: Who has the most popular page on Facebook? Barack Obama. Who's second? Coca-Cola. Yes, sugared water runs second only to the leader of the free world. Who was it again that said people don't want to be friends with brands?