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Back in the 90s, brands had to answer the question: "Do you have a website?" In 2010, brands are increasingly having to answer a similar question: "Do you have a Facebook Page?"

In some respects, Facebook Pages are the new web pages. With more than 500m registered users and counting, Facebook is to brands today what the internet was to brands in the 1990s when the consumer internet was in its infancy.

For that reason, many brands are investing in a presence on Facebook, and the number of brands on Facebook is growing all the time.

But how can brands succeed with their Facebook Pages? How do they acquire 'fans'? Will Facebook eventually enable brands to spend less on advertising, as they can reach consumers directly where they're hanging out online?

According to eMarketer, the answer to that latter question is 'no'. A survey conducted by DDB Worldwide and Opinionway Research in September found that, of Facebook users who have 'liked' a brand, the majority -- 75% -- did so because of an invitation or advertisement from the brand. Less than half became a fan as a result of their own research. In other words, finding success on Facebook is a lot like finding success anywhere else: it takes a concerted effort, and an open wallet.

Of course, as in the real world, acquiring fans on Facebook and retaining them is also important. On this front, DDB Worldwide and Opinionway Research learned an interesting fact: 27% of those who unsubscribing from a brand's Facebook Page did so because "information was published too frequently." Far fewer -- 7% -- unsubscribed because "information was not published frequently enough."

There are a couple of key take-aways here:

  • Facebook isn't free. As in the real world, if you build it, they will not come. It takes a concerted effort, typically involving advertising, to grow a base of fans on Facebook. This, of course, has a cost (time and money). For some brands, it may be worthwhile to consider how much time and money should be spent driving fans to a property that is owned and controlled by a third party.
  • You can overinteract. Social media allows companies to interact with consumers in ways never before possible, but eMarketer's data reveals an irony: your fans are far more likely to de-fan you if you interact too much. That means brands need to find a workable balance, and must remember, contrary to the advice of some social media 'experts', that most of us prefer to interact with real people, not brands -- no matter how much we like your brand.

Photo credit: gerlos via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 19 October, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Xavier

Uhum, good data,

But it is very difficutl to find that balance when you just don't know how much of your fanbase is exposed to your updates. It has been said, somehwere than only 0,2% of page updates reach your fans.

Once thing though, if you are overall very popular an accrue many likes you will have more prominence and so people will see you more. But only the people that liked you will have you in their news feed. In my opinion, people that de-fan you would have done it otherwise if given the chance. Worth a thought for people that force users to become fans with tricks.

To me it is way more about the quality than the quantity. What we should be concerned about is about the fan-like ratio of our updates, and finiding those features and context that get people to like more, but also, to follow that link with some sort of action.

almost 6 years ago

Steve Davies

Steve Davies, CEO at Fitch Media

We undertook some research on this issue a few years ago involving 2,500 social networking users and this is what we found: 

- Frequency depends on the nature and relevance of the communication - conversational and personal topics were more welcome than brand centric press releases.

- Brand representatives should present themselves to the community as themselves (i.e. Hi I'm Paul, product manager for...) and also converse as real people (i.e. in my personal opinion I would choose the sports seats on this car as it improves residual value...)

- Also there's a balance to be achieved between starting and continuing conversations - brands shouldn’t start too many conversations, it's the equivalent of a friend always talking about themselves.  Irritating!

- however it's really important that brands are responsive to user conversation - this is where most fall down.  Most brands still run their face book pages in 'broadcast' mode - updating it with the brand's news but not listening and responding to the conversations of fans

I still see brands using Twitter and Facebook to broadcast press mentions about themselves (who cares?), rather than talking about their customers.  It's meant to be a 'social' community, so try and be sociable. 

almost 6 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Niranjan,

I assume that the DDB and Opinionway would tell us that the survey was designed to be statistically valid. You can obtain fairly accurate information about large numbers of people by surveying relatively small numbers of people.

But that's not really all that important, in my opinion. I tend to look at this subject from a high-level:

  • It is logical that most fan acquisition on Facebook requires outreach/advertising. After all, how many of us wake up in the morning itching to find brands to 'like' on Facebook?
  • When it comes to brand interaction on Facebook, it is logical that most of us would prefer to receive less brand messaging than more brand messaging.

almost 6 years ago

Niranjan Sridharan

Niranjan Sridharan, Digital Auditor at ABC

Hi Patricio,

Thanks for clearing the first point. Like I said before, I totally agree with your other point.

Cheers,

Niranjan

almost 6 years ago

Walter Adamson

Walter Adamson, CEO at NewLeaseG2M

Patricio, re yr above comment, I think it's a pretty poor response, although Niranjan seemed happy with it. To me if you're reporting what the DDB survey said, that's one thing. If you're expressing your own opinions, that's another. Personally I don't listen to news channels where the reporters have a habit of substituting their personal options in place of the actual news story itself. Unfortunately it's becoming more common.

Walter

almost 6 years ago

Tony Wood

Tony Wood, Director at X Factor Communications Ltd

'In some respects, Facebook Pages are the new web pages.'

Clearly we're nowhere near that point yet, but in 3-5 years time I believe this will be all too true. 

almost 6 years ago

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Gary

Ive personally done some work trying to get people to Like my facebook page and if you go out any look for them they are generally not the type of people that you want. 

I would rather have 10 likes of people who engage than 100 likes from people who wont.

I have in the past ran a competition so anyone who 'Likes' my Facebook page could win a CD, this got picked up by competition message boards and yes i got a couple of hundred likes for it, but 99% of people were not interested in my page and they will never interact or even read the updates.

almost 6 years ago

Tony Wood

Tony Wood, Director at X Factor Communications Ltd

Gary - what you say there is spot on in terms of the issue of quality of Facebook likes. However I believe it's still fair to say that, with the huge exception of Facebook, social media remains a minority sport for UK adults (would be very happy to be corrected on this if anyone vehemently disagrees!).

In amongst the near 30m UK Facebook users are tens, even hundreds, of thousands of individuals, including key business decision-makers, who are going to be in your / my ideal target market. In the long term, the challenge will be to get clever at targetting those people specifically. But until that becomes easier I, for one, believe that it's worth getting the basics in place (e.g. personalised Facebook URL, a good welcome page). And my experience (albeit very brief,having only launched an XFC Facebook Page some 10 days ago!) is that it's well worth attracting 90 likes from people who may end up being entirely irrelevant if, in doing so, you also get hold of the 10 who are.  

In the first 10 days I've had 2 excellent new biz enquiries from the XFC Facebook Page - one of which has already led to a good project. The first came from an old university friend and the other from a distant relative. Both of them have been Facebook friends for ages, yet it's clear that they previously had only a very vague idea of what I did for a living. To put it bluntly, the Facebook Page opened their eyes. They are both in senior management positions in UK businesses and, for them, social networking starts and ends with Facebook...no surprise then that Facebook turned out to be the palce where it finally clicked!

This may, of course, turn out to be a freak result but, for now, I am absolutely convinced of the long term potential of Facebook even for a B2B business like XFC. What's more I see myself putting more effort into this easy-to-manage page - using great customisation tools like Pagemodo - than into my main website.   

By all means check out my Facebook page at www.facebook/xfactorcomms - it may not be especially pretty, but I promise you it's already working a whole lot better than having no Facebook presence at all!   

almost 6 years ago

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Daniel Clutterbuck

The best reason to get people to "like" you is by giving them a specific reason to. FaceBook only offers that generate a buzz work best for our clients. There's no point just having a presence and then putting posts like "free pack of skittles with every £5000 order" Try something worth talking about. Webtise.

almost 6 years ago

Daniel Clutterbuck

Daniel Clutterbuck, Director/ Co-Founder at Webtise Ltd

The best reason to get people to "like" you is by giving them a specific reason to. FaceBook only offers that generate a buzz work best for our clients. There's no point just having a presence and then putting posts like "free pack of skittles with every £5000 order" Try something worth talking about. Webtise.

almost 6 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Walter,

This is a tech and marketing blog. I'm not sure how long you've been a reader, but I think it's always been quite clear that we provide news, industry insight and opinion. We are not simply regurgitating news.

Regarding the DDB survey: the survey basically indicated that brands are far more likely to acquire Facebook fans through advertising/outreach, and that fans are far more likely to de-fan a brand because of too much communication.

Niranjan questioned some of DDB's data. Obviously, I'm not in a position to answer specific questions about DDB's methodology. Such questions would best be addressed by DDB. I simply explained why I thought the data, and the conclusions derived from it, made logical sense. Try getting a response from the BBC when you question the conclusions their reporters draw...

almost 6 years ago

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Brett Relander

The findings here are not surprising. Facebook is a different animal than Twitter and needs to be treated differently by both large brands and small businesses. That being said, I do think some of the info above can be confusing to business owners. Yes, you do want to make an effort to gain "fans" or "likes" on Facebook, but I would argue that the quality or targeted nature of those people is much more important than the total #. It's all about the marketing strategy and day to day tactics that make it all work together. If there's one point that everyone should pay attention to above it's the final line. Consumers want to interact with real people, not brands. This is exactly why large global brands need to empower local dealers/distributors to interact with their direct markets via social media and otherwise. It's the personal relationship that is the x-factor today. Are you in a position to succeed? Knowledge is the key, but only action gets you through the door.

@BrettRelander

almost 6 years ago

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Horton D.

Good article. Reminds me of an interesting Facebook page I came across for a Japanese male novelty / adult toy called tenga (http://www.facebook.com/wwwtengatangocom). Interesting and fresh contents and lots of media attention.

almost 6 years ago

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