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.