Facebook is increasingly being used as a tool for loyalty, but incentivising the Like button for short term number boosts is jeopardising its relevance in the long term.
An announcement from Debenhams today on a scheme giving customers who Like its page or sign up for email alerts Facebook Credits in return, signals another new way of using Facebook to promote loyalty. However, it also highlights the fine line between Like being a useful tool to capture customers and fans and creating a meaningless, spammy environment.
Debenhams believes that the use of Credits by media companies, such as Channel 5 for Big Brother voting or BBC Worldwide for on demand viewing via Facebook, has made it mainstream enough to warrant the high street retailer’s interest (nma.co.uk 23 August 2011).
The interest in Facebook Credits has been strong ever since it first announced plans to take Credits out of the testing phase last year (nma.co.uk 15 July 2010), but so far there has been no significant use of Facebook’s virtual currency beyond social gaming. As such, this statement from Debenhams is extremely important for social currency and will be a catalyst for more brands to examine Credits.
Brands taking social currency seriously is a good thing, the potential to do interesting things by tying in commerce and loyalty schemes is huge. However, if this spurs a host of copycats, with Credits merely being used as another trap to get people to Like, then actually Liking a brand is going to start to lose its meaning.
Already brands are using competition entries and locking content behind the Like button in order to boost their numbers, but the fans you attract with these mechanisms are unlikely to be useful.
People in digital or social media probably already know what it is like to have a news feed saturated by brands you have Liked for work purposes. The more consumers outside the industry Like brands on Facebook for shallow reasons, the more shallow and the less meaning Liking will have. They’ll feel jaded by the endless commercial messaging and be turned off what could be genuinely engaging content or information.
Facebook is an important and unique opportunity for brands to develop interesting loyalty schemes but the key is to avoid falling into a copycat trap. Just launching a competition for two people to win a hotel stay for two, with no plans to keep the conversation flowing in an interesting manner later is not only a waste for the brand, but could turn the fate of the Facebook Like in the direction of email spam.