Relatively speaking, of course.
At a previous employer, I had the onerous goal of reaching a set number of Facebook fans each year. Each year was more aggressive than the last. One had to ask oneself – how many gas stations customers actually want to be friends with a gas station on Facebook?
I didn’t . . . unless there was free gas involved.
And there was.
Each month I struggled to move the needle – spending money, resources, and vendor money on increasingly grand Facebook apps giving away products, gasoline, and anything else we could move legally online (it’s a gas station – there’s a lot of stuff you CAN’T advertise online). And we got a lot of fans. BUT – did we get a lot of value? Was the value of the 100,000th fan the same as the value of the 1,000th fan? My gut tells me no. Should we have had 100,000 fans? Probably not, but we did. And much of the value of the “tribe” was diluted with those only concerned about the freebies.
These ravenous deal-hunting fans went negative quickly, on almost every post. Giving away a fountain drink – why not 20 oz drinks? It’s a 2-for-1 deal? That sucks – “We’re here for free stuff!” they would chant, by the dozens of comments. But our audience grew and grew.
There is some really insightful research from Syncapse on the value of a Facebook Fan. I encourage you to check it out. While that value is different for every company, there is one universal truth that we should all accept – a customer who friends you on Facebook, and lets you in to their intimate space reserved for friends and socializing is significantly more valuable, over their lifetime, than a typical customer who does not connect with you through any digital channels. However, there is another universal truth we should realize – not all Facebook Fans are created equally. Some not only dilute the value of your Facebook community, but drag down the value of others they touch, making them less engaged.
So what does matter about Facebook? Here’s a hint – it’s the same thing that matters about everything else you do: Return on Investment.
Don’t get me wrong: numbers matter. Blasting a message to 100,000 people is more likely to generate X number of sales than blasting a message to 10 people. But artificially inflated Facebook Likes can actually have a NEGATIVE impact on ROI. Ted Rubin asks us all to embrace the term “Return on Relationship.” Consider this:
You have 100,000 Facebook fans. 90,000 of those fans have little or no interest in your company, and no brand loyalty. Your average number of likes or comments per post is 10. So 0.01% of your fanbase actually pays attention to anything you do, at any given time. That number is low. Lower than TV Advertising low. Lower than radio low.
You release a coupon – a loss leader to incentivize social sharing, and to show that Facebook Fans do actually come to the store. 10,000 coupons are redeemed, or 10% of your fan base. Your cost per coupon is $1.
- $3,000 on a custom facebook app to deliver the coupons securely (that’s low)
- $10,000 on coupon redemptions
- $4,500 on Facebook and Google contextually targeted ads
- $3,000 on outreach to influencers and twitter users to promote the coupon app.
- $20,500 Total
You gain 5,000 Facebook Fans during the promotion
Only 15% of coupon redeemers bought something else at your store.
Was this promotion a success? You lost money. Your same-store sales saw little appreciable lift. And while you can make the argument that Facebook Fans is an investment in a relationship that has value long-term, this promotion failed miserably at its most important task: making money.
Imagine a different scenario: only 10,000 Facebook Fans who are there because they are truly fans of your company. Instead of buying fans with freebies, your content strategy gives your most loyal customer more of what they want: you. Money saving tips, product advice, recipes. Who cares? They’re discovering more ways to use you, and bringing their friends along in the process. A modest coupon (one that allows you to make some money, or break even) released to this group will be shared among friends, and taken as an opportunity to visit your store one more time, and indulge themselves once more in their relationship with you.
True brand loyalty is difficult to come by… but it should be nurtured.
Making money off of fewer fans, who are there because of their true brand loyalty, I propose, is preferable to losing money on 100,000 fans that only came around for opportunistic freebies.
Excellent content that speaks to your customer brings them in, and gets them connected with you in ways that deepen their relationship with you. Easy content produces number, and lower fan value. Shepherd your brand advocates, and they will produce more advocates. Sheep beget sheep (John 15:16) – and they’ll bring more of their own kind to you, with little more invested than your time to listen and care.