How Much Should You Like Your Facebook Likes?

Posted on 16. May, 2012 by in Word of Mouth

Does your company have a corporate Facebook page?  Fifty-eight percent of the Fortune 500 do.  But of course having a page is not very meaningful until you also build some traffic. Consider what some have accomplished:

  • Target has been liked on Facebook by 11 million people.
  • Walmart by 15 million.
  • McDonald’s by 19 Million.
  • Starbuck’s by 29 million.
  • Coca-Cola (the reigning leader) by a whopping 41 million people!

Facebook has posted remarkable performance in its relatively brief history. More than 40 percent of American adults log in to the site at least once a week–to share news, personal observations, photos and more. Worldwide, Facebook’s following includes almost a billion people (900 million to be exact)! Facebook’s revenue grew from $777 million in 2009 to $3.7 billion last year. And in the first quarter of 2012 it was more than $1 billion.

How Did These Companies Achieve These Levels and to What Avail?

So these five corporations are posting impressive numbers.  But, how are they achieved?  High “like scores” are, no doubt, the result of a number of factors.  Strong brand familiarity is perhaps the most important – built (independent of Facebook) by spending enormous sums of money in advertising and sales promotion over countless years.  Further, research suggests that having a generally ‘likeable image’ is important, but likes are also achieved by marketers smart enough to offer a variety of compelling discounts, coupons, sample products, and interesting information on their Facebook pages.  In other words, driving traffic with meaningful, relevant rewards.

Are Likes a Matter of Quantity, Quality, or Both?

Just like all marketing activities, the challenge isn’t just to get consumers to visit once, but rather success is all about repeat behavior and true engagement. That’s where success with the social media gets even tougher.  According to Prof. Tina McCorkindale of Appalachian State University, even among 18- to 29-year-olds (“the Facebook generation”), corporate America hasn’t achieved a real success story.  McCorkindale’s research finds that while 75% of that segment said that they had liked a profit or non-profit organization on Facebook, “69% said that once they liked the organization, they rarely or never returned to the corporate page”. In addition, “only 15% of the respondents said they visited organizations’ fan pages on a weekly basis”.   Even more damning, in a recent Associated Press-CNBC poll, just under half of adults (46 percent) predict a short timeline for Facebook, while 43 percent say it has staying power.

The Opportunity

So, are corporate Facebook pages a waste of time and money?  Probably not.  First of all, it shouldn’t be entirely about numbers.  Smaller numbers of better recruited “liking customers” could prove quite valuable. Second, even if just 15% regularly re-visit McDonald’s Facebook page that’s still 2.85 million weekly visitors!  Third, most corporations have yet to devote the resources or commitment to building a social media fan base that Coca Cola or Starbucks have.  Fourth, no matter the number of likes one has, there can be real value in getting customers to raise their hands to show they care about one’s brand.  While most corporations haven’t yet thought this far ahead, among those customers who have liked a brand are some of the best potential customer advocates a brand could hope for.  There’s an opportunity to prepare them to more effectively advocate the brand.

Doug Pruden and I have written extensively about how corporations ought to be identifying customers of theirs who are passionate about their brands and further nurturing them.  We call the process Identifying and Arming Everyday Advocates.

(After writing this entry I noted, with interest, that General Motors announced today their intentions to moderate their commitment to Facebook.  The auto manufacturer said Tuesday that it is “reassessing” its spending on Facebook advertising — about $10 million annually — but that it “remains committed” to the social network as part of “an aggressive content strategy with all our products and brands.”  In other words, GM will not pay Facebook for ads but says it will continue to maintain content, for which Facebook doesn’t collect revenue. )

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