I’ve learned a valuable lesson from my work handling brands’ social media profiles: You constantly revert back to your awkward middle school days.
Facebook is the perfect example of this.
In April 2010, Facebook replaced its “Become a Fan” functionality with a “Like” the page approach. In rolling out this change, Facebook provided the following explanation: “Starting today, people will be able to connect with your page by clicking ‘Like’ rather than ‘Become a Fan.’ We hope this action will feel much more lightweight, and that will increase the number of connections made across the site.”
Just as I did in middle school, I still find myself trying to figure out what the heck “like” actually means. Regardless if someone “liked” a brand page on Facebook or said they liked me back in the day, I still find myself asking the same questions.
If someone likes me, does this mean I can talk to them and promote myself? Does it mean I can ask for their information? Does it mean they want to hang out? Or rather, does it mean they’re just interested in my coupons/copying my homework?
I’ve never been particularly good at answering these types of questions, so I decided to seek help.
Enter: ExactTarget awesomeness.
ExactTarget, an email marketing and interactive marketing provider, recently published a report titled, “The Meaning of Like,” which drew on experiences from real users to research how consumers “like” within Facebook and other sites, what consumers expect after they “like” a page on Facebook, and how marketers are “getting it right—and wrong” on Facebook. It’s perfect. There is fantastic information in this report. It’s like the middle school equivalent of having Justin Timberlake as your social-life coach. That dude had swag before #swag even existed.
Here are the conclusions from the report that I think are worth highlighting… and my personal reactions to them.
Finding: Only 42 percent of active Facebook users agree that marketers should interpret “Like” to mean they are a fan or advocate of the company.
This percentage is incredibly low, and very telling that “like” is a very casual online action for most people. I’m a little shocked, I would have pegged this number at around 70 percent, but it just goes to show that users range in their perceptions. From this data, and from the overall report, I believe that it is more important to gauge user interaction as the top performance indicator as to how your social media efforts are going. Encourage fans to interact.
Finding: Once a consumer likes your page, they generally say that posting more than once a day becomes annoying.
Agreed. It is also worth noting that it is best practice to post messages that are broad enough to engage a general audience. Localized messaging to a specific group of fans will miss the mark with the majority of your fans, which can very often result in “unlikes.”
Finding: Younger consumers like a page for purposes of self expression and public endorsement of a brand. They consider it a worthwhile bonus when they receive coupons or deals from the company as a result of their like.
You’ve got to love those young bucks that have grown-up with Facebook as part of their social regime. They know what they want out of the platform and act accordingly without a second’s thought. They see it as a personal branding tool—a place where they can separate themselves from other students and showcase their personal identity. If you’re a brand that caters to the younger demographic, give them something worth endorsing. Encourage your users to participate and help them earn “cool points” among their peers.
Finding: Consumers aged 25 and up are more likely to expect something of value in return. They are quick to “unlike” a company that does not follow up with discounts, product information, or exclusive offers.
I can certainly attest to this one. More often than not, I “like” a brand on Facebook to help me stay updated on deals and special offerings. Sorry I’m not sorry. As a general rule, rewarding fans with special content or deals is the best way to increase both fan growth and engagement.
Finding: Consumers expressed a wide variety of expectations when asked about what should happen after clicking the “like” button. But the most common responses were, predictability, related to exclusive content, discounts, and company updates.
While slightly ambiguous, this conclusion screams, “Be honest and consistent with your fans!” to me. I always cringe when I see a brand posting messages that have nothing to do with their services or usual topic of interest. It’s an annoyance. From the outset of your Facebook efforts, make it clear to the consumer what they will receive as a result of their connection through Facebook, and then follow through on that promise with minimal distractions.
Finding: Thirty-nine percent of Facebook users who like at least one brand page say that marketers should never interpret their “like” as permission to post marketing messages that would appear in their news feed.
Not the majority but still a surprisingly high number. I’m just plain confused over this one. I think this gives even more evidence to the notion that the Facebook page “like” is an incredibly lighthearted online interaction with a brand. Everyone perceives it differently.
While some of the findings in your report still leave this debate up to speculation, the main message is clear.
Marketers should realize that the “like” is just the beginning of their online relationship with a user, not the end goal. The most important aspect of the relationship is the level of interaction you will have with the user as a result of the content that you provide.
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