Last September Michael Scissons, president-CEO of Syncapse, used data to reveal that “Engagement on the Facebook walls of leading brands is down 22%.” He plotted engagement metrics on the top 300 brand pages. His hypothesis is that brands are not delivering long term value in favor of quick bumps from overuse of coupons and offers.
More recently the Facebook Timeline innovations seemed to improve overall engagement. According to Simply Measured, the change brought a 14% Increase in Fan Engagement. The format and the much industry-discussed launch called for lots more pictures and video content which saw a 65% increase in engagement (people interactive with multimedia content).
Are we good or are we in trouble? Are brands delivering the best quality interaction and value via their page content or is it all devolving? Are learning the hard lessons of the difference between a Facebook relationship and a broadcast channel?
My hypothesis is that many brands are not doing all they can to create a sustained and valuable relationship with their fans, followers, customers via these still new channels (facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc…). They too often fall into a habit of just broadcasting out content. Since the metrics say pictures and video do well, they try and create as much of that as possible. Sometimes they fly by the numbers alone without context. Rohit Bharagava has a new compelling book out now called Likenomics. It is not about Facebook. He makes a great point about marketers who steer completely by data without regard for context in the section, “Why Context Matters (And Your Sticky Website Actually Stinks.” He cites John Hayes from American Express with a thoughtful quote – “We tend to overvalue the things we can measure and undervalue the things we cannot.” I would add one word in there - “We tend to overvalue the things we can measure easily and undervalue the things we cannot.”
Marketers are looking at readily available data on what drives the most interactions. They are not always weighing the benefits of a varied and enduring relationship with fans. I hope everyone knows that a small number of fans in any fanbase routinely do most of the interacting with content. That is a standard quality of many communities. Keeping that loyal core involved is valuable and just good business. And, yes, when asked, consumers cite coupons or offers as the number one reason they follow a brand. Again, let’s not over simplify and make every interaction a “10% off coupon.” That flies in the face of everything we know about building valuable brands.
The data should guide us. Not rule us.
AdAge recently needlessly took a jab at the social media specialists who champion a more conversational approach to wall content.
“Among the weirdness Facebook's existence has loosed upon the world is the idea that it's OK, and perhaps even good business, for brands to sidle up and give you verbal balm for your case of the Mondays, ask for predictions on the big game and offer random thoughts on things that have not a whit to do with their product or service.
The touchy-feely strategy is meant to be conversational -- human, even. But new data from Facebook itself tell us that what looks good on the social-media guru's presentation deck isn't the best approach for making Facebook work for the brand.”
Their true point and the point of the Facebook study is that content that relates to the brand – the reason people liked the page in the first place – matters. Users engage more with content relevant to the page topic which just happens to be the brand.
Clearly, relevant content is key, yet a conversational tone true to the brand can help as well.
Create the right mix
Different wall content drives different fan action. Likes, Shares, Comments all have value but not equal value. Object Likes (liking a piece of content vs. a page, also called “fanning”) are often devalued by brands. I had a spirits client who dropped them from KPI metrics since he felt, rightly so, that it was too thoughtless a gesture and was not indicative of any serious engagement. ‘Shares’ show up in your wall and therefore take bigger advantage of the network effect available in Facebook.
As Matt Creamer put it in the recent AdAge article, “Facebook to Brands: You're Posting Stuff Wrong”,
“Another important finding was that asking people to like a post indeed yielded more likes, but it didn't do much for the other forms of engagement, including the all-important share action that sends a brand's post into a users' timelines for all of their followers to see. Compared with likes, shares represent a bigger investment from the consumer and occur less frequently. Thus, shares are often going to be more meaningful from a marketing perspective. After all, they suggest the brand is tapping into that friend-of-fan network that's central to Facebook's viral proposition.”
We have found 7 simple types of content that each drive different types of user engagement. (See 7 Types of Facebook posts here.) Our Community Managers use them creatively and responsively with communities to drive long term and immediate actions. We listen and respond. If we drove simply by the data without context or a long term commitment then we would simply post remarkable picture after remarkable video – multimedia driving the most ‘shares’ in the Facebook study.
Quality of the relationship matters. Quality of the content, too. Brands can embrace a more fine-tuned and, yes, conversational but not irrelevant, cadence to their communications. Just using the Facebook wall as a broadcast channel will never justify the huge valuation in the Facebook IPO nor the substantial bets that brands have made in their multi-million dollar ‘partnerships’ with Facebook.