I am a huge Facebook user and have in the past been a self-confessed Facebook addict – even my cat has a Facebook page (although I hasten to add that his page has been set up to raise money for the RSPCA). Being the social sort of person I am I also have quite a large number of friends and I also “like” quite a few brands.
For me one of the main reasons I love Facebook is that it enables me to stay in touch not only with friends in London but with my friends living abroad. Whereas previously I would have had to write loads of letters and/or travel a great deal in order to stay up to date with my friends living in other countries now all I need to do is check on Facebook.
However given the number of friends I have, and the increasing number of brands that I “like”, it potentially could make my newsfeed un-manageable. I could change it to “Top News” but I found by doing this I do not receive the most recent news and I also miss out on news from friends who are not such avid Facebook users and only post occasionally. The way I manage this is simple – I hide the newsfeed from people or brands I do not want to see.
This brings me on to brands on Facebook. As mentioned I “like” quite a few brands – either because I am a genuine fan of the brand, for example Marmite, or because I want to make a statement, for example “Stop using photos of your kids as your profile picture – it’s annoying”, or because I genuinely am interested in updates about the brand, for example the RSPCA. This does not mean however that I want to follow everything the brand does or that I will happily waste my time going through dull or pointless brand posts.
A basic measure of success for brands on Facebook seems to be the number of people who “like” the brand’s page – and while this is true to a degree it ignores the potential of people to hide posts from Facebook pages. If a brand does not post news or messages that resonate and are of interest to its followers then it is simple enough for these followers to hide all future posts and just forget about the brand’s page. Whilst the number of “likes” might increase the number of real followers may in fact decline.
This is a serious issue. Firstly it highlights the point that using the number of “likes” as a measure of success if flawed. Secondly there is the issue that once a follower hides a newsfeed they will probably never read any more posts from the brand (I do not know many people who un-hide brand newsfeeds once hid). This is a huge lost opportunity which is unfortunately often overlooked.
From a branded perspective this is an issue is because it removes one element of “engagement” – not only getting messages in front of potential followers but also from getting feedback from them. Having a branded post appear on someone’s Facebook newsfeed is a great opportunity to stay top of mind and remind people of the brand. For example I follow Bloom Gin and Pimm’s but found the Bloom Gin updates dull and too promotional whilst the Pimm’s updates were more rounded and fun. I ended up hiding Bloom Gin but still have Pimm’s in my newsfeed – and I do find that if I have a drink Pimm’s is top of mind (although probably helped by the fact that it is THE summer drink!).
Given how easy it is to “like” a brand, and the fact that people have different motivations for “liking” different brands, the brand also needs to recognise that not all the followers will want to actually follow the brand. With this in mind posts need to be carefully targeted at the key followers and the page should be designed around these key people, rather than trying to please the 1,000s of others who may just be following to make a statement. For example I “like” Amazon (in fact I love Amazon) but I have no interest in the latest Amazon deals – mainly because I am not deal driven but rather use Amazon when I fancy doing some online shopping or I have an actual need. That does not mean that Amazon should not be posting about the latest deals – I suspect it is a great way for them to drive traffic as many of the fans who “like” Amazon would be interested in these posts.
This staying top of mind and posting content that resonates with the target audience could also be a great benefit to health-related brands – but only if the posts are interesting enough for people not to hide them. Reminding patients for example of the importance of exercise for example need not be a dull, “big brother” type post but could be done in a way that is fun and engaging – for example by posting a video of a kitten running around (after all everyone loves kitten videos!). Given the regulatory hurdles needed to get many of the health-related brands onto Facebook it is a shame that all that effort is then wasted as even if people “like” the page they do not actually follow it.
The key fact is that Facebook is all about personal relationships and it truly is a social channel. For a brand to succeed beyond just collecting “likes” it needs to be written in a personal, engaging way, recognising the needs and interests of the followers. Real success should be measured in the level of engagement rather than looking at “likes”. Whilst it is impossible to measure how many people actually read the posts a level of engagement can be seen by looking at how many followers actually interact with the brand. Chances are if there are never any comments or “likes” on the wall no one is reading the posts!