Lots of studies have been done about how consumers interact with Facebook. The results can be read one of two ways, marketers gain customers and increase customer interaction on Facebook or marketers strengthen their ties with existing customers on Facebook. The reality is more like the second view. It’s easy to see why a lot of marketers read the situation more like the first scenario though, take for example a study looking at ”How Consumers Interact With Brands on Facebook” http://on.mash.to/o17dJb.
It touches on both sides, and it explains why marketers look at Facebook so positively and are satisfied with any type of interaction they can get on Facebook. Constant Contact and research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey report on ‘encouraging stats for business owners’ including that 56% who become fans are more likely to recommend a brand to a friend, 51% are more likely to buy a product after becoming a fan and 78% of consumers who ‘like’ brands like less than 10 brands. 76% have never unliked a brand. Here are my thoughts. The phrase ‘more likely’ tells me nothing exact about how often consumers actually act on these tendencies. Most likely, consumers like more than 10 brands and only feel compelled to list ones they like most. It also doesn’t guarantee that customers are any more particular or any more loyal to a brand. 76% have never unliked a brand. Well, that’s good except some still have so it’s still a possible outcome. I have no doubt that Facebook has potential, I just think that people are quick to jump to conclusions and read more into its progress than there is. A few points here echo ones from ”Why Do People Follow Brands on Facebook?” http://on.mash.to/jDNWiX.
CRM specialists Get Satisfaction found many consumers are just in it for the perks or because they’re already customers. The study goes on to showcase these statistics through a series of graphs. One attempts to measure how often people consider the brand when shopping, buy the brand and recommend the brand to others. On a scale of Never, Sometimes, Usually and Always, the majority response for all is ‘usually’, but usually doesn’t tell us exactly how often. All of these are indirect forms of measurement that provide few concrete numbers. Without concrete numbers, any opinion of the results of brand marketing on Facebook is purely speculation. There is still much to come in developing Facebook measurement methods to determine true ROI. “How Consumers Interact With Brands on Facebook” even points out that Facebook interaction is fairly passive, with 77% reading posts and updates from brands, 17% sharing experiences and news stories about the brand and 13% posting updates about the brands they like. None of the interactions they measure are about purchasing the product and only 30% share experiences and news stories or post updates about brands they like. That doesn’t say much for Facebook’s brand interaction so far. What it does say though, is that Facebook is an excellent tool for customer communication.
I think Justin Kistner of Webtrends put it best in “How Brands Should Think About Facebook: A Loyalty Program” http://bit.ly/qyHhYP. In response to the fact that most fans are existing customers, Kistner states it makes Facebook “…more like a customer relationship management program than a customer acquisition tool.” He goes on to say “Search is a customer acquisition tool. Facebook really isn’t….(Facebook) is really about staying in touch with the people we know” and “more about preaching to the converted than getting new converts.” All of these statements point to what Facebook really is in this moment, a form of digital customer service. Until there are concrete facts and the connection between Facebook fan and product purchase becomes more of a direct and predictable correlation, that’s what a brands’ focus should be for Facebook. It’s the safest bet, and one whose results and dividends are much more measurable.