• Fan pages aren’t working

      Mega brands like Coke and Starbucks boast Facebook fan numbers in the multimillions, but the level of engagement across the top 300 brands is dropping like a stone.

      In just nine months, their average fan engagement levels have halved from over 1.2 percent to 0.6, despite Facebook membership increasing by over 50% over the same period.

      Which means that the marketing industry’s current approach to social marketing, is actually turning customers off!

      That’s not surprising. Companies that have been around a while tend to fall into a fairly standard, command and control, pyramid structure which lays the dead hand of established practice on any truly innovative idea.

      Within these companies the role of marketing is pretty well defined – to get campaigns out the door and ultimately drive up sales, and there’s a strong pressure to recycle content across all media.

      Which is fine if your fans haven’t already seen the same thing in four or five other places, which the volume of sharing and re-tweeting makes extremely unlikely if the content is at all interesting.

      What is the point of social media?

      Although in time we’ll all get offers throughout mobiles, social isn’t about driving sales. It’s about reputation. It’s about opinion. It’s about opening your company up to customers. It’s about being happy to take criticism and learn from it.

      That’s a lot of attitude change for any company to deal with.

      Last month just 7% of companies polled in a Gartner survey think they have social sorted out, even though over 80% are involved in it.

      In part that’s because of the newness of social, but a lot of the slowness is down to companies trying to work out what the heck they’re going to do – Who’s going to own it? What are the rules? How do we control what’s said? In-house or Outsource?

      In short – what do we do next?

      Are you socially engaging ?

      One of the most interesting points we’ve found is that over 90% of the discussions companies are having about social focus on ‘How do we do this?’ rather than ‘What are we going to offer our fans?’

      The key word that comes up in every conversation we have about social media is ‘engagement.’ But they don’t teach engagement on marketing degrees or CIM courses. In fact most marketers dread the thought of having to deal with customers on a regular basis.

      Over the last couple of decades marketing departments have become ever farther removed from the people they’re trying to influence. An IBM study in October found that over three quarters of CMOs will use research to tell them what people think, yet less than a quarter read their own Facebook pages, where the public express themselves in spades.

      To many marketers the practicalities of content and engagement are an alien language – they’re simply not used to the 24×7 demands of a social website.

      To make social work, marketers need to focus on people not numbers. They need to consider how people will react to what they see, how they are going to make their sites compelling, and how they are going to build communities.

      Facebook isn’t the answer

      99.95% of fans never revisit a brand page they have ‘liked’. Within a couple of weeks Facebook’s Edge Rank filters out news from pages that you don’t visit, so the millions of likes on the top pages are pretty much worthless.

      To build a social community you need to go beyond Facebook and Twitter. Yes they’re a great front door, but the key is to use these sites as bait, as a way to invite fans to take their relationship with you to the next level, and join a dedicated community website with a 24×7 editorial team driving it.

      What you offer when the fan first arrives at the site and how you keep them engaged, will make the difference between them joining your community and becoming a brand advocate, or simply clicking away never to return.

      That’s all about content, which is a significant challenge to marketers, as it requires the skills and creativity of a publisher.

      Get it right and you’ll build a massive and loyal fanbase, but you’ll have to change a lot of established practices along the way, or outsource, which means finding a partner that can bring a range of skills to the table – content, creative, event management, software and data, customer service and empathy for the brand.

      Outsourcing is always a tricky one because the CFO will demand a Return on Investment, and concrete revenue from social is notoriously hard to define.

      Perhaps that’s why so few marketing organizations are prepared to commit the budget to do social properly, even though within the next couple of years an effective social community is going to be the most powerful tool in the marketer’s box.

      The growth of companies like ASOS, Amazon and Zynga, compared to the decline of traditional retailers like Currys and Comet, shows what happens when a new business model lands, and established businesses ignore it.

      Is social going to do the same to your business, or are you going to take the plunge and beat your competitors to the post?