Commercial Users of Facebook Had Better Wake Up

A provocative article by Michael Scissons, CEO of Syncapse, a company that makes social media management software, appeared August 18 on Ad Age Digital. In it, Scissons refers to some data his firm collected about 300 of the top brand pages on Facebook.

One of the most telling findings shared by Scissons is the fact that the 300 brands referenced demonstrated a decline of over 20 percent in engagement on their Facebook walls over the past year (July 2010 – July 2011). Scissons thinks the problem is with the brand marketers, not with Facebook. “Dissing audiences with bad content, coupons, polls, contests, and boring filler is the way to blow off engagement in the long run, even if it makes a few campaign results shine in the short term,” writes Scissons.

He also notes that engagement declines significantly when a brand over-communicates on Facebook. Some brands, according to the research findings, will post something as many as 15 or 20 times a week, even though engagement takes a nosedive after 6 or 7 times a week. Just as important is relevancy:

“If you have nothing interesting to say, don’t say anything,” writes Scissons.

Another key data point: Local Facebook pages perform 36 percent better than global ones, according to the data analysis. This suggests that relevant local content targeting a local market is more effective than broader messaging.

Look at all of these in combination and you begin to see a pattern emerging that could spell big trouble for big brand marketers. They are missing the point of Facebook; in fact, many of them seem clueless about social media marketing. This could well be the case of a big company approaching social media in much the same way as it approaches traditional media — as just another media “buy” to get the most bang for the buck. The problem with this mentality is social media isn’t the same thing as other media.

What’s the key difference? It’s engagement, an on-going dialogue, a personal correspondence relationship. Let’s be honest — building that kind of relationship on Facebook takes time and effort. Friends chatting back and forth on Facebook is where this medium shines. That kind of very personal conversation is the polar opposite of what most brand marketers are familiar with. Blasting out general messages, bombarding fans with an over-abundance of promotional information, and neglecting local interests are signals that big brand marketers are simply treating Facebook as just another media buy. Wrong.

If a brand marketer doesn’t understand what people are looking for on Facebook, they won’t have loyal followers for very long. If a brand marketer doesn’t respect its audience and meet its specific needs, it won’t engage its fans long-term. If a brand marketer fails to engage in authentic conversations, then the marketer may as well invest in traditional media that doesn’t take nearly as much work, effort or commitment. Social media isn’t for the faint hearted.

Sure, social media is valuable, but not if brand marketers don’t invest in it wisely. It takes promotional dollars of a different sort — dollars that must be spent on an infrastructure to support social media, and a staff of people whose job it is to stay on top of it by interacting with customers and prospects in real time with real interest in continuing the conversation.

The bottom line, writes Scissons: “If marketers don’t get better, they will fail to capture the value of social media marketing.” Based on the data collected by Syncapse, it appears that many marketers are wasting a golden opportunity.

About Barry Silverstein

Barry Silverstein is a freelance writer/marketing consultant. In addition to writing for ReveNews, he is a contributing writer to Brandchannel.com, the world’s leading online branding forum. He is the author of three marketing books, The Breakaway Brand (co-author, McGraw-Hill, 2005), Business-to-Business Internet Marketing (Maximum Press, 2003) and Internet Marketing for Technology Companies (Maximum Press, 2003). Barry ran his own Internet and direct marketing agency for twenty years. You can find Barry on Twitter @bdsilv.

One Response to Commercial Users of Facebook Had Better Wake Up

  1. Justin Dupre says:

    Some companies may think that if they have lots of fans at Facebook they can just post anything on their wall and make it sell. Well, it does not work that way.