Facebook Insights Every Marketer Should Know


Social media defies all manner of definition and understanding for many Marketers. For many, it’s like the proverbial blind men touching the elephant of social media:

  • It’s for listening
  • It’s about “likes”
  • It’s the fans that count
  • It’s an engagement platform
  • It’s Facebook
  • It’s YouTube
  • It’s an advertising platform…

The list goes on and on…

Facebook Insights Every Marketer Should Know

What Do I Need to Know?

Sometimes, we just need some basic truths or insights about a topic that simplify it into manageable and understandable chunks that are easily digestible. And actionable.

At a recent Marketing conference, Facebook executives talked about what Facebook is and what it isn’t. Some of their points were simple, yet compelling. Facebook doesn’t equal social media, but it surely is the most important social media platform in the marketing world of today.

So what did they say and what should you know?

Five Facebook Insights

  • Value isn’t just about the like button.  Consumers who “like” a brand or become fans on Facebook almost certainly are already fans of the brand in their non-digital life. Diet Coke has 1.1 million fans. And they’re just expressing their loyalty and connection to a brand that already earned their trust in the marketplace. The brand already did the hard work. Facebook simply enabled liking with a button.
  • Fans are only valuable because they have friends. Having a large number of likes is not an end in and of itself. The reason brands need fans: to influence their friends about your brand. For example, a brand with 500k Facebook fans could actually have a potential audience of 60M friends, should all of the fans choose to share something with their friends. So, it’s really the friends of fans that are of most value.
  • Social graph influence comes from many fans doing a little, not a few doing a lot.  Said differently, the idea that only a few people have mass influence and can drive large word of mouth is generally not true. Oprah is Oprah but most of us don’t have that kind of influence. What really happens is that many fans influence a few friends each, versus a few influencers influencing many. Facebook has analyzed how brand content or messaging spreads across the Facebook social graph. And what they’ve discovered is that there is no Oprah effect—e.g. one person influencing many. The lesson: don’t just focus on the “influencers.”
  • Fans and likes drive better ad performance. People clearly trust friends, so when ads are served with a layer of social content – e.g. Jim, Mary and 12 other of your friends are fans of Virgin America, the ads work better. And they work better the further down the funnel you go, with the largest impact on purchase intent. To read more about this phenomenon, read my earlier post How Social Context Drives Ad Effectiveness.
  • Ads work best against light Facebook users. This was a new insight for me and one that invites the big “why?” question. Facebook says their data clearly shows that the same ad drives greater impact among light Facebook users versus heavy users. These light Facebook users also tend to be light TV viewers. So, Facebook is a good platform for extending reach against light viewers.

Word of Mouth at Scale

What Facebook has really done, to use the words of one Facebook executive, is create the potential for “word of mouth at scale.” Word of mouth at scale exists because consumers can “broadcast” their point of view—about brands, customer service issues, likes, etc. to all of their friends. And if hundreds of thousands or millions of fans do the same, you have word of mouth at scale. So, instead of your brand’s viral efforts petering out as most efforts do (see The Dynamics of Viral Marketing post), you can really scale word of mouth.

The Real Challenge: Igniting Fan Conversations and Sharing

Which begs the question:  how does your brand ignite fans to talk about your brand with their friends to create word of mouth at scale? Facebook doesn’t claim to have the answer to this question, but this is the real hard work of building brands. But, that’s for another post.

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4 Responses to Facebook Insights Every Marketer Should Know

  1. Graham Thomas says:

    Randall, an insightful post. The only question that’s not addressed by Facebook is reach. As you know, FB filters the number of feeds an individual receives. This means, for example, that I don’t neccesarily get all your posts. So while Diet Coke may have 1.1.m fans, possibly less than 50% at any one time will receive a Diet Coke message. In the instance of Diet Coke that’s still a lot of fans but it has diminished the potential for word of mouth and it also means that Coke has no guarantee that the right people are being reached in the first instance.

  2. asit says:

    The last line is the best. How do brands create WOM to start with. By looking deep into the product and find what makes it remarkable. I am sure you interacted with the P&G WOM guys-Tremor – in Cincinnati. They called it “disruptive” message, something which creates an AHA; not always the same as the advertising idea.

    • beardrs says:

      Hi Asit — Thanks for reading the blog and responding with your comment. I agree that this is the biggest challenge by far. In my experience, it often comes when a brand delivers something unexpected and outside the ordinary–be it product experience, customer service, public engagement, a hilarious and provocative video, or whatever. Creating positive word of mouth is key and few firms other than Apple seem to have any playbook for how to do it and do it well. The other thing Marketers need to increasingly think about is how “earned” and “paid” media work together in a highly complementary way.It’s highly likely that positive earned media makes advertising more effective, and vice versa, but few Marketers know how to exploit this phenomena today. Randall

      • asit says:

        Thanks for the reply Randall. Totally agree about how earned media can amplify paid media. They are highly complementary. In Procter terms, I would say a friend’s WOM is more effective additional frequency ( to push consumer to purchase) vs an additional 30″ exposure. TVC /mass media creates awareness, aspiration, comfort while friend’s WOM gives the confidence, the final nudge to close the sale.

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