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A Facebook Like Does Not Equal an Opt-in

I’m writing this post while visiting Antwerp, Belgium as part of the Social Business Sessions I’m hosting along with The Fusion Marketing Experience. While here, I had an opportunity to spend time with several Belgian journalists. One of the notable conversations was with Erik Verdonck of Pub, a local magazine focused on the advertising industry. The three themes we touched upon are not only timely, but representative of the challenges that face marketers and strategists around the globe.

1. A social brand is not a social business. Please explain both concepts and the difference between them.

The path from a social brand to a social business begins with recognizing the difference between the two. A social brand engages in social media with a primary emphasis of marketing. A social business is result of internal transformation where social technologies serve as the catalyst to improve internal collaboration across functions and lines of business. A social business in effect is a confluence of technology philosophy and supporting processes and work. I like to say that a social business is not something you “do,” it’s something that you become.

2. What is the main difference between the ‘Like’ button on Facebook and other direct response triggers?

Facebook’s Like button is often confused as an “Opt In” by marketers. All too frequently people who have clicked the Like button are thought of as a captive community where customers have opted in to marketing and engagement. Likes do not represent the actual size of a community, yet many organizations confuse the overall number with actual audience size.  The difference between Like and other direct response triggers is that the Like is an act of fleeting value that must be earned over and over again. Often, it’s an “in the moment” action that expresses affinity, interest,  alignment, and sometimes endorsement. And as an expression, Likes are a form of social currency and their value goes up and down with each engagement. If we approach the spirit of community from this perspective, we can then focus on delivering higher yields for each Like and as a result, foster greater reciprocity and true social commerce. Doing so will increase overall engagement and the responsiveness of the community as a whole.

Traditional response triggers are exchanges that are rooted in what I refer to as the A.R.T. of Engagement…Actions, Reactions, and Transactions. Likes represent potential reach. But businesses cannot take or assume satisfaction in these numbers as they’re reflective of the people reached and not the people who could be reached.

Contests, campaigns, gimmicks, while effective in intermittent bursts, are not sustainable nor are they indicative of organic engagement. They generate numbers but not true engagement. Facebook represents a tremendous opportunity to design and steer customer experiences. Whether it’s for marketing, service, sales, co-creation or collaborative engagement, Facebook is a social hub where the various needs, expectations and roles of customers can be met by a fully engaged social business, not just a social brand or social marketing initiative.

3. How would you measure the return of social media campaigns? What should marketers look at?

Part of the problem with social media measurement is that the metrics used to determine success are only indicative of activity and not progress or change. For example, many businesses place value on Likes, Retweets, comments, and reach. I see these as raw numbers and not as indicators for progress or change. While this activity is reflective of real-time interaction, it’s only part of a larger swathe that envelopes social media success.

I think of Euripides…”A bad ending follows a bad beginning.” Or said another way, a successful outcome follows a successful beginning. To do this, businesses must think through what success looks like and they must do so looking beyond the competition. It cannot be assumed that similar companies are thinking about Euripides. They are engaging in social media because that’s what they’re supposed to do.

In the end, we must not forget how social media ties to business objectives. We must first understand where we are and where we need to be. Developing strategies where cause and effect are the catalysts for performance inspires strategies rooted in significance whereas metrics and KPIs document real transformation. I like to think about ROI in this regard as Realization of Influence…tracking the relationship between cause and effect or the change in behavior.

As such, packaging raw numbers requires deeper consideration to demonstrate progress toward business objectives and priorities.

These can include:

– Brand Lift/Awareness
– Brand Resonance
– Advocacy
– Sales/Referrals
– Endorsements
– Sentiment/Perception Shift
– Thought Leadership
– Demand
– Trends
– Audience/Community
– Behavior
– Influence

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The End of Business as Usual is officially here…

Image Credit: Ken Murphy via BoingBoing

56 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “A Facebook Like Does Not Equal an Opt-in”

  1. NoahLampert says:

    Great post, Brian. 

    I’m in the process of writing an article about how raw numbers mean less than the value attributed to them. It’s the quality of the interaction/follow that is most useful. 

    Your point about measuring progress and change is awesome. Thanks.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Faebook likes are all about the liker and far less about that which is being liked. They are not endorsements. It’s staggering to me that marketers don’t get that.

  3. Hi Brian – Timely topic. Internally we say there is nothing more passive than a ‘like’ on FB. Instead focus on the desired outcome – emails, sign-ups, sales, feedback. I saw you speak at the Ragan event in February and ART really resonated with me – glad to get the refresher, today. Thanks!

  4. I’m amazed at how few ask their fans why they liked them in the first place. A coupon, a few updates, to talk to the brand… Or because they just like it [shocking]. It’s right to call a like fleeting and value comes from driving off of that. You have a short chance to build on the action, not an invite to market for a lifetime because of it.

  5. Dara Bell says:

    Hi Brain,

                       Yes it does. It’s good WOM. John Dodds is close when he talks about Social Context. You cannot pay for that LIKE. 

     After I finish this comment I’ll LIKE it, making it 32 LIKES. That makes this one of the most popular blogs in Marketing as a measurement of those LIKES. If we are all measuring (smirk)!

     I believe this is Sales online. The best people at this are Salespeople. When I was in Sales I’d give away some stuff for free. I’d be wanting people around me, always. I wanted conversation and I wanted everyone to see said Buzz. That crowd attracted new people, proofed me. We sell or else!

    These raw numbers add up to Metrics in business that shuns them. I’m learning metrics and context this year. Can you tell? PPC metrics are fine but LIKES are accurate. honest. The crowds opinion. I follow the wisdom of the crowd.



  6. Ari Herzog says:

    Taking a step back, Brian, you write about contests being unsustainable. How do you respond to companies creating online contests as products? Should they rethink their marketing?

  7. Michele Price says:

    HMMMM I see contests as way to capture their initial attention, but any smart marketer should know and understand that it is just a handshake, not a kiss.

    To achieve growth ( or movement as you call it) from that one time occasion, it is critical to have built-in reasons for them to come back.  Too many times my experience in viewing company’s behavior has been that they think the contest or the coupons are their only reason to connect – short term thinking in my opinion.  Kinda like a one night stand – short term.

  8. briansolis says:

     Reach vs. engagement is always an interesting comparison. Often you drop down to 1-2% when you measure the activity that follows an update or post. Improving engagement is a more compelling driver than reach IMHO.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t think it’s a versus game. I believe you can’t have one without the other. You need to focus on reach in order to gain engagement. No eyes, no actions and yes, from my experience, the larger the page, the lower the ratio.

      From this however, I agree, that you need keep the steam high on engagement in order to shorten the affinity to the user and hopefully be top of mind and top of newsfeed for the users at the same time.


    • Stephanie says:

      This was posted a month ago, but I have to respond anyway. You definitely can have one without the other. You can definitely have engagement without reach, though rare, and you can definitely have reach without engagement, which is probably more common. There is a missing factor when something like that happens though, but no one address what THAT factor is, and once someone does, then we will really know how to successfully utilize social media marketing. Until then, it’s really a guessing game with little to no results, and no one seems willing to admit that.

  9. Zoe Sexton says:

    Thanks Brian, for breaking it down… into digestible bits of relevance. It’s always important to know who your real friends are and not just the ones who don’t currently desire to eat you for lunch. Social currency has been playing to high valuations; thanks for not forgetting the value of personal capital (real people and relationships).

  10. Great post Brian. I think the one of the better ways to engage is to start conversations with your audience (I prefer the term conversations to commenting as I think it is much more powerful). The conversations can go organically to become online community which can self-sustain itself through its own members engagement. The role of the business will be to moderate and keep producing content that the members will find interesting and converse about. This process is not about building large communities rather it is building small but engaged communities which through its members will extend the reach and keep the buzz.

  11. Brilliant analysis indeed! Nice post.

  12. Absolutely great post and you are quite right as the title states likes are definitely not opt-in’s you can buy likes from many different social media sites, like empire avenue and others. Whilst this may look good, the majority of these are not going to be receptive to your content, it’s better to build organic content and interact with a smaller number of users who are more likely to ‘invest’ time into your buisness, by reading your content and ultimately making a sale.

    Thanks for sharing these insights.

  13. Facebook likes are only useful if they generate business. I did not see that happen in our business. I mean it helped with brand awareness but we still have to see actual results monetary wise being on facebook. Thank you Brain for the informative post. 

  14. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Brian 🙂 for breaking it down… into digestible bits of relevance.
    It’s always important to know who your real friends are and not just
    the ones who don’t currently desire to eat you for lunch. Social
    currency has been playing to high valuations; thanks for not forgetting
    the value of personal capital.

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