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Please Like Us! (Are All Those Facebook 'Likes' Worth It?)

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Want to get exclusive content on our brand Facebook page? "Like" us! Want to participate in our fun new contest? "Like" us! Want to take advantage of the discount? "Like" us!

This is the new hot tactic used by marketers nowadays to get their fan count up. They are constructing the "like" walls. A number of big brands, such as Macy’s, 1-800 Flowers, Bud Light, and Gap, practice it.

The logic behind this thinking is simple: We provide valuable incentives in return for the larger community on Facebook. Sounds fair, right? However, you are then faced with the dilemma: Do you want more Likes or do you want more advocates in your community who would have liked you no matter what monetary incentives you are trying to offer?

There are a lot of people out there who are looking to get a quick coupon or discount. After all, who doesn’t like free stuff? There are a number of businesses that offer a cool discount a day/a week on their Facebook page. It seems to work for them. But are they truly building relationships or are they just using their page to broadcast the deals and sell products? Unless you are prepared to offer your community a constant flow of coupons and discounts, the success of any single promotion will be short-lived. I would also question the quality of your fans and if they are truly present on your page. What you want is to build a community of advocates who truly participate, which means a consistent dialogue, smooth feedback loop, and your fans sharing their stories and their experiences with your brand. If you have a large community that is quiet---is it a good thing?

It used to be that un-liking a page was hard; it required several steps and was confusing. Now, it is as easy as clicking the unlike button. A number of brands reported a huge drop-off rate post-promotion. Consensus is that that drop-off rate is on average 50% after the promotion is complete. Meaning that those promotions don’t work. Meaning that you are diluting your fans and depreciating the value of your community.

So instead of "like-gating," why don’t we provide our fans compelling content and relevant messaging? Why don’t we make it easy for our fans to interact with us and our content? Why not post happy holiday wishes, short trivia questions, interesting polls, and fun videos to help us say communicate our message and truly hear theirs? Why not make it easy and fun for them to share among their friends? And if we must build the "Like walls," why not be very selective in how we do it?

If you are not creating valuable customer relationships, then does the fan count matter?


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Ekaterina Walter is a social media innovator at Intel. A recognized business and marketing thought leader, she is a speaker and a regular contributor to Mashable, Fast Company, Huffington Post, and other leading-edge print and online publications. She is an author of the book Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook's Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Walter has been featured in Forbes and BusinessReviewUSA and was named among 25 Women Who Rock Social Media in 2012. She sits on a Board of Directors of Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) and is an active member of the Thunderbird Global Council at Thunderbird School of Global Management. Twitter: @ekaterina. Blog: www.ekaterinawalter.com.

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  • by Victoria Tue Mar 22, 2011 via blog

    If there are consistent promos, the drop off rate would decrease. Do we want a community or do we want business? Yes, community brings business, but I believe in this day and age discount brings more business.

  • by Bonnie Tue Mar 22, 2011 via blog

    Great points, Ekaterina. I like the idea of rewarding people who take the desired action, but only if that initial "bribe" to get their attention is followed up with compelling content and relevant messaging. So I guess I'm asking, can't we do both? If 50% of the LIKE clickers disappear after the promotion, that means 50% stuck around. Maybe the 50% who left did so because step 2 (providing compelling content and relevant messaging) wasn't done effectively.

    I agree that quality trumps quantity when it comes to fans.

  • by mack collier Tue Mar 22, 2011 via blog

    Ekaterina I wonder how many of the 'social media strategists' behind these efforts have number of Likes as a performance metric that they need to hit in order for the Facebook page (or a campaign on it) to be a success?

  • by Jaime Tue Mar 22, 2011 via blog

    I like the idea of providing relevant content instead of "like-gating". However, I don't have anything that I really sell, per-se. I do affiliate marketing so the former approach works for me a lot better. :)

  • by Jacob Tue Mar 22, 2011 via blog

    Totally, agree. I think fan/follower counts were a fad. Quality counts in the end and your fans should reflect that not how many discount coupons you give out. I spend money on several FB adds when I started just to build some numbers but if they are not customers, what is the point.

  • by Justin Brackett Tue Mar 22, 2011 via blog

    Ekaterina, great thoughts. Most of Social Media is about numbers now. Few people really understand the value that they fail to bring their clients because they are trying to reach a number.

    The thing that is worse is that people are ok with buying advice from strategist who sell them numbers vs relationships and value.

    Justin Brackett

    http://developsocially.com

  • by Prasant naidu Tue Mar 22, 2011 via blog

    Ekaterina very true that's what fb marketing has been by more or less all brands. If one has to like it, he/she will anyway like it and you don't need to show the LIKE button it is a form of push marketing :) rest the coupon/free gifts thing is working but they won't last as pointed by you. seems like every one is just following the bandwagon.

  • by RaynaNyc Tue Mar 22, 2011 via blog

    Thank you for this post and writing it like it is. Sad that after all this time social outreach for many brands is about fan/follower counts, and as Mack Colier noted in his comment, are still using that count as a key performance metric. Instead, I wish more brands were focusing on how to be a better social participant in the community they're trying to connect with.

  • by Jon Aston Tue Mar 22, 2011 via blog

    On the whole, I agree with your point of view (who wouldn't, really?) but I don't see like-gating (or whatever) as mutually exclusive to providing engaging content.

  • by Dhana Tue Mar 22, 2011 via blog

    Many businesses still use FB, TW to push their offers and coupons rather than building relationships. Because, building relationships take time and effort and money !.

  • by Pascal Jappy Wed Mar 23, 2011 via blog

    Ekaterina, I think Mack says it all. As long as success is measured in terms of number of likes or number of fans, there will be no push to stop silly promotions and encourage a true content/engagement strategy.

  • by Ekaterina Walter Wed Mar 23, 2011 via blog

    Bonnie,
    you can absolutely do both. I suggest trying different tactics and seeing what works for you. But at the end of the day, no matter how many fans you have, if they don't engage with you, how valuable is that community for your brand?

  • by Ekaterina Walter Wed Mar 23, 2011 via blog

    Mack,
    I think all of them really. It is an easy to see vanity metric, so I think it'll stay on the top of the metric charts for marketers for a while. But I think more and more marketers are really starting to dig deeper and asking themselves questions that matter and re-evaluating what it means to have a healthy brand community.

  • by Ekaterina Walter Wed Mar 23, 2011 via blog

    Victoria,
    there are absolutely Facebook communities whose sole purpose is to provide a discount a day. That's just their business model. And if it's sustainable to you as a brand or business, I don't see why it wouldn't work. For the most brands, however, offering a discount a day or a week is not a goal, the goal for them is to build healthy communities and in this cases fan-gating isn't really a way to do so (or not really an effective way to attract those folks they really want to attract).

  • by Steve Sonn Wed Mar 23, 2011 via blog

    A recent study indicated that 60 percent of consumers who "like" or "follow" a brand expect to receive discounts or incentives. Trying to engage consumers is still a good idea, but the discounts drive buying behavior so they are very much worth it.

  • by arthur Wed Mar 23, 2011 via blog

    Ekaterina,
    Sometimes we over think things....If a promotion gives you 100 new fans and 50 drop off after the promotion that is not necessarily bad. It can be argued that the 50 that remained was the reason you did the promotion in the first place. Brands need various tools, some that build, some that engage. Most brands at this point want to build and there is no more effective way than by doing a promotion.
    What is needed is an understanding that once you get them in the tent you need to keep them there. This is called engagement, entertainment or follow up. the problem here is that ROI is much more difficult to ascertain and companies resist investing here.

  • by LiveOutLoud Wed Mar 23, 2011 via blog

    If we continue to strip-mine our social ecosystem for Likes and short-term goals/metrics it just can't last. Social Media (worst noun ever BTW) is a long term strategy based on true respect for our customers. At SxSW this year, @garyvee said "if there's a campaign it (expletive) isn't social media." You just can't truly engage w/ customers if you don't love your brand and look big picture.

  • by Deanna Kastrinos Wed Mar 23, 2011 via blog

    Like-gating is what gets people to the party. If the party is lame, they'll leave. Play the right music, offer the right snacks, have other cool kids mingling....people will stay.

  • by Donna DeClemente Wed Mar 23, 2011 via blog

    Getting people to Like the page is equivalent to generating a lead. It brings people to your page for the first time. Then it's up to the page (or the salesperson/the brand) to close the lead and deliver what is relevant to the person. So you can't close them all, but you have to keep trying and learning what works and what doesn't.

  • by Suzanne Vara Wed Mar 23, 2011 via blog

    Mack

    I was thinking the same thing. The metric of success for the agency is to achieve X amount of likes. Forcing to like to get a reward is pretty simple when you think about it. You are getting likes of people who are coupon hounds and do not care so much about the brand itself but more the discount. If Dooney & Burke or Coach came out with a campaign where you like and are entered to win 1 of 1000 bags could you imagine how many likes they would get?(me being one of them). The women who buy them regularly may or may not take part in the contest as well if they win or not, they are going to buy. Is this building a strong brand loyalty based audience or someone who never would buy one and just wants to win one. The agency is the hero for getting tons and tons of likes where the chances are they could have a zero conversion rate. We need to get away from the performance rate and look more at conversion rate or some other metric.

  • by Kim Snyder Wed Mar 23, 2011 via blog

    I have a 'Like me" page on Facebook but I am personally turnoff by the type that won't let you "Like" them without first signing up to join their newsletter or have some flashy you can't see what is behind curtain number 2 unless you "Like" us. What happen to just plain fan pages?
    I think that if someone is going to "Like" your fan page they are going to do because they like you or the product you offer etc.. not because you are going to give them something for free.. its just as easy to unlike someone as it is to "Like" them.. who wants a army of 1000's so don't really care what it is you offer?

  • by Mommy Shorts Wed Mar 23, 2011 via blog

    I offer giveaways about once every two weeks and I make being a facebook fan a requirement for entering. This is to ensure that the people who are active fans are the ones winning my giveaways, not the people who just show up for free stuff. Of course, it is also a very effective way to get new fans. However, I have not experienced any drop-off after giveaways. The "like" requirement has just proven to be a great way to expose new fans to the rest of my non-giveaway content.

    Obviously, I am not The Gap. But I would think the same would hold true for anyone. There is no question that facebook fans are valuable. You just have to know how to keep them.

  • by Chief Alchemist Thu Mar 24, 2011 via blog

    On one hand, there's nothing wrong with increasing Likes. However, this should be done within the context of understanding that the Like is probably not a Like any more. It's a contest entry button, or some other redefinition of purpose. etc. Being aware of this (lack of) distinction is essential to future success. Over time, without a means for differentiating Like Type X from Like Type Y, there is only confusing. And as someone else noted, one overpaid (excrement for brains) social media guru, as well as a disgruntled client with unreasonable expectations going forward.

    There is MASSIVE difference between building a community of true and faithful followers who are engaged, participating, etc. and the goal of simply increasing Likes. Freely apply your foot the butt of anyone who tries to imply otherwise. God I wish Mashable had a rear-end so I could do the rest of the world a favor :)

    Thanks for the article. It's about time someone other than myself got on board with crushing this myth already.

  • by Tom Buchheim Thu Mar 24, 2011 via blog

    One thing to consider is marketing a like-gate to your target customer. I did that during a holiday charitable promotion with Toys for Tots for the brand page I admin. We gave $1 to T4T for every new "like" during the holidays but used Facebook ad spends to target key demographic areas (our target customer). The idea being - bring in these potential new customers with the holiday promotion then win them over with engaging, interesting and relavent content after.

  • by Christian Thomsen Fri Mar 25, 2011 via blog

    I think you have made a good point and I have seen many business using Facebook to constantly offer discounts and if you look back through their wall posts you can find no engaging content. I think the priority should be useful, engaging content that gives your fans information on subjects they will find useful and that gives an insight into the personality behind your brand.

    If you can give people useful information around your product services you will become an authority on those services/products, this in turn will generate leads. Also with the advances in Social Media content showing up in Search engine results this can also generate leads.

  • by Ana Mon Mar 28, 2011 via blog

    I think it works a lot like the music charts. Sure, you can gain a lot of momentum and hit record highs with catchy promos, giveaways, discounts, etc.. but only for a short while as fans will fade and advocates will be all you have left. It's wiser for long-term strategy to build advocacy by creating genuine, engaging content. But if you employ a "one-hit wonder" business model, whereby the attention span of your our target is "from one thing and on to the next" then an ostentatious fan base could be a lucrative short-term strategy as well.

  • by David Mon Mar 28, 2011 via blog

    Hi Ekaterina,
    I work in social media promotions and therefore look at fan count growth charts daily and 99% of the charts that I see only show fan counts continuing to grow after promotions end. Which brands are showing a 50% fall-off of fans? The biggest dip I have seen was 0.9% after Mission Chips gave away 35,000 bags of free chips. Most promotions - photo contests, drawings, sweepstakes, etc. show continue growth after the promotion ends. So I'd be interested in seeing the fan growth charts that show the 50% drop off rate that you mention as the consensus. Enter the brands facebook page into Monitor.wildfireapp.com and it will show their chart.
    Here's a chart for a company that grew their fan base from 13k to 50k in a couple of weeks via several ipad giveaways and now that the promotions are over, their fanbase continues to grow:
    http://monitor.wildfireapp.com/comparisons/76295/legalzoom-on-facebook

    I completely agree that it is critical to engage your fans via questions, interesting posts, videos, and whatever else. Collecting fans for the sake of having a large fan count is worthless unless you can then really engage those fans in a way that improves their experience with your brand and ideally also helps the brand achieve it's goals.

    And I totally agree that there is a big difference between amassing fans and amassing true brand advocates. Depending on what type of promotion you're running you can target different people. If you're asking for video submissions for detailed success stories with your product, then you'll get a lot fewer likes & submissions, but those that you get are much more likely to be from true brand advocates. But if you're to draw in thousands of fans that you then plan on engaging with content, questions, and conversation to create brand advocates, then a simple sweepstakes targeted at your key demographic / client can work really well.

    But having looked a hundreds of fan count graphs post-promotion, I have never seen a 50% drop off in fan count, so I'd be very interested in seeing that example. I have seen a few where their entire fan base was deleted by Facebook, but those have all been cases where they were running a promotion that went against facebook's promotional guidelines and therefore they were calling us to help them run promotions that did comply with Facebook's guidelines.

    Thanks,
    David Belden
    david@wildfireapp.com

  • by Anna@GreenTalk Tue Apr 5, 2011 via blog

    My fan page is like Sally Fields. I want them to like my fan page because they truly like what I offer. My goal is the conversation. No one wants to come to the party where everyone is sitting around staring at each other. Getting more likes without interaction is just dull.

    So, I am working it like my blog. Creating relationships.

    BTW, I do like "likes"as much as the next person, so I would be happy to entertain more at my fan page, Green Talk.

  • by Nigel Carr Tue Apr 5, 2011 via blog

    The problem is that its a sure way of increasig the number of likes to you page. I cannot think of a more effective way of generating fans than using a fan gate linked to a competition. When we do it we explode our fan numbers and sooner or later they will need a pair of shoes! I just hope that when they do they think of us first! :) Its a romantic idea to think that people will like a relatively small company like us by simply stumbling past our tab and engaging with us!

    Kind Regarsd - Nigel - MD Shoes.co.uk

  • by Rick Hendershot Tue Apr 5, 2011 via blog

    Thank you for the reality check David. There is no reason why there should be just one way to do social media marketing. Asking fans to "engage" when there are thousands of them is a bit unrealistic. Who are they supposed to engage with? In any case, downloading a coupon is a decent way of "engaging" as far as I'm concerned. Using it would be even better.

  • by Ekaterina Walter Tue Apr 5, 2011 via blog

    David,
    I think we are saying similar things. I am also familiar with Wildfire and your business model around offering applications for sweepstakes and other similar programs. (Tell your awesome CEO, Victoria Ransom, I said hi :))

    I am not saying don't do short-term programs, I think there is a time and a place for everything. And if those programs work for you or your fans are the fans of your page because all you offer is free stuff and discounts every now and then, it can be a viable strategy for you. However, I am asking marketers to look at the objectives and goals of building their communities. And if they truly want to build a community and not just be another Groupon, these short-term programs might not necessarily be an answer.

    I have talked to a number of brands and none of them whose goal was to build long-term relationships with their customers told me how awesome those short-term promotions were. They build a buzz, but they don't help the heath of your community long-term. We at Intel are not seeing that radical of a drop-off after short-term programs like sweepstakes, but our unsubscribe rates are elevated post program. The reason that most fans stick around is because we work hard in keeping them engaged.

    The data you are presenting is also not black and white because there are a number of factors that play into the fan growth like which industry you are in, how well you engage post-program, what your objectives are, whether you are investing into traditional media to drive acquisition continuously, etc. I don't think there is an exact number that would prove one or the other right, however, I do believe that we need to look at what's important for us as marketers and as a brand and focus on things that matter. If you are happy to give your product away on your page and it works for your business model, that's great. But is this what you are ultimately after?

  • by Barbados Wed Jan 18, 2012 via blog

    The one thing that I find of benefit to having more likes for a business is that it gives me a little more confidence when buying that I will be getting the service I expect. I often spend time looking at the Likes and the companies facebook page for an online business that I am unfamiliar with in order to gather the relevant information to make an informed decision on whether to purchase or not.

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