Facebook vs. Hoarders

People like to collect things. They collect baseball cards,  furniture, mugs, flags, comic books, Star Wars action figures and a number of other items you may not consider having in your house. Shows like Hoarders and Storage Wars are not popular because these are isolated incidents. The sad part is that most people do nothing monumental with their collection of stuff. It usually just sits in a place of storage or in their house collecting dust or trying not to be warped by the dampness of their basement.

Today, I equate the world of baseball card collecting to what brands do with Facebook fans. With all the discussion around Facebook this week with the IPO and the GM announcement I thought it appropriate to discuss this super social industry and it’s place in the world of collecting.  Businesses and Brands go through great lengths now to collect Facebook fans. It is a source of pride to say I have over 500K fans, 1MM fans, 10MM fans “Like” me on Facebook. Every advertisement now has a call to action to “Like” me on Facebook. But for what purpose? What does the consumer get from this action? And more importantly, what is the brand getting from this interaction? Facebook is a great mechanism for me to share photos, experiences and thoughts with my friends and family members that I do not get to see on a regular basis. I do it because I care about those people (well at least 20% of them) and I want to find out how they are doing as well. So I try to make my posts entertaining, or informative, or cute and engaging. The better the content, the more likes I get, and the more people comment on what I have provided. I sort of get a swelled head when a post gets a lot of interaction and a bit of disappointment does come across when something I post gets no reaction at all.

Brands should look at Facebook the same way. Yes, many brands may have bought, bribed or cajoled their way into our “friendship” but what you do with these fans after you acquire them is where the money is. What good is it to have over a million fans if you do not interact with them in a meaningful way. These fans can provide insight on your products, campaigns, and public image the same way a large focus group can. They can also be great advocates for your brand if treated properly.  It is about engaging them with the proper content and not only keeping them interested but also having them promoting and interacting with your brand. In the same manner individuals use Facebook to keep people posted and updated on their lives, brands should do the same. Five ways to keep them engaged are:

1. Talk in a particular voice and embrace it: Just like we – as individuals – speak in a certain voice that portrays our personality and quirks, brands need to do the same thing on Facebook with their posts. Look at your brand attributes and put together a consumer-facing persona that speaks to your fans. Two great examples are Skittles and OldSpice. Every few days, Skittles pushes an inspired phrase such as “Show of hands: who would rather make Skittles angels instead of snow angels?” that received 17,357 likes, 1,100 comments and 104 shares. They also post fan pictures submitted by fans that are designated “The Greatest Fans In The World”.  Those posts receive between 1000 to 3000 likes each time. How does this help the brand? For a small packaged goods company it keeps them top of mind and can promote an impulse purchase for the day by reminding consumers how Skittles makes them happy. Old Spice does something similar like providing ridiculous phrases like “Believe in your smellf only works when you smell like a Champion” along with a YouTube video. This piece of content received over 9,000 likes, 562 comments and 1,000 shares. Both these brands have created something that excites their fans and drives reaction and response.

2. Post great content – for your brand. This sounds elementary but if you create or maintain your brand voice from suggestion one, it is easier to post relevant and engaging content. People want to be entertained and to be entertained in the brand’s voice. Videos, pictures, blog posts, anything that pulls the curtain back on the mystique of the product or reminds people about what the brand stands for are best. RedBull is an expert on this. The critical piece, however, is when they provide photos and videos for their core: snowboarders, skaters, and action sports fans. These posts elicit over 10,000 likes, hundreds of comments and approximately 1000 shares. It reminds people about what Red Bull stands for and the lifestyle they promote. In the same vein, the content cannot be false to the brand. Recently they have been working to get into mainstream sports like baseball and basketball and the fans they have accumulated have not been so engaged with these MLB and NBA related posts.  Some of the reactions have been extremely negative. Even high flying mainstream athletes like @BlakeGriffin cannot draw the same response as a snowboarder in a superman costume with the caption, “It’s a bird, it’s a plane…

This will take time as Red Bull expands into mainstream sports and decides which ones fit their brand (more likely basketball than baseball). The positive aspect is that they get to receive immediate feedback on the content and listen to their fans reactions and concerns.

3. Include your fans in the conversation. Oreo is celebrating their 100th birthday and on March 6 they asked their fans to join them and share 1 million moments to celebrate 100 years. They have been sharing “birthday of the day” photos on their page from their fans along with cool pics of Oreo art. A very popular post showed the photo of Lisa T. who was born in 1912 and wished her a happy 100 birthday. The photo received over 37,000 likes and 4,700 comments. They also ask fans to submit how they eat their Oreos and provide Oreo art projects such as photos of an Oreo as a tuxedo received great response. Skittles also does art projects with fans submitting a LeBron James poster made out of Skittles or a football helmet made of skittles. Ask fans to provide stories about the brand and how it made them feel. Open-ended questions can be dangerous (i.e McD stories) but they can also provide great shareable content that might spark other ideas to market the brand. If fans feel like they are a part of the brand they will most likely advocate for the brand in a way the brand cannot do.

4. Provide alternative and informative ways for people to interact with your brand. Burt’s Bees gives pointers on how to use their cosmetics and Campbell’s Condensed Soup provides different recipes pertaining to the brand and different food dishes you can create. Again, give your fans reasons to return to your page and want to engage with your brand. Let them realize that the brand they thought they knew actually is capable of much more. Let them see your creativity and passion surrounding your product(s). If you make this a two way street and have others add to these suggestions then you may spark something entirely new and lucrative for your brand.

5. Use Facebook to promote your other social media outlets, charity work, product specials, and especially FREE stuff. Starbucks is the king of this, especially with Starbuck’s Frappuccino Happy Hour, which garners between 10,000-34,000 likes on their page and reminds people that it is coming.  They also use Facebook to promote their Global Month of Service and their Pinterest account. Facebook is a prominent place to launch new products and coupons to try these new products. New flavors, new designs, new technology can all be introduced on Facebook and allow you to let these fans feel special because they are getting access to things that others are unable to receive unless they are a fan.

In the end collecting Facebook fans can be a positive addition to your brand-marketing portfolio, but you need to engage your fans and not allow your page to run fallow. Speak in a voice that is true and be entertaining and informative. Yes, this can be a lot of work, but with the right BCM management and engagement the returns could be plentiful and lucrative.

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