Marketers need to look beyond acquiring fans as a statistic and engage them to build a deeper relationship.
These days, 'Fan' has become the most commonly used (and often abused) word amongst marketers and agencies. It comes up in almost all meetings and discussions related to digital marketing. There is nothing wrong in expecting people to like your brand and become a 'fan', but we need to look beyond just 'fan' acquisitions.
Recently, I have seen marketers compare notes on the growth in their 'fan base' and agencies boasting about their tactics to capture new fans. Increase in 'fan base' is getting quantified and specific fan acquisition targets are appearing in briefs with other key performance indicators. Getting people to press the 'Like' button on Facebook or getting them to follow you on Twitter is not that difficult. But keeping them engaged in a dialogue and getting them to market your brands to others is not that easy.
I have been observing activities of leading brands on various social platforms in general - Facebook and Twitter in particular. In my humble view, most brands make the mistake of using their fan pages as an extension of their broadcasting infrastructure. As soon as they start a Facebook page or a Twitter handle they flood it with their own products (or services), offers, and even advertising campaigns. It is nothing but a monologue and most of the content is not specifically created for social spaces.
For example, I recently saw photographs posted by Zara on its Facebook page and it was disappointing to see the photographs without any description and tagging. In one of the album posts, its latest magazine issue was simply scanned and uploaded rather than making that content suitable for Facebook. To me, it looked like a missed opportunity as hundreds of people giving their thumbs up could have certainly benefited from more meaningful and customised content. I have taken Zara as an example, but unfortunately it's not alone as most brands are in the same boat.
Most discussions and strategies around 'Fans' are about bringing them to a brand and locking them in as long as possible. It is like a one-way relationship. Now compare this with any real-life social engagement. Consider this:
You get a very non-personalised party invite from me. You're still kind enough to accept the invitation and come to my party. When you arrive, I don't acknowledge you or introduce you to other people. Additionally, I keep boasting about my greatness and my party. I avoid you when you try to have a counter opinion and don't show my gratitude when you say nice things about me. I don't really care about your meal or drink preferences and serve you whatever is available. I interrupt when you charm other people in my party. I never acknowledge your kind gifts. And finally, I never ever come to your party but I expect you to keep coming to mine every time I organise it.
The question is "Will you come to my next party?"
I asked this question to my friends from the marketing and advertising industry. Needless to say, all of them came back with a resounding no.
Fortunately, 'Fans' are more forgiving than my friends, and they still come to brand parties despite the not-so-nice treatment. The least we can do is to start treating them with respect and actually go to a fan's party with a beautiful gift.
Do brands have the courage and willingness to become 'Fans' of different individuals who they call consumers?
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Pushkar Sane is co-founder and CEO of Convergination Ventures - a firm focused on driving growth plus innovation through convergence and imagination. In order to keep Convergination ahead of the market he spends quality time thinking about future of content and media, impact of digitization on human life and businesses, shape of technology and most importantly human aspirations and pain points. He expresses his observations and inspirations through his blog, monthly ClickZ Asia column, articles, LinkedIn updates, and tweets. Prior to founding Convergination, Pushkar worked in technology, advertising, and media for over 14 years focusing on strategy, account management, digital, CRM, data, analytics, technology and media. He gained valuable business understanding by virtue of working with clients from diverse industry sections (IT, electronics, auto, CPG, F&B, travel, and financial services), world-class brands (General Motors, Samsung, Intel, P&G, Cartier, Diageo, Emirates, Hong Kong Tourism, UBS, Tata Motors, Amul), and geographies (Asia Pacific countries). Most recently he was chief digital officer and global head of social marketing at Starcom MediaVest Group. Previously he worked for Euro RSCG Worldwide in Hong Kong, DRAFTFCB in Hong Kong and India, and Mandar Electronic Systems and Software in India. He holds a B.S. in physics, a post graduate diploma in computer applications from MS University of Baroda in India, and a post graduate diploma in advertising and communications management from NMIMS Mumbai in India.
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