"Family Guy," "The Office," and Michael Jackson and other programs and personalities have seen fan numbers double or triple since Facebook implemented social plug-ins just two months ago.
When Facebook killed the "Become A Fan" button in favor of "Like," it breathed a whole lot of life into entertainment brands on the social site. As just one example, NBC TV's "The Office" went from 1.5 million fans (or in the new parlance, "People Like This") before the switch was made on April 19 to 3.8 million now.
NBC.com senior producer Joya Balfour said the copy change from "Become A Fan" to "Like" has been the main driver behind the big increase. She explained that the TV network has done little else to promote the Facebook page for "The Office" when it comes to fan acquisition.
"The bar was lowered in terms of commitment for people," Balfour said. "[Facebook] thought they'd get a better conversion, while believing people would be more in favor of following a page if it was simply a 'like thing' rather than a 'fan thing.' And they were totally right."
"The Office" is hardly alone in this phenomenon. Fox Broadcasting Co.'s show "Family Guy" has skyrocketed from 3 million fans to 9 million since late April. The only non-video-game brand currently with more fans than that show is also an entertainment personality - Michael Jackson, who died June 25, 2009. The late singer's page totals 13 million fans, while recently picking up as many as 100,000 new ones in a single day. Another Fox TV property, "House," has gone from 3.2 million fans to 7 million in the last two months.
And consider this: Before the social plug-ins went live, Coca-Cola had been consistently a top two brand on Facebook, charting 5.2 million fans in late March. But it hasn't exploded like the entertainment entities - the beverage brand has only incrementally grown to 5.8 million fans.
Other entertainment entities have recently blown by Coca-Cola, which, according to InsideFacebook.com, now ranks No. 16 among all brands. The actor Vin Diesel has 8.7 million fans; singer Lady Gaga, 8.6 million; actress Megan Fox, 7.3 million; TV show South Park, 5.9 million; and, rock band Linkin Park, 5.9 million.
Indeed, the Like button has treated entertainment brands well. But it doesn't deserve all of the credit for the significant increases, said Hardie Tankersley, VP of innovation and social media for Fox. Tankersley said a major boost to his company's TV shows numbers can be attributed to a lesser-known recent tweak to Facebook's personal profiles system.
A brand now collects fans/"People Like This" when those individuals type the name of the entity into their "Likes and Interests" section in their personal profile. In other words, they do not have to also tap the Like button on an entity's official Facebook page to join up and eventually see a brand's status updates and wall posts. As part of the Palo Alto, CA-based company's move to an "open graph," the tweak went into effect along with the social plug-ins on April 19, a Facebook spokesperson told ClickZ.
Therefore whenever one of the social site's 400 million users has manually typed an entertainment favorite into their profiles during the last two months, they have added themselves - some unwittingly, no doubt - to a brand's fan/"People Like This" page.
"That's why you've seen so much growth in the TV shows," Tankersley said. "['Family Guy'] was growing slowly and then in late-April, it started growing a lot faster. If you look at other TV shows, you'll see the same pattern."
So are "People Like This" just as valuable as "fans" used to be?
Balfour of NBC suggested that the changes have been positive for marketers.
"Facebook is still giving users the option whether they want to 'Like' a show or not," she said. "I don't really think the audiences have been watered down at all. The same level of discussion is still there among the fans when we post. And I think there are a lot of new people who are contributing."
Follow Christopher Heine on Twitter at @ChrisClickZ.
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
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