Buying or Earning Facebook Likes?

Not all friends are created equal. Some you can count on for anything with no hesitation, and some will maybe, possibly, grudgingly take the paper in for you if asked and reminded them. Facebook friends or fans also span a wide range of value and commitment to you or your brand. You clearly want to maximize the return on your social efforts by connecting with fans who will spend time with your brand, talk positively about your brand, and generally engage with the brand on a more frequent basis. How are those fans found and created?

Straightforward Paid Likes Ad Campaigns

One common way to build a Facebook community is to run Facebook ad campaigns designed to motivate a “like.” These short-term like campaigns are quick to employ with a low barrier to entry. A typical scenario might involve driving targeted consumers to a Facebook page, and using Page Like Ads and Sponsored Stories targeting friends of fans using the friend’s name in the messaging to increase relevancy and conversion.

These less engaged fans tend to cost in the $1 to $1.50 per fan range to accumulate in scale, and to a large degree you get what you pay for. These like campaigns deliver quickly but they deliver a lower level of engagement, less time with brand, and far lower earned media benefits because their friends can see the casual relationship for what it is.

While they motivate little engagement, like campaigns still hold a legitimate place in a complete strategy. For example, this is a great way to get started with a small investment for a brand trying to build its Facebook presence and looking for the credibility of numbers before launching something more ambitious.

Investing in a Promotional Campaign to Earn Likes

Another increasingly used tactic is to launch a campaign or promotion to earn a new friend. Usually a much higher barrier to entry, this strategy frequently involves offering targeted (and sometimes, sadly, not so targeted) consumers a promotion with sweepstakes or contest elements that motivate more time with the brand and provide additional incentives for repeat visits or sharing behaviors. Ad elements can still be employed, but they are more likely to drive directly to the campaign or promotion using application ads and Sponsored Stories that target friends of application users with messaging that relays the fun your friend (by name) has had with the promotion.

These efforts require a lot of planning and resources, including a deep understanding of consumer behavior and often involve game mechanics, custom design, and development. You can also count on investment in prizes, sampling or couponing, legal, and other considerations that come into play for an online promotion. By the time you are done, the cost per fan conversion is generally about double that of a simple like campaign, but again, you get what you pay for. By focusing on great content and relevant, enticing incentives brands can ask consumers to spend more time with the brand and to share the experience with others. Brands win with more fans, better engaged fans, and enjoy longer-term benefits like traffic or trial from couponing or sampling. They also build more robust remarketing platforms with emails collected in promos using the Facebook allow functionality. Plus, providing a multi-sensory interactive destination beyond a Facebook page can also lead to intangible benefits, including a better first impression leading to stronger emotional bonds, memorable product/service education, and can initiate a change in consumer behavior.

Earned like campaigns often include incentives for return consumer visits that motivate daily or weekly brand interactions and shares. Campaigns and their associated apps can also feature multiple types of sharing, including the standard posting to a consumer timeline as well as highlighting a consumer’s actions in her activity feed (using an application, earning points, unlocking special features).

Investing in Frequent and High-Quality Timeline Content

Organic or earned likes are the most valuable because a consumer connected with your brand not because she was asked to, but because she liked the brand. Recent research from Syncapse reiterated this key point, citing the staggering statistic that “78% of Facebook brand Fans in key consumer categories are users of those brands to begin with.” These are actual, real-life fans of the brand and our job as marketers is to give them a platform and reason to share their experiences and enthusiasm. Marketers can elicit a strong emotional response through the art and copy featured in the brand’s timeline posts if we understand consumers’ connections to the brand and their motivations. Facebook blurs the lines a bit by allowing a brand to turn any piece of content into an ad to increase reach across those valuable fans. Really the only differences between editorial and ads in this environment come down to ad structure elements like copy length and image size.

It can be costly to manage Facebook timelines with dedicated resources to read consumer reaction and craft new content and responses to continue to keep the attention of fans. But it is more costly not to do so. This is the SEO argument taken to the social realm. Quality, relevant content always returns dividends to marketers. It’s difficult to quantify the cost of this effort as you may need to invest more over time in a continual effort to understand, anticipate, and deliver against the content preferences of your most important audiences.

Don’t Choose, Balance

A balanced strategy would employ a variety of paid, earned, and owned opportunities to build and nurture the right Facebook audience and then continue to motivate them to the desired actions across a seasonal or annual time horizon. This results in a more relevant, valuable, and vibrant Facebook audience more likely to continue to stay engaged with the brand. As priceless as a good friend.

Special thanks to Roman Zubarev, Netplus client strategy director, who contributed key insights to this column.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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