Thursday, June 02, 2011

Gone With the Herd: A Word About "Followers"

I received this question in a social network from a distant friend of mine. I posted my answer to this question in the same network along with others. I thought it would be good to share with my reader friends as well:

Is having 1 million fans the only way to measure social media campaigns? What do you think is the ideal mix to measure any social media campaigns across platforms?

Crossing the mark of 1 million fans in a social media platform is a moment of elation for any campaign manager. It may be having a million “followers” in Twitter, or securing a million “likes” in Facebook or may even be having a million registered users commenting on the organizational blog.

For any given brand, this is a delightful number. But before declaring this result as a successful marketing effort, marketing managers should measure the efficacy of the crowd following the brand:  Not everyone in this fan list is a customer, or would like to be one. In other words there are numerous reasons why people click on a “follow” or a “like” button in your fan page or profile. Broadly there are four classes of fans in social media for an organization:

(a)    Customers who care about the brand and are fans in social media
The ideal customer each brand dies to have. Brands may have lots of loyal customers, but it is not necessary that they all become your fans in social media. Cherish the ones who follow you. Ask their opinions and encourage communication with them about what they like would to see changed in the product/service/concept, and build on it.

(b)   Customers who don’t care about the brand but are fans in social media
How many of us follow our favorite brand of coffee (not the coffee chain, but the domestic coffee powder brand) in social media? Or how many of us even know that they actually do have a social media page? A few considered customers, that’s all. But does it mean that I am not a loyal customer to my favorite brand of coffee? Definitely not. There are thousands of little brands that add value to my daily life, and I am happy with their product/service/concept. I even refer a few of them to friends. But in social media? I don’t think I would be an active fan.

(c)    Non-customers who care about the brand but are fans in social media
Usually the rich and the famous companies/groups have such fans. Not everyone can afford a Ferrari or a Mercedes. But these are popular brands everyone has heard/known about. But they would have a lot of fans in any social media page. People feel good to be seen associated with such big brands.

(d)   Non customers who don’t care about the brand but still are fans in social media
This is the bottom of the pit. Someone introduced you to a particular brand, and you signed up to their fan page. Now you lost in touch with that someone, but still receive email updates about the brand. Or it could be that you found a near-to-impossible offer from a big brand asking you to sign up in the next 24 hours and get unbelievable discounts. You signed up and got your product. But nothing happened after that.

These four categories appear similar to the four columns in a traditional SWOT analysis sheet. When it comes to social space a brand has to engage followers from all four classes in order to ensure that the popularity and visibility of the brand continues to be intact.

Additionally the organization should set up measures to examine how many of these social media followers/fans/likers are actually turning into customers, providing feedbacks on the products/services/offers they receive and cooperate with the organization’s effort to improve the visibility and acceptance of the brand. In short, the organization needs to calculate the growth of people in “Category A,” the list of customers who care for the brand and cooperate in the organization’s effort to improve its brand value. Any improvement in this category directly means that the social media efforts of the organization are moving in the right direction.

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