Nov 09

Why “Liking” is about more than just liking

Why do people ‘like’ things on social networks?

It would be easy for us to assume that it is because they liked the content. But it is a bit more complicated than that. It’s a combination of the content, and the person who posted it.

People sometimes ‘like’ content, not because they actually like it, but because they want a lightweight way of building their relationship with the other person. It’s similar to being in a group, maybe in a bar or cafe, and there is someone there that you’d like to get to know better. They tell a joke that isn’t very funny – but you laugh that extra bit louder, and grab a bit of eye contact, just to build that relationship. Liking on social networks displays the same human behaviors. ‘Like’ might be as much about your relationship with the other person, as about the content they shared.

What this means: Just because someone ‘liked’ a YouTube video about Budweiser, that doesn’t mean that they’ll respond positively to Budweiser advertising. It also doesn’t mean that they want to become a member of the Budweiser fan page. In fact, they may dislike Budweiser, but like the person who shared the video. By targeting Budweiser ads, you may do more damage to the brand than good. When targeting advertising on social networks, mining content in the absence of understanding the people relationships is a risky strategy.

Footnote: Liking may be one form of phatic communication.
Kevin Marks has blogged about phatic communication on Twitter.
Grant McCracken has blogged some time ago about status updates and phatic communication.

Nov 09

Using number of fans/followers as a success metric is risky

Measuring ROI on social network activity is hard for marketers. Many use ‘number of fans’ or ‘number of followers’ as a success metric. If the number trends upward, things are good. However, in research, I’ve often seen people become embarrassed by the brands/companies that they have become a fan of.

“My friend told me to join up and follow this company as we could get special deals. I did what she asked but to be honest, it’s a bit embarrassing looking back at it now.”

Showing me how they use social networks raised their awareness of what is reflected on their profile page. People forgot what was lurking there. People often add themselves to groups and causes, and sign up for offers and coupons, but they rarely remove themselves from these lists. Many of these people are not your fan. Don’t count them and slap yourself on the back. They are a potential fan, but that’s a very different group of people and should be treated differently.

If you have a social network presence, don’t measure ‘number of fans’. Measure engagement (which means all of the below):

- How many fans visit your page?
- How many of them participated in an activity?
- How many talked about it afterwards?
- Most importantly, how many are repeat visitors? Exclude one time only visitors – they are not your fan.
- How often do you expect them to return? Daily? Weekly? Monthly?
- How often are they actually returning?

You want to get to a place where you can say things like:

“Our goal was for 2,000 of our fans to purchase in our online sale. We have 100,000 fans. 20,000 visited more than once in the last month. They are our real fans. Of those, 5,000 viewed our online sale. 300 of the 5,000 bought something. Of the 80,000 who only visited once, 230 bought something in our sale.”

Numbers like these can help you figure out what to do next.