It's a story we've seen many times before, and we'll see it again with different players. Last week, it was revealed that the U.S. State Department spent $630,000 to increase 'likes' for four Facebook Pages in about two years. The investment did just that, taking total likes from about 100,000 to more than 2 million, but in end, one could easily argue the funds were wasted.
The digital landscape has given marketers many KPIs to go after from site visits and clicks to social metrics like followers and fans. All of these provide metrics to measure effectiveness of efforts, but they are not success in and of themselves. They become valuable when they are tied to larger business objectives. For example, site visits are valuable when they lead to a sale. Fans are valuable if they are engaged and encouraged by brand content to recommend a product or service, make a purchase or even increase the frequency or volume of purchases.
In the case with the State Department, fans shouldn't have been the end. They should have been the means to an end to, for example, gain advocacy for policy decisions, increase the number of people who encouraged their representatives to take a stand on an issue or something else. In other words, the State Department built a fan base but made no effort to make them do something.
Execute with Purpose
It's no surprise this happened. Businesses do this each and every day. They pursue vanity metrics with no end goal in mind, and when the time comes to really articulate value, there isn't a good answer. There are a few lessons here that marketers can take away:
- Fans are a means to an end, not the end themselves. Don't increase fans, subscribers or anything unless there's a larger reason behind it. A fan that doesn't take action is worthless.
- Engage the base. The State Department's base was largely unengaged. Social networks allow brands to make the most of their investments to grow their bases by earning attention through content. This allows a brand to not only activate its fan base but earn additional fans organically as people see their friends who are existing fans interacting with the brand in their news feeds.
- Fans are rented. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. are only renting fans/followers/subscribers to brands. Send your fans to your own platforms such as your website or email list where you control the rules and the experience, instead of being held hostage to any rule or policy changes from a third-party platform.