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Harnessing the crowd - how to optimise brand pages in social media

Harnessing the crowd - how to optimise brand pages in social media

By Vincent Blaney, research director, media and digital practice, Millward Brown

With the current advertiser focus on everything social media, the importance of understanding what Facebook or other social network fan pages do for a brand is more important than ever. Most - if not all - brands are moving away from measuring their success through the number of fans they have to deeper engagement metrics that analyse for example the proportion of followers that actually engage with the page and posts.

Behavioural analysis needs to be explored further to truly understand the effectiveness of your fan page. For example, is engagement restricted to a repeated number of core fans or spread across a wider base? Does fan engagement lead to multiple re-posts deepening and hopefully widening conversations?

Understanding the behaviour of your fan base will give you a good steer on its health.  However, given that many brands have now recruited a small army of fans, it is also crucial to gain an understanding of their perception of the page and the impact it has on their opinion of the brand. This will ensure that you maintain morale and minimize negativity and desertion in the ranks. Attitudinal data also allows brands to understand why consumers have “liked” their pages so that they can explore the best ways to engage with them in the future, measure the success of certain activities and elicit feedback on new brand ideas.

From studies conducted recently by Millward Brown into brand activity in social media it is clear that fans are there because they are engaged with the brand. First and foremost, fans are looking for very latest new news and product information.  In addition, it may come as no surprise that many are also there for rewards - vouchers, freebies and competitions.

The success of group buying sites like Groupon and the advice provided by Martin Lewis on his website and numerous TV appearances are a great example of the consumer appetite for a deal. It may be a bitter pill for many to swallow but fans may also only be there to complain when something goes wrong and to take advantage of receiving something for nothing.  Brands that strive for deeper engagement may fail because of this. Understanding all the reasons why fans are there and what they expect in return is clearly vital.

Although we have seen some correlations between the size of a brand’s fan base and engagement with the page this is by no means a one-size fits all rule; there are some poor large pages and some great small ones. There are other lessons that can also be drawn from our analysis. One of these is the need for brands to talk to their fans - perhaps more importantly respond to them. It is not enough to just be there you also have to be heard.

While conversation with your fans is important, there is a danger that a fan page can become a walled garden. This could potentially create a small community of consumers that “like” the brand and talk about how much they “like” the brand amongst themselves. , These conversations may never leave the edges of the page which could result in a lost opportunity for the brand to use its existing fans to pull-in other fans.

Brands that harness a sense of community by firstly enabling fans to engage with each other and then sharing some branded outputs from this community on their own, will enable brands to harness the true organic nature of social media.  Attitudinal and behavioural data on fans in social media are an essential element of this understanding.  Fan page owners need to understand what consumers value, what they will share, and why.

Given all of the above advertisers that want to use their fan pages as an additional on-going consumer touch-point need to consider:

  • Building and maintaining a level of trust. Overall fan page recruitment/ drop off rates can help you understand how successful your page is and activity on that page. However,  it is important to also monitor consumers perceived trust in your brand/ page. This combination of behavioural and attitudinal insight will help you to understand the true health of your fan page.
  • Get to know your fan and cater for their needs and expectations. Gaining more insight into who your fans are over and above standard demographics will allow you to understand who you are talking to and how to talk/ engage with them in the longer term.
  • Don’t block discussions. You may not like what you hear from your fans but it can be more damaging to try to shut a conversation down once it has started. Creating dialogue means allowing consumers to ask questions and make statements on your page without too much heavy handed policing. Generating good levels of trust should lead to fans policing themselves and hopefully rogue postings being shouted down.
  • Focus on your core advocates and utilize their passion to increase engagement. Using behavioural measures to identify your core fans and enlisting them into your campaign vehicle may provide ample rewards.  See what they respond to most, and deliver more of the same.
  • You don’t always have to drive  Try to create an environment where fans feel free to post about you, rather than respond to you to generate “social” media.  Ultimately, the ideal is to generate brand discussion/ posts outside of the page itself which will make use of your fans’ network of friends.

If you're looking for expert digital training, check out our social media marketing course.


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