Someone has just asked whether we have any information on how engaging fans leads to better ROI. Cue the following rant from me.
Caveat — all my thinking here centres around FMCG/CPG brands. You may work in another sector, in which case please bear in mind, while it may still apply, nothing I say here has been tested for your business. Test for colour-fastness on an unobtrusive piece of your business prior to use.
There are all sorts of fairly fake numbers about fans buying more product X than index. Google around and you’ll find them.
We’ve always taken the line that fans are already either buying as much product X as they can (saturated audience = limited upside) or that they’re promiscuous shoppers seeking discounts (promiscuous discount seekers = low value audience.) There’s conflicting research that supports both POVs.
As far as I can recall, there is no quantitative research that we’ve seen that suggests that well-engaged fans lead to more sales. Any research linking fans and sales tends to demonstrate correlation only; i.e. “fans buy more.” With this evidence, we might make the (foolish) recommendation that accruing more fans will lead to more sales. But we’re not so foolish as to confuse correlation with causation. Even if we were so foolish, we might still ask about the potential size of the market, concern ourselves with decreasing returns, or do some kind of cost/benefit analysis.
Secret sauce survey research can sometimes be used to prove that “socially engaged users are more likely to buy”, but there are so many horrible flaws in this that I’d be slightly embarrassed to share them with anyone who’s research-savvy. Such reports often seem to say that “surveyed users say that they are more likely to buy from brands that they say engaged them” and even this is shaky.
The big question, of course, is “how many units does client X want to sell?” Assume a fan audience of 1m 16-44 French Women (do-able) against a potential universe of ~12m French Women 16-44 (guestimated data). How much might those 1m fans move the needle (even assuming that they aren’t saturated or discount seekers.)
Frankly, the mistake that everyone’s making is to misconstrue “Social media marketing” as “CRM”. That’s just wrong-headed. Facebook isn’t the successor to email lists; and it betrays a lack of imagination and consideration on behalf of marketing planners that they’re treating it that way.
So — for me, Fans have always been about advocacy; and that means giving them the means and motive to talk about us. Which means that there’s a big caveat to everything I just said: Content Marketing as evidenced by RedBull.
RedBull can’t afford to advertise on TV in a market dominated by Coca Cola and PepsiCo. Instead it ploughs all its money into sponsorships, content generation and digital. Their fans become the channel through which their content reaches huge new audiences.
But this is a special case. And even then, it’s about promoting their content (promoted through Facebook) and not Fan engagement.