"This morning my yoghurt told me to find it on Facebook. It didn’t tell me why, it just told me to find it. Why on Earth would I want to find a yoghurt on Facebook? It’s a yoghurt!"
This brief rant from my boss inspired me to do a little experiment. I called it Find us on Facebook, for it is this generic, uninspiring and uninformative ‘call to action’ that is slowly starting to get plastered on every piece of communication the world over: from TV adverts, to email newsletters, websites, posters and - yes - even yoghurt pots.
I proudly announced that I will live a week as a “social consumer”, without entirely realising what I was letting myself in for. Every time a brand said “Find us on Facebook”, I will Like their page and capture the experience. It sounded simple and innocuous enough, but I had naïvely expected that this yoghurt and its lack of effort - or inspiration - may have been a one-off.
Over the course of a week, 46 brands (that I had noticed) asked me to find them on Facebook with a variety of different messages and calls to action: find us, like us, search for, follow, visit. What shocked me was that out of those 46 brands, only 10 of them had actually provided me with a reason to like them on Facebook. 21 of those brands told me to do it and that was it. The other 15 didn’t really say anything at all; they just slapped a URL or a logo across their communications to inform me that they were on Facebook. Well, thanks for telling me.
I can’t help but feel that in 2011, having a presence on a social network is more or less a given for the vast majority of brands. The sort of consumers who want to interact with your brand on Facebook will know how to find you on there, and will expect to find you on there, so simply badging an advert with a Facebook logo is going to do little more than irritate the art director who has to find a place for another visual element in their masterpiece.
What exactly is going on? Why are brands – who are becoming increasingly focussed on the misguided goal of having as many fans/followers as possible – not putting in the effort to really drive people to Facebook? Research from IBM found that the cause of this might be the huge disconnect between what consumers want out of social media and what brand owners think that consumers want. The research quite clearly showed that consumers ranked “Discounts” and “Purchase” as the top two reasons consumers wanted to interact with a brand in social media. The people running the brand, on the other hand, ranked these two factors as the least important, instead thinking that what consumers really wanted was to “Learn about new products” and to receive “General information”. This high-ranking of “General information” may be the reason why brands think it’s okay to just generally inform people that you can find them on Facebook, instead of providing a reason. You can’t help but think that the simplest fix to gaining more fans via advertising would be to add a simple addendum to “Find us on Facebook…” with “…for exclusive offers and deals”.
The other thing that really struck me was the number of brands with whom I had existing relationships – via email newsletters – who were requesting me to join them in another channel: Facebook. 16 of the 46 brands I ended up Liking came from email newsletters that I’d previously chosen to subscribe to. Only 1 of those brands, though, actually provided an incentive to make the leap from email to social media. I literally had no reason to bother with the other brands, as I was already receiving their deals and offers, and they weren’t giving me a reason either.
Some brands have found interesting ways to incentivise people to make the jump.
Dingo, a dog food brand from Ohio, included a promotion that would only kick-in when the Facebook page reached 5,000 fans, from a base of 300. They had an unprecedented take-up, with fans forwarding on the email to their friends and encouraging sign-ups to get the offer. They hit the 5,000 mark in just 3 days.
Bag retailer Timbuk2 included an opportunity to win a bike, helmet and messenger bag in an email to its 100,000 newsletter subscribers. It received 6,500 clickthroughs, versus just 9 from its generic social call to action.
Brands need to take heed of these learnings, because consumers need a reason or an incentive to open themselves up to you in another channel. Otherwise, all they’re doing is agreeing to be bombarded with more marketing, with no real reward for doing so.
The sad thing is that brands are actually building really fun, engaging content in these spaces, but they’re not making people aware of them. The Fosters channel, for instance, is full of exclusive Alan Partridge content, starring Steve Coogan and written by Armando Iannucci. Their TV ad, however, had nothing more than a URL. Had it included “… for exclusive Alan Partridge episodes”, then Fosters would have opened its brand Facebook page up to a whole wealth of people who felt genuinely motivated to click Like.
My week as a social consumer left me tired and confused. It left my Facebook newsfeed crammed with nonsense, to the point that I could scroll entire pages without seeing my friends. It left me feeling a bit sad for the digital marketers and agencies who were building great content that wasn’t getting the attention it deserved. If you’re reading this and you work in advertising, or you’re a marketer working for a brand – next time you think about telling your consumers to find you on Facebook, consider telling them why.
Andrew Blakeley is Social Strategist at DDB UK / Tribal DDB London. He blogs at An Insight Job, and you can find him on Twitter at @ablakeley (for exclusive deals and offers).