Why Your Fans Are Meaningless Outside Of Facebook

Unless you can link a fan with real-world purchase data, that connection is meaningless outside of Facebook.

You need an email address, cookie, or link to tie that user to a name in your customer database.

Facebook can serve as a loyalty program for your existing customers — regardless of whether they’d become fans — and to drive awareness among friends of fans, by leveraging social actions. That hits the very top and very bottom of the marketing funnel, but leaves the middle empty.

Applications and extended permissions are a good way to get fans to engage with you and provide identification in the process.

Use contests, exclusive content, coupons, games, and other items of value to entice users, keeping in mind that the weaker the relationship, the stronger the enticement must be.

Just Ask

And the more permission you ask for, the stronger the enticement.

.So now you’ve identified these users and tied them to your database. But you’ve done it at the cost of conversion rate, since the more permission you ask for, the less likely folks will agree.

You can expect to lose about 35 percent of users for each additional thing you ask for, although strong brands might lose only 20 percent and startups (with no brand trust) might lose 85 percent.

As for the rest of your fans, whether they are engaged or not, you unfortunately won’t know their value except at the cumulative level.

You could just assume that if X percent of your fans are worth $Y, then the remaining fans are worth Y x (100 -X percent) but that assumes that all fans are worth the same.

If anything, fans who won’t identify or participate are probably of lower value (although that’s not always true).

Nothing’s Automatic

The other issue of value measurement is that you cannot automatically get email addresses on all your fans.

In fact, you can’t even get basic information such as name, gender, location, and interests unless they interact with you.

You can get a good chunk of this information on fans who post, comment, and like on your page, but not if they don’t do anything.

This may appear to be a major problem, but in practice is not, since a fan that never interacts with you is not really of value — they are inactive, irrelevant, uninterested, or any combination of these factors.

Inactive fans have two forms of value:

  • Ego boosters to corporate marketing staff that want to brag about how many fans they have on their page; and
  • Indirect value in leveraging their friend base to become fans.

If you are a company with a broad audience,where targeting doesn’t matter), the parasitic value of inactive fans may be enough to justify the fact that the direct value — what that user himself is worth in his own purchases — is zero.

About 84 percent of your Facebook fans were actual customers before they clicked like. They are existing customers that may spend more because they are deepening their relationship with you or are new fans who are just getting started..

Know Who To Bait

But the ones who have reason to give you more information are the ones who are most valuable: What bait can your company put out there to entice only your best customers to identify themselves?

Let me explain by way of example. At American Airlines in 1998, I implemented a 5,000 mile bonus for new AA.com customers. If you didn’t have any miles in the program, 5,000 miles still leaves you 20,000 miles short of a free ticket. But if you already had a good chunk of miles, identifying yourself on the website might have been just be enough to push you into the black.

Among your friends who have premium status at an airline or hotel, how many of them are not only comfortable with others knowing their status, but outright flaunters of it? That’s what you want to tap into.

So it’s time to get cracking — use Facebook Connect and various apps to start identifying these willing fans.

It won’t take much incentive at all if you make them feel like they are being honored or having their egos stroked in some way.

Dennis Yu has helped brands grow and measure their Facebook presences. He has spoken at Search Marketing Expo, Search Engine Strategies, Web 2.0, The American Marketing Association, PubCon, Conversational Commerce Conference, Pacific Conferences, HostingCon, Affiliate Summit, Affiliate Convention, UltraLight Startups, MIVA Merchant, and other venues. Yu has also counseled the Federal Trade Commission on privacy issues for social networks. Yu has held leadership positions at Yahoo and American Airlines. His educational background is finance and economics from Southern Methodist University and London School of Economics.

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