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Facebook and Beyond - Lessons for Brand Engagement with Social Customers


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The dividends for a well developed Facebook presence will ultimately depend on marketers investing in adopting sophisticated long-term strategies for customer engagement.

The dividends for a well developed Facebook presence will ultimately depend on marketers investing in adopting sophisticated long-term strategies for customer engagement.

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  • 1. Facebook and Beyond:Lessons for Brand Engagement withSocial Customers
  • 2. Facebook and Beyond:Lessons for Brand Engagement withSocial CustomersExecutive SummaryAs recently as two or three years ago, the idea that brands would provide a socialchannel for their customers to engage with them was controversial, even radical. Nowit’s convention. Facebook is a big reason for this change. As of this writing, 56 percent ofFortune 500 companies host Facebook pages, and that number is growing daily.Since social customer programs were controversial just two years ago, many of thosecompanies are new to the experience of engaging with social customers and are lookingto answer the question, “What do we do next?”Brands that have engaged with social customers in other channels can help us answerthis question. Lithium’s clients have considerable experience with social customerengagement through brand communities and Facebook pages. Lithium conducted asurvey of its clients to better understand how they see the role of Facebook (and othersocial media outlets) in their overall engagement strategy. The results provide aninteresting glimpse into the different roles played by different social media channels,and potentially into how they will converge in the future. Some highlights include:ƒ On the whole, respondents rated their communities as more successful than Facebook at activities that require trust: peer-to-peer engagement and providing pre-and-post sales purchase support; Facebook was seen as more successful in disseminating marketing messages.ƒ The two channels were seen as roughly equal in their ability to create brand awareness. Clients who have initiated brand communities see awareness benefits as particularly salient in the first year, suggesting that “newness” of an engagement channel is in itself a big driver of awareness.ƒ The ability for customers to submit and discuss ideas for product or service improvement is the biggest downstream benefit of social customer engagement for clients who have developed brand communities. Clients who consider their Facebook efforts less successful are particularly interested in bringing this capability to Facebook in a more structured fashion.After Peak FacebookAs Facebook itself approaches full penetration of its core markets and its membersstart to regularize their behavior, historic growth rates for participation in corporateFacebook pages will slow. Call it “peak Facebook.” Recent surveys have also shown thatexisting consumers’ engagement with corporate Facebook pages may be tenuous andfading. For example, 81% of those who have become fans of a brand have abandoned atleast one such relationship because of “irrelevant, voluminous, or boring” marketingmessages. 2
  • 3. Facebook and Beyond:Lessons for Brand Engagement withSocial CustomersThis suggests that marketers who are committed to using Facebook to fosterrelationships with social customers will need to invent or adopt sophisticated long-termstrategies for customer engagement. Fortunately, many of the techniques learned inbrand communities can carry over into Facebook.What Is an Online Community?One of the first questions we see from brands developing a social customer strategy is,“Do I need both a brand community and Facebook, and if so, what role does eachone play?”The answer to this question always depends on circumstances and businessrequirements, but given that our audience has experience with both venues, we have avery good sense of the role that each one plays. improves our search results creates awareness of our brand, products, or services allows us to communicate our marketing message effectively to customers creates beneficial customer-to-customer engagement empowers customers to help one another with pre-sales purchase questions empowers customers to help one another with post-sales support questions Gives us metrics we need to assess program goals Gives us a good sense of how our customers are feeling Helps us identify particularly valuable customers Creates goodwill for our brand in social channels community effectiveness facebook effectivenessFigure 1: Overall effectiveness of Facebook and brand community.Figure 1 compares the brand community’s perceived effectiveness with the Facebookpage’s perceived effectiveness in 10 different areas. 3
  • 4. Facebook and Beyond:Lessons for Brand Engagement withSocial CustomersThe first thing to note is that the one area where Facebook shines is in outboundmessaging. Because Facebook offers outstanding reach and many brands use it as apublishing platform for periodic updates, its prowess as a vehicle for disseminatingmarketing messages is not surprising. Social media marketing vendor Vitrue hascomputed that a fan base of 1 million translates into $3.6 million in equivalent mediaper year, and brands such as Coca-Cola already see more unique visitors to theirFacebook page than they do to their company web site. In these situations, Facebookrepresents a means of message dissemination that compares favorably to advertisingon a cost-per-impression basis.Interestingly, however, Facebook was not cited assignificantly more effective than a brand community in creating brand awareness, orcreating goodwill for the brand in social channels. Given the Facebook platform’s reachand viral features, one might have expected higher scores for Facebook’s ability toincrease brand awareness, but there are several reasons why the scores may be lowerthan expected:ƒ Brand awareness is still largely campaign driven, and a Facebook page alone does not constitute a campaign.ƒ Even when campaigns drive users to Facebook pages and increase the brand’s fan base, there is no guarantee that these people were new to the brand. Most users who associate with a brand page probably have a prior affinity for that brand.ƒ Finally, as we have seen through social media monitoring studies, “buzz” around brands spikes during successful campaigns, but typically returns to a steady state after campaigns end.One further explanation may be that our community clients report that brand awarenessbenefits peak during the first year, even as other benefits increase over time. If thisholds true across other social channels, it is possible that the fact of starting a newprogram in and of itself is responsible for increased awareness—probably because thatprogram involves an introductory campaign. When the shock of the new wears off, whatis left?As it turns out, brand communities annuitize exceptionally well. Peer-to-peerengagement and an environment where users answer one another’s questions emergeas a corps of devoted users forms and mobilizes. Indeed, scores rise in these areas ascommunities move into their second and third years, suggesting that communities holdtheir users’ interest over the long haul. 4
  • 5. Facebook and Beyond:Lessons for Brand Engagement withSocial Customers anticipated realized anticipated realized 13.5% 27% 46% 78% pre-sales customer consultation feedback/ideationFigure 2: Anticipated benefits versus realized benefits. Peer-to-peer buying adviceand customer ideation were two benefits exceeding client expectations.The survey tells us that benefits clients anticipated when embarking upon a socialcustomer program are not always the same benefits that emerge over time. This isparticularly true in two areas: idea development, and peer-to-peer pre-sales consulting.Customer feedback/ideation was listed as an original purpose of a community 46% ofthe time, but a realized benefit 78% of the time. Peer-to-peer pre-sales consulting wasan original purpose 13.5% of the time but a realized benefit 27% of the time.Both of these “downstream” benefits are most likely to emerge as byproducts of trustamong members of a community. Brands tend to be more willing to harvest and discussideas for service improvement when they trust that their customers are ready for asustained dialog rather than drive-by complaints. And people are more willing to trustproduct recommendations from their peers when those peers have proven themselvesto be reliably knowledgeable over time.To see these benefits, brands must cultivate relationships with their social customersover the long term. While the constraints and affordances of the Facebook platformand brand communities differ, there is no reason why the aspects that make brandcommunities deliver annuitized benefits cannot exist in Facebook. Whether they willemerge depends largely upon the choices that brands make about how to engage withtheir customers on Facebook. And those choices will likely depend on whether brandsconsider what they are doing on Facebook successful or not. 5
  • 6. Facebook and Beyond:Lessons for Brand Engagement withSocial CustomersSuccess/Failure and Future NeedsAs we can see from Figure 3, among respondents who consider their Facebookefforts successful or very successful, three key benefits stand out: the creation ofbrand awareness, the ability to communicate marketing messages effectively, and thefostering of goodwill in social channels. In each of the three cases, there is a wide gap inperceived efficacy between respondents who are happy with their Facebook efforts andthose who are not. On the other hand, even those who are happy with their Facebookprogram do not consider it to be very useful in helping users answer one another’squestions (either pre- or post-sales) or in helping them identify particularly valuablecustomers. facebook pages communitys effectiveness effectiveness improves our search results creates awareness of our brand, products, or services allows us to communicate our marketing message effectively to customers creates beneficial customer-to-customer engagement empowers customers to help one another with pre-sales purchase questions empowers customers to help one another with post-sales support questions Gives us metrics we need to assess program goals Gives us a good sense of how our customers are feeling Helps us identify particularly valuable customers Creates goodwill for our brand in social channels more successful more successful less successful less successfulFigure 3: Facebook and brand community effectiveness in 10 areas, cross-tabulatedby more successful and less successful overall perceptions of successStrikingly, only about 12% of respondents who consider their Facebook forayssuccessful believe that it helps users answer one another’s questions. Fewer thanhalf thought it created beneficial interactions of any kind among customers. At thispoint in its evolution, Facebook seems to succeed or fail for brands based on reachand the perceived goodwill that goes along with that, rather than on elements that arespecifically social. 6
  • 7. Facebook and Beyond:Lessons for Brand Engagement withSocial CustomersAs we can also see from Figure 3, respondents who see their community as successfulor very successful give the community exceptionally high marks for creating beneficialpeer-to-peer engagement, for helping customers with questions, and for providinginsight into customers’ attitudes. Interestingly, there is basically no difference in clients’assessment of a community’s utility for communicating outbound marketing messagesbetween those who think it is a roaring success and those who think it is moderatelysuccessful. On the other hand, there is a large perceived gap in the awareness value ofa community between those who feel it is very successful and those who feel it less so.Perhaps one reason for this discrepancy is that members themselves are the marketingchannel in a brand community. Even though it provides opportunities for outboundcommunication—though blogs and tweets—a brand community succeeds or fails on thebasis of its ability to create engagement. 51.4% answer product questions 50% 42.9% display status or achievements 8.3% submit ideas for 62.9% service/product improvements 50% search our knowledge base 60% 66.7% see the best/most useful content 60% that others have submitted 58.3% identify other customers with 42.9% similar backgrounds or needs 50% find products their friends or 60% colleagues have recommended 50% mentions by respondents who rate their Facebook pages as less successful mentions by respondents who rate their Facebook pages as successfulFigure 4: Additional needs from Facebook by perceived success level with Facebook. 7
  • 8. Facebook and Beyond:Lessons for Brand Engagement withSocial CustomersWe can see that when Facebook isn’t seen as successful for brands, its best benefits arestill as an outbound marketing vehicle—just not a particularly successful one. In thatcase, what do brands want Facebook to do for customers that it’s not doing? We askedrespondents to rank various things that their customers might do on Facebook that theycan’t do or can’t do well. When we correlate those rankings with the level of successthose clients are currently enjoying with Facebook, several things stand out:ƒ Overwhelmingly, brands whose Facebook efforts are flagging want some way to recognize their customers’ status and achievements on Facebook—in other words, to reward good behavior. Conspicuous display of status and achievement is a deeply ingrained feature of Lithium communities and is generally seen as a prime motivator of consumer participation.ƒ Respondents who do not see their current Facebook efforts as successful see the ability for customers to submit ideas as substantially more important than those who are satisfied with Facebook. Again, this maps very closely to the ideation benefit we saw earlier as a downstream effect of brand communities.ƒ The ability to find products or services recommended by friends or colleagues is also seen as a potential area of improvement by those who are not particularly satisfied with their Facebook efforts. 47.6% answer product questions 56% 52.4% display status or achievements 20% submit ideas for 57.1% service/product improvements 64% search our knowledge base 57.1% 64% see the best/most useful content 57.1% that others have submitted 60% identify other customers with 38.1% similar backgrounds or needs 52% find products their friends or 47.6% colleagues have recommended 64% mentions by respondents who rate their communities as less successful mentions by respondents who rate their communities as successfulFigure 5: Additional needs from Facebook by community success level. 8
  • 9. Facebook and Beyond:Lessons for Brand Engagement withSocial CustomersAs we can see from Figure 5, brands who are less successful with communities alsowant to see a more prominent display of status and achievements on Facebook. Butwhat is perhaps more interesting is that clients who are at higher levels of success withbrand communities are much more interested than their peers in introducing the abilityfor users to find others who resemble them, and the ability for users to locate productsthat their friends and colleagues like. These are characteristic “social networking”features.In other words, when Facebook efforts are not successful, brands want Facebookto behave more like a community. When communities are successful, brands wantto benefit from Facebook’s networking features to a greater extent. If Facebook’spotency as a generator of awareness begins to decline over time, that trend suggestsa convergence between the interaction modes in Facebook and those of brandcommunities is extremely likely.Organizational OwnershipIf we see a coming convergence between the way people interact on Facebook andthe way they interact in a brand community, it is worth asking who will lead thatconvergence and how it will take place. Enterprises vary in their determination of whoowns social customer initiatives. In some organizations, social customer initiatives areowned by customer support or customer experience teams. Increasingly, however, theyfall under the purview of marketing or corporate communications functions. 61.5% answer product questions 36.8% 46.2% display status or achievements 21.1% submit ideas for 73.1% service/product improvements 42.1% search our knowledge base 73.1% 47.4% see the best/most useful content 69.2% that others have submitted 47.4% identify other customers with 50% similar backgrounds or needs 36.8% find products their friends or 61.5% colleagues have recommended 52.6% customer support and experience groups marketing groupsFigure 6: Additional requirements from Facebook by social program ownership. 9
  • 10. Facebook and Beyond:Lessons for Brand Engagement withSocial CustomersAs we can see from Figure 6, organizations where marketing owns social initiatives aredemanding less of Facebook in terms of new modes of customer engagement. In fact,ownership by marketing is more important than the perceived success of a company’sFacebook page in determining whether a company is interested in customers engagingthrough Facebook in more involved ways. Customer support and customer experiencegroups continue to be more interested in the exchange of ideas and the answering ofproduct questions. customer support and experience marketing and comms a f f e b b e d d c cFigure 7: Largest challenge with social customer programs, by program ownership a) executive buy-in b) resources to scale our effortsMarketing-led organizations’coordination acrosswith social customer programs is how c) biggest concern teams and departmentsto scale them. Figure 7 shows the chief concern as scaling initiatives with (relatively) d) too many toolsless concern about coordination across teams metrics and standards for of marketing-led e) lack of agreed upon and departments. 44% success f) lack of customer interestorganizations cited “resources to scale our efforts” as the biggest challenge, as against34.4% of everyone and (9/34 - 26%) of non-marketing led organizations. This suggeststhat one reason marketers are less aggressively pursuing “deeper” engagementthrough Facebook is that, unlike support or customer experience organizations,they lack human resources—like contact centers—that are perceived to be requiredto ensure that social customers get the satisfaction they require from engagementthrough Facebook. Better, perhaps, not to hold out the promise of a sustained dialogwith customers if an organization cannot make good on that promise.The survey shows that marketers and customer experience are equally committedto responding to customers in brand communities and through Facebook andTwitter. However, it would not be surprising if Facebook’s reach threatens to becomeoverwhelming if customer actions on Facebook called for a response. Indeed, perhaps 10
  • 11. Facebook and Beyond:Lessons for Brand Engagement withSocial Customersone thing that marketers have learned with online communities that they have not (yet)learned with Facebook is that customers themselves can be the solution—not just thecause—of the scaling problem. Time and again, we have seen that larger communitieswith a devoted core of superfans actually require less intervention from companiesthan fledgling communities. The “downstream” trust benefits pay dividends. There isno reason why this shouldn’t be so on Facebook, but many organizations are in earlierstages of their experience with Facebook. brand communities facebook twitter youtube linkedin customer support and experience marketing and corp commsFigure 8: Requirement for ROI measurement by channel and program ownership.A final area in which brand communities differ from other channels for marketing-ledorganizations is in the need to prove themselves through ROI metrics. As we can seefrom Figure 8, marketing-led organizations generally have higher demands for ROI,but this is particularly true for brand communities. We suspect this is a function of theperception that Facebook engagement is free because a Facebook page is itself free, butalso of the maturity level of Facebook as a technology and a marketing venue. As we seeincreasing convergence of social channels, we should also expect to see demands formore sophisticated Facebook measurement tools, and growing demands for Facebookto prove its value. 11
  • 12. Facebook and Beyond:Lessons for Brand Engagement withSocial CustomersConclusionThere are significant synergies between Facebook and brand communities. Both offerunique marketing advantages, and we’ve helped customers extend the reach of theirbrand communities on Facebook. For its sheer size and viral features, Facebook isgenerally considered more successful at disseminating marketing messages, and isroughly equal in its ability to create brand awareness. As we’ve seen in online venuesbefore, however, driving people to a social site without providing an outlet for theirneeds invites a peak-and-trough customer engagement, rather than a sustained,vital and profitable enthusiasm. A campaign-based wave of awareness will eventuallypeak and subside, and may then create unrealistic expectations for customers.As these channels evolve and the awareness benefits subside, marketers shouldconsider Facebook a useful platform for cultivating an online presence run more like acommunity than a campaign.The dividends of a well-developed Facebook presence will ultimately depend onmarketers inventing or adopting sophisticated long-term strategies for customerengagement, such that their Facebook presence derives its value from peer-to-peerrelationships. But those relationships also have to be based in trust, both amongcustomers and between customers and the brand. Establishing this trust is a key, long-term strategy. For instance, fostering productive peer-to-peer relationships amongcustomers and rewarding positive behavior helps to create trust, as does identifying,motivating, and highlighting your brand’s superfans. The downstream annuities of trustand engagement only grow when brands cultivate true, multi-directional relationshipswith their social customers over the long term. The potential ROI is | 6121 Hollis Street, Suite 4, Emeryville, CA 94608 | tel 510.653.6800 | fax 510.653.6801© 2011 Lithium Technologies, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 12