An article on the excellent consonaute blog recently made me (re)think about the role of social media in B2C and B2B businesses.
In this post Bruno Fridlansky reflects about the value of a “like” on Facebook and of “favorite” on Twitter. He concludes that “Likes” and “favorites” are overused and that their actual value has been tarnished. Do they still mean something for the user who “likes” or “favorites”? If it still does Bruno concludes, it’s no more than “I read what you wrote and I agree with you”.
This being said I’d like to extend Bruno’s thinking to the consequences for businesses. The central question for me is therefore: “what is the value of a Like / Favorite for a business?”.
My first Facebook experiments in 2008-2009
I must admit Bruno’s conclusion is very much aligned with another reflection I’ve had for many years now, actually since my fellow client-partner Thomas Cabrol and I did experimentations on Facebook for ProDegustation.
Back in those years (I’m speaking now of 2008-2009) which is almost the prehistory for social media, Facebook was still in its infancy and no one was talking about going on the stock exchange and of this bloody ROI. At that time Pinterest did not exist and Twitter was barely known.
Thomas was passionate about quality (he still is actually … check his latest project in Toulouse launched in August 2013) and we decided we’d only go for qualitative and informative posts on ProDegustation’s Facebook wall. The result was tremendous with more than 10,000 fans. Once again, back in those years it was a real achievement for a small company to reach such numbers
Is a fan worth something?
In the course of our Facebook experiments we were able to analyze raw data. We concluded that the ROI was not what we dreamt of and wondered whether putting time, money and resources into feeding the FB wall with qualitative videos, content, … was really worthwhile. Despite the “likes” one can’t say the revenues increased significantly.
We eventually kept doing it because it showed the credibility of the firm which was crucial to us at that time.
What about the value of a like?
As one readers commented on Bruno’s blog, a “like” is probably the lowest level of engagement you can expect (it may be wise at this point to re-read the article we wrote about the social media ladder and users’ online activities).
If you are an individual it’s not that bad; however, as I wrote before, if you are a company you need to worry about your ROI. Do your time and financial investments in social media bring more revenues than the money you put in? I’d be very cautious about such an hypothesis, especially for B2B businesses.
Social media: good or bad marketing strategy for businesses?
In a B2B environment purchase decisions are the result of –most of the time- objective processes. Little space is left for impulsive buying behaviors that social media may help promote. For that reason I don’t really see the need for social media as a sales strategy. I’m pretty much convinced that tweets won’t help sell machines, IT equipment, … to other businesses. However social media can be an interesting marketing strategy to make your products / services known. This is the “discovery” phase. But you will still need selling talents to convince your prospects to buy from you.
In a B2C environment things can be different if you have already gotten the trust of your audience. I don’t really believe in individuals buying “out of the blue” something they saw on Facebook. To build confidence and initiate a sale takes time, be it online or offline. Like it B2B, social media applied to a B2C environment can make the discovery process easier and this is where the “like” plays a role. Liking (like sharing) helps reach a wider circle of people of Facebook. The real clue sits in your producing quality content that will be liked and shared (I know how hard it is) and act on it. It’s neither sufficient to get a “like” nor an information request from a prospect. You still have to be good to convince him/her to buy from you.
A like in itself has no value. It’s more or less a testimony that your post was read and that the reader is in agreement with its content.
A like can only contribute to propagating the news further down, to people you may have not reached by yourself. But to do this you need to produce great content. And that’s difficult.
Even if you succeed your ROI stills equals zero. Producing great content and getting known has no value until you can turn this into a real sales strategy, a news sales funnel in other words. If you get no conversion it has no value.
Posted in Marketing, Strategy.