Two recent studies document that actual engagement between corporate brands and their customers on Facebook is quite dismal. In January 2012, a study by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, an Australia-based marketing think tank, found that fewer than 1% of Facebook fans engage with brands. A recent A.T. Kearney study analyzed the 50 top brands and found few companies have moved beyond one-way communication. While the studies used different measures of engagement, the message was the same – corporate Facebook sites are neither social nor engaging.
In the A.T. Kearny study, 27 out of 48 brands did not reply to customer comments. So let’s start there. Rule No. 1. should be “respond to customers.”
Inactivity is another problem. Fewer posts results in fewer opportunities for fans to engage. This happens when a company launches a social media platform without a clear strategy outlining what they will do and how they will do it. Thus rule No. 2: Have a plan.
Both studies suggest marketers need to rethink their Facebook strategy. In A.T. Kearney’s 2010 social media study, researchers found that the companies who were most successful in engaging readers brought in elements of nostalgia; asked customers for feedback on various products or; asked Facebook fans to rally around a cause. When trying to initiate engagement, be clear what action you want people to take. Do you want people to “like” a post, submit a new product idea or link to your website? Consider using Facebook for market research or asking customers how they are using their products.
The 2012 A.T. Kearny study analyzed four basic types of posts: personal postings, consisting of a question or statement that is personal to consumers, but does not specifically promote the product; promotional postings, which may include a coupon; informative postings, which provide product-relevant information to consumers; and external postings. Using Facebook “likes” as one indicator, the study showed that consumers “like” personal company posts two and a half times more, on average, than all other company posting types combined.
Despite this fact, companies aren’t posting nearly as many personal posts as they are promotional and external posts — 61 percent of company posts scanned in the study were promotional or external, and only 13 percent were personal. Based on these findings I would suggest Rule No. 3: Social media sites should be about the customer.
In conversation, we adjust our message to the needs of a particular situation: our relationship with the person, the time we have to communicate, as well as our objective. Our social media efforts should be no less customized. In the haste to get the brand message out, we have forgotten that social media is about one-on-one interactions.
There’s a great opportunity out there for B2B companies who commit to getting it right. Start today with a comprehensive social media strategy. Before you dive into the newest social media platform, make sure you are doing it right on the platforms you already have.