We discussed the week’s marketing stories: everything from the plight of independent BP service stations to the likely winners at Cannes. But the topic that I found the most interesting was the question of loyalty. How do we measure it? Can we assign a real dollar value to a Facebook fan? Are the recent findings from Syncapse and Vitrue dependable.
In the case of Syncapse this social media strategy company suggests that a Facebook fan is worth $136.00. The number comes from determining a typical fan’s behavior. Syncapse concluded he’s likely to spend $72.00 a year more on a brand than a non-fan; is 28 more likely to continue using that brand; has a high propensity to recommend products to friends and family; and has a real affinity to the brand he “likes.”
But the real question that no one seems to answer is this: If there were no Facebook or equivalent social network, would that “fan’s” behavior be any different? Does he fan/like a brand on Facebook because he’s already loyal? Or does becoming a fan somehow induce that loyalty?
I’m willing to bet it’s the former. We are loyal to a brand because of its products, service, quality and consistency; we then reflect that loyalty by fanning a brand, not vice versa.
This has real implications for marketers. Research like the above results in more of the idiocy we have seen in the last year or two: brands that have to be on Facebook; success that’s measured in terms of how many “fans” or “likes” that brand acquires; programs that are designed to drive up the numbers.
Granted Vitrue’s approach and valuation are quite different. Their number is less than $4.00 per fan, but they’re actually measuring impressions.
To me, both of these metrics represent a classic case of applying old media thinking to a new media environment. They measure what exists after the fact — customer value and impressions — they don’t tell us whether or how we can actually increase loyalty.
A program that strives to pile up fans will at best simply identify people who are already loyal. At worst, it will convince someone to click a button because it’s effortless, but potentially also meaningless.
The only thing we should be measuring is whether or not we can create content, utility, service and value in the social media space that induces prospects to become customers and customers to become repeat customers, perhaps even willing to pay a premium. Accomplishing that calls for ideas, creativity and experimentation, not another quantitative study.
Smart brands measure (and, for that matter, predict) everything. But before they put their money behind reaching and collecting fans, they invest in behaviors to prove they’re worthy of a customer’s loyalty.
What’s your brand doing to earn loyalty?