Facebook: Why is nobody listening?

Update 2012-02-19 – this original blog post has been cross-posted on “socialmediatoday – the world’s best thinkers on social media,” as well as “SmartData Collective – the world’s best thinkers on business intelligence and analytics.

One headline this week read, Procter & Gamble would lay off 1,600 after discovering that advertising on Facebook is free. But how many of your 2000 fans bother to take part in the conversationLess than half a percent. Learn from Red Bull, Coca-Cola and Nike! Or maybe NOT.

I just got back from another convention where an ad agency tried to convince the audience that Facebook was a fantastic way to improve your bottom line. Are you sceptical? So am I.

We can probably agree that if a company wants to use social media effectively, it must evaluate its current position with the help of a social media audit (Gattiker, 2012 – coming soon). Moreover, if you run a huge marketing campaign that implies customers are cool and have exciting lives, nobody cares about the brand, as evidenced by this Red Bull branding video.

Click here to view the embedded video.

1. Facebook engagement up to 0.90 percent

But the Red Bull video also suggests that we must audit how well you do with social media. For instance, a very small percentage of fans that Like your competitor’s Facebook page see the carefully crafted status updates. Accordingly, Facebook status updates are similar to broadcasting a message to an empty football stadiumimagine the Super Bowl without an audience.

In the Mercedes-Benz video below, people call for a cab and get picked up by a trailer truck. If you can afford the €200,000 to hire VonMatt to script the story and make the video, you might get 8000 views for the English version and 20,000 for the German one. The question is whether this is a flop. Measure for impact, anyone?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Research, based on 400 million Facebook fans, indicates that only 3.5 to 7.49 percent see your status update (Parker, Brian, June 21, 2011). Also, just 0.25 to 0.90 percent interact with the status update.

To put this in email campaign terms, only 3 to 7 percent open it. Moreover, less than one percent click-through on one of the links you provide in your email newsletter. That sounds like a nightmare for any marketer.

Therefore, 50,000 Facebook fans (or email newsletter subscribers) represent just 3,750 active Facebook likes (or newsletter subscribers). The rest is deadweight, fake user accounts or robots who certainly are not potential clients.

Reference: Parker, Brian. (June 21, 2011). SHOCKER: 3% to 7.5% of fans see your page’s posts. [Blog post – All Facebook]. Retrieved January 25, 2012 from, http://www.allfacebook.com/shocker-3-to-7-5-of-fans-see-your-pages-posts-2011-06

Does this suggest that we are producing content that represents added value for the client?

A trip down memory lane…
Remember our ComMetrics 900-98-1.5-0.5 rule from 2010? It states that 900 out of every 1000 people do not even see your status update or tweet. Only 0.05 percent (1 person per 2,000 readers) engage by joining the conversation with a comment on your blog or Facebook page.

Want to get trends like this one first? Enter your email address and join over 5,000 followers who already subscribe.[subscribe2]

Image - Coca Cola store - 1 of the top 3 brands on Facebook, but the transaction itself is concluded on Coca-Cola's website.

2. Facebook engagement drops to 0.45 percent

Just to wrap things up, let me ask you: how many fans actually bother to have a conversation with brands on Facebook? One metric we can look at is People Talking About This, the awkwardly-named running count of:

– likes,
– posts,
– comments,
– tags,
– shares and
– other ways a user of the social network can interact with branded pages.

A recent study used this metric as a proportion of overall fan growth of the top 200 brands on Facebook over a six-week period in October 2011.

Data revealed that the proportion of overall fans who were People Talking About This was 1.3 percent. But it gets worse: if one subtracts new likes, which only require a click (somewhat akin to TV ratings) and focuses on the forms that suggest greater interaction, one is left with only 0.45 percent.

Accordingly, less than half a percent of Facebook fans that identify themselves as ‘liking’ a brand actually bother to create any content with regard to it.

Reference: I would have liked to give you the reference for the above study from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science UniSA, but neither Dr. Nelson-Fields nor Professor Byron Sharp provided a draft or working paper. Do they understand how social media works or just pretend to? You be the judge!

Article source – Facebook: Why is nobody listening?

No one got anything else besides a short press release, but unless you can read a study about Facebook, Twitter or social media usage in full, how can you trust it? I explain this challenge for anyone who dislikes statistics here:

FREE ebook: Raise your hand if you hate research. ComMetrics eBook series #2011-01 (783 KB – pdf)

Image - tweet by @richmeyer - Truth about branding via social media #socialmedia http://twitpic.com/vwfz2

Bottom line – take-aways

We should conclude by listing three take-aways that this material provides. A company like Red Bull does not acquire 26 million fans without any engagement. However, 0.5 percent means only 13,000 actively engage and produce content from Red Bull’s offerings (okay, maybe 1.5 percent because it is cool, but that’s still less than 500,000 people). Do you really want to know how many full-time equivalent (FTE) personnel were required to create all this buzz?

  1. Brand growth requires reaching medium and light buyers. Facebook fans tend to be heavy buyers. While Facebook is a useful channel to reach them, it might not be the right place to engage potential and light or medium buyers.
  2. Searching for a Facebook audience may be futile. The research presented here shows that Facebook status updates are more like broadcasting news to an empty stadium. People want a freebie or to participate in a sweepstakes. But will they buy more product from you because they are a fan? No, your favorite butter need not apply.
  3. Engage with clients on your webpage or blog. If Unilever’s Magnum ice cream, Coca-Cola or Gillette find Facebook a great platform, good for them and even better for Facebook’s early-stage investors.
    Image - tweet by @ComMetrics Swiss PostBus - how traditional media and #socialmedia channels can work together & FAIL http://ad.vu/8z9t #metrics #marketingFacebook is the icing on the cake! Nonetheless, provide content that your target audience wants (the cake) on your homepage/blog.
    There are too many examples where companies have wasted resources on Facebook by ignoring the basics any good marketing strategy must encompass (e.g., Swiss Post Office).

PLUS, why would anybody spend money to attract Facebook fans? Fans are not known to purchase more product after clicking the Like button!

Are you with me on these trends? Please share your thoughts below (click to write)!

@ComMetrics 2012 marketing trendwatch – Facebook:  Why is nobody listening? | Tweet This

By the way, to answer the question why so many Facebook brand pages fail –
fans cannot keep up with all those status updates.
Yes, it will get worse and may never get better. OUCH!

TipSearch for more ComMetrics and CyTRAP sources on Facebook, marketing and branding (click to query).

More information about Facebook and social media – measure for impact
What makes a baseline review effective?
– ComMetrics social media cost classification model (see also 2011 trends: The social media cost-benefit pyramid)
The social business maturity model
Achieving better cost management
Maintaining a high-quality Facebook page
Setting up a Facebook fanpage
Improving cost control of your Facebook activities
Promote your brand on Facebook while staying on budget (watch another of our award-winning webinars and check out the slides)
Measuring Facebook engagement: What is good?
Measuring Facebook impact: Focus and ROI
Measuring Facebook impact: 9 audience fundamentals
Measuring Facebook engagement: Scoring the conversation
Peter Kim – Is social media free?
Going viral or selling product: ROI anyone?

By the way, when it comes to the Facebook IPO, investors may be paying for the world’s most over-priced photo-sharing, gaming and social networking site. What they do pay for is something old-fashioned: reach (or just eyeballs – many of them).

(See the papers filed by the company with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on February 1, 2012 – Facebook’s eighth birthday was on February 4, 2012) and Google’s 2004 IPO filing.)

What do YOU think?

Urs E Gattiker | Commetrics  | Hotlink of Choice – CyTRAP Social Media Audit Toolkit (CySoMAT

6 thoughts on “Facebook: Why is nobody listening?

  1. This is really fascintating, Urs. I was digging up all the research I could last summer. One of the comments on one of your original postings of this blog was something along the lines of people experiencing business success through facebook when they treat their people like a close circle of friends….authentic interactions, unique posts, no huge budgets to make hollywood video productions….just “You” being “the fun friend” in the gang.

    When you think about friends that you check in with on facebook, they are these friends. It stands to reason that if a company/brand is willing to take the time to be this authentic and become that kind of friend – – that daily destination – – the engagement will translate into sales success.

    When I was researching this, I was focusing my efforts on social engagement for brands/companies that 1) had products that could be purchased off a shelf, 2) already had several hundred unengaged “likes”…..meaning, people have taken the time to like the company or product, but they had no real reason to ever come back to the page.

    ….damn….I think there was a 3rd, but don’t remember it offhand.

    Pardon my ramble as I swig coffee.

    The crux was: Companies want the exposure that comes from viral video, but it’s very hard to create a viral campaign….viral has to be organic. Companies that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on one video can display it everywhere one time, and they are unlikely to get ROI for it on facebook, and they are unlikely to make a new one every week. Companies that can be honest and authentic (and funny) with their Fans, co’s that can have one person or one team create an enjoyable simple video (on their freekin smartphone) a minimum once a week, will have a better chance of engaging with fans. And then when fans go to the store, they will have an emotional engagement with the product on the shelf.

    Like you and several others have said, it takes a real marketing plan and consistent review to make sure that this style of authentic engagement is worth the cost.

    WOW, this comment is so long I can’t see the end of it!

    Thanks, enjoyed it!


  2. Scott
    Thanks so much for your insightful comment.
    I think you make an important comment regarding B2C. Your insights related to the case about a company whereby I can purchase their product at the store.

    But the fact is that most people simply want to engage if they have a need – such as getting help in case of a problem with the product – or if they can get something they need (discount voucher, FAQ, etc.).

    If the above applies then your idea about having making a short video with your smartphone every week to entertain or engage is surely a smart one. The problem will be to have a great idea each time. We tried to point this out here:


    And another video example here:


    What you think.

    • I think those are both very good examples of engaging through video. And I agree that it can be a problem to turn out a great video each time….on the other hand, there are Phillip DeFranco’s who do turn out weekly videos that are consistently engaging to my viewing eyes. http://www.youtube.com/user/sxephil?ob=4&feature=results_main

      The only time there is a “need” for consumers to engage, it is when they need help or want a discount. Social media and videos can be used to help resolve this need, but it’s only one part.

      The creation of enjoyable weekly content, whether it’s video or graphic or text, taps into engaging a consumers “want.” (ok, the discount thing plays into that too.) Not every piece of weekly content will be a success….that’s where the marketing plan And the review come into play. You have to start with some clue about what your audience enjoys, and you have to look at the metrics to keep yourself honest. Repeat formats that perform. Drop formats that don’t perform.

      The airline’s example, with singing and dancing, is very close. It obviously performed. The problem was that it couldn’t be repeated without at least 1) picking another song aligned to their task and demographic, 2) choreography and rehearsal. In the time between, “fans” lost the “want” to engage.

      With better planning, they could have prepared a couple months worth of different song-and-dance routines, and planned a timed release……then adjusted that timing if the metrics and/or ROI changed the urgency that was needed.

      Preparation, timed release, and measurement were all key elements when I was looking at plans for companies who distribute physical products on shelves. I like to make sure I have several of something “in the can” before the first is released.

      The Town video is lovely, but it’s unlikely to be updated consistently at that level of production.

      I also think that the “want” to engage is generational. Generalizing: Boomers are only going to engage if they need service or see an amazing deal…the brand has one or two opportunities to get them to check back in before they get irritated and hate the company….It’s a chore. Millennials are more likely to engage because they like something (literally, haha) rather than need service or a deal. The deal is a side benefit, not necessarily a sought out need.

      The problem with engaging purely on discounts and service is that the way discounts change is limited, the way service can be conducted is limited. The nice thing about having a stock of cheap, non-hollywood, entertaining content being updated consistently is that is it far less limited and gives consumers a deeper emotional connection to the product…it’s the opportunity to visit your fun “friend.”

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