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Why Like when you don’t like?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I recently attended a Customer Service Excellence seminar in Kuala Lumpur. Almost all speakers spoke about social media and the topic bumped again during panel discussion. Social media seems to be un-avoidable when one talks about brand and brand affinity.

According to a recent report by PQ Media, global social media advertising grew from USD5.59B in 2011 to USD7.94B in 2012 and projected to grow to USD11.07B in 2013 for some 100 top brands in US. The report adds most of the online and mobile conversations are on Restaurants, followed by Beverages and then Consumer Technology. Such trend and quantum of spend may explain why every business wants to build presence in the social media.

The most basic and fastest means of creating presence on a social media such as facebook is to create a ‘Page’ and get as many people to ‘Like’ it.  Creating a Page on a facebook is effortless where the social media site provides you with good tutorials on getting started and publishing a Page.  The challenge is getting more people to Like the Page.

To accelerate the number of Likes, companies resort to various tactics such as give-aways to entice netizens to Like it.  Some resort to giving out coupons while others provide people Liking a page with chances to win attractive prices. 

More and more products are appearing on our facebook page either as recommended or ‘Liked’ by friends. This is so rampant that sometimes you find people who have no or little relation to a brand or product Liking the page. I always wondered why this is so. For example one of my friend who have never flew in his entire life apparently Liked an airlines page.

Does Liking a Page mean anything to the friends in facebook?  The whole idea of company promoting brand through a Page is to get more people to use that brand. But when your friend Likes a page, are you influenced by that gesture and will you follow suit? 

Two things that come to mind before someone decides to Like a Page after a friend in your network Liked a Page. One is how much influence that ‘friend’ in your network has over you? Is that person a role model or a close associate that you look up to making any purchase decisions? 

Secondly, does that Page promoting that brand has any relation to you. If I want to get a first hand online shopping experience, then I would want to Like a Page that promotes online shopping brands. It starts with an intention in mind. 

But does the number of Likes ever influence you to click that Like button? It is possible for someone to Like a Page when it has huge number of Likes as you don’t want to miss what is in there. 

Based on Social Baker (www.socialbaker.com) JC Penney has the most Likes of the day with 3.5 million Likes. Of course this may be due to the ousting of the CEO of this chain of mid range American store recently. The surge in Likes to this store would excite the company, but the real excitement is when this is converted to higher revenue. After all a Page is all about creating brand awareness, followed by brand affinity and finally brand purchase (and re-purchase).

When higher number of Likes infers more purchase, some companies tend to find short cuts to increase the number of Likes. There are syndicates that provide services to increase number of Likes to a Page. The service is charged by number of Likes generated. This is done by a group of people who has large network of ‘friends’ and are able to somewhat influence these friends to Like a Page.

Not sure if such service is legitimate, but for sure it is un-ethical. Enticing individuals to Like a Page with no real value (well, other than giving points or small token in $) sounds fishy. Unfortunately, what gets measured, gets done. Some companies measure number of Likes as a Key Performance Indicator for their Marketing organization. Therefore, the organization will get the number (of Likes), whatever way it may. 

Having a presence in social media is not for all business. Though word of mouth is the new way of marketing, the number of people influenced does not equate to number of Likes. Having people genuinely comment about a brand is a better way to influence, increase leads and subsequently purchases. That is the power of real word of mouth.

Satya Narayanan