Why Facebook Likes Shouldn’t Be an Organizational Objective

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like-us-on-facebook-buttonFacebook likes.   Hmmmmm.  The never ending discussion and debate around Facebook likes is something that I have had on an almost daily basis.

So why should “Facebook Likes” not be an objective?  I mean, it’s measurable, it’s visible, it’s seems like it’s qualitative in nature. So why wouldn’t anyone in marketing or communications charged with the responsibility of growing their social audiences use this as a means of moving forward

To answer this question, let’s look at it from the opposite perspective – Why Facebook Likes Should be an Organizational Objective?

  • More likes = more awareness of my brand
  • More likes = more of an audience that is paying attention to my brand
  • The more likes = more people to communicate with
  • The more people like my brand, the more that will follow
  • It will show up more in peoples timelines making it “go viral”

All of this sounds wonderful.  In theory.

The first issue in all of this, is – what does a Facebook like actually mean to your organization?

When organizations use this as a measurement tool, things such as – “The Forced Like” begin to happen.  What is the forced like?  It’s when an organization creates a Facebook page, with something that seems alluring – usually a contest, or some kind of special content – but the only way that you can gain access to it, is by clicking their “like” button.  Or as we term it – “like” gated.  Again, I beg the question – what does a Facebook like actually mean to your organization?

Communications and marketing people do understand that a truly engaged audience is what really moves a brand.  An engaged audience means that you are delivering something that they both need and want.  The entire premise and “cool factor” about social media… including Facebook… was that you could target your audience.  Even though you might not be reaching everyone, you could finally find the people who were really interested in what you had to offer.  It meant that you were truly delivering real ROI – spending dollars on an audience that could show real return, because they truly have a genuine interest in your brand.

The main opposition that  I have in using Facebook likes as a metric to success stem from 3 main points:

  1. Forcing a like, to gain entry into a contest or to gain access to a coupon or special redemption moves your brand further away from a genuine engaged audience.  Using tactics like this means you will attract an audience who’s main objective is couponing or contesting.  This also means that once the user has acquired what they need, “like” retention will become an issue, because the reality is – they are not that interested in your brand, they were interested in the possibility of winning/getting something for free.
  2. Without defining what a “like” means to your organization, also means that you have no real qualitative measurement.  While it is true, analytics and reporting area usually quantitative in nature – the problem is that when your reporting shows a significant increase in likes and then a decrease, it doesn’t really provide a great story.  However, once you define what it actually means to your organization you can really determine what your Facebook strategy should be in both gaining and retaining likes.
  3. What are you planning on doing with all of the people you’ve acquired?  This is the biggest pitfall with most Facebook like acquisitions.  As with all media – print, broadcast, digital  (blogs, facebook, twitter) – content is king!  This means that having likes as an organizational objective requires a two step process.  What are you going to do to get them, and what are you going to talk about/give them/ engage them once you have them?

Strategic Communications and Public Relations

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Targeted-Magnify-XSmallHaving had the opportunity to become a well rounded communications practitioner, it is really interesting to see how people use the word “strategic” when speaking about executional things. It’s almost as though the word “Strategy” or “Strategic” has become a buzz word and somewhere along the line, it does get confused with tactics and/or execution.

Press releases, websites, contests, a page in a magazine, a commercial, Facebook pages, Twitter pages – these are all the tactics.  HOW you use them and your plan for that, should be tied into a bigger concept that is then linked into a specific objective.  Confusion over the word “strategy” is prevalent in all communication/marketing disciplines and this truly impacts creative as well.  Creative is encompassed into a large part of what we do and being creative also requires strategic thinking.

This post was inspired by my friend and colleague Lisa,  (@lisawrites) when speaking about the creative process and creative strategy.  Much like the communications process, the creative idea (images, layout, copy and design) has to link to some overarching theme that does inspire, engage or cause something to happen.  Pretty or Twitter or a Website are not a strategy, but they are definitely tools that can be used to make something happen or reach an objective.

As common as this is, I do encourage communications and creative teams to think like this:

  1. What is your organizations overall objective?
  2. What is your organization’s overall goal/s for the year?  How do you understand these goals linking into achieving their objective?  (Not sure – then ask!)
  3. How is this campaign or idea going to help the organization achieve the above two things?
  4. What is the main objective for this campaign?  How does it link to your organization’s objective?
  5. What are your goals for this campaign and how does that tie into your organizational goals for the year?
  6. Who are you trying to reach?  Why do you need to reach them? (Creative teams need all the above information and absolutely need to be linked in at this point and moving forward)
  7. When do you reach out to them?  What do you want them to do/say/think/believe?
  8. Where are they? How will you reach them?  (Here are the tactics!  See how far down the list it is?  All the other stuff needs to happen first before we get here!)
  9. How will you know if what you want them to do is being done? – In other words – what are your metrics of success or KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators).
  10. What are your benchmarks?  What will you do if your KPI’s are not performing the way you would like?  What other areas of support will put into this?  What is your plan B?

Once you have these in your pocket you can execute.  By no means am I implying that this step by step process is linear at all! In most cases, it will be more matrix like with lots of back and forths and adjustments, all while being sensitive to deadlines and budgets.  As a rule of thumb I try to follow the above.  Now, more than ever in my career (especially because I work production focused advertiser initiatives a.k.a – the actual execution), I see how critical the above steps are.  Not all campaigns will perform the way you hoped, but that also means there are key learnings that can be pulled from that to understand your organization and its objectives even better.