Fans and Followers; the Social Media Butterflies
It is not uncommon for a brand to suddenly amass a horde of fans and followers and watch them leave just as fast as they arrived. We call this the 'butterfly behavior'. While most brands have their regular, loyal fan following, there are those who briefly follow a brand on Twitter or 'like' a Facebook page, only to 'flitter away like a butterfly' to another brand's social media page before deciding neither interests them. For online marketers, the challenge is to hold their interest long enough to convert these 'social media butterflies' to loyal fans and keep them from clicking on that 'unfollow' or 'unlike' button. The reasons why people stop following your social media page could vary from something as simple as 'the brand does not interest me anymore' to more serious reasons like 'too much irrelevant or annoying content'. To avoid a dip in followers and fans, it is important that online marketers understand what their customers expect from them. According to a June 2011 study from ExactTarget, Facebook users have certain preconceived notions about what to expect when they 'like' a company on the site, and among those who do not become brand fans, many are negative. From this study, it is evident that certain 'assumptions' simply drive consumers away, even before they decide to give the brand a chance. 'The Social Breakup'(a study released by ExactTarget and CoTweet) refers to the time period between 'friending' or 'following' a company, right until when the customer decides to take it to the next level (after spending enough time with the brand), as the 'honeymoon period'. The study further indicates that many customers, for various reasons, decide to cut the relationship short after the initial spark dies out. Here are other interesting excerpts:
- 55% of Facebook users have 'liked' a company and later decided they no longer wanted to see the company's posts.
- 51% fans said they rarely or never visit a company's page after liking it.
- 41% of Twitter users have followed a company on the microblogging site and later stopped following them.
- The study also focuses on fans' typical actions when they no longer want to see posts from a company's page. While 19% simply ignore the posts, 38% remove them from their wall and 43% actually go ahead and 'unlike' the page.
Although the above information appears worrying, we do know that it is not possible for marketers to please everyone all the time. For most social media marketers, the challenge is to keep their customers from 'saying goodbye', at the same time not getting too overwhelmed by the 'butterfly' behavior. Here are some obvious, while easy-to-fix, reasons why your fans are unfollowing or unfriending your brand:
- Stop Spamming Them:
Customers and visitors to your company's social media page are often subject to 'brand fatigue', which is the outcome of overwhelming them with more information/messages than they can assimilate. According to a research by DDB Paris and OpinionWay, 36% of the respondents admitted to 'unliking' a brand because they felt they heard from them too often. This brings us to the question of 'how can brands achieve that right balance between posting too much and posting too little?'
- Stay Real:
To avoid annoying your customers and fans, it is important to keep in mind the basic principle of the brand-customer online relationship; the actual message that you want to convey is more important than how many times you post or retweet it. Therefore, it is crucial for online marketers to design their social media marketing messages in such a way that they have maximum impact, without having to frequently remind users what their company or product is all about. After all, social media marketing is more about adding value to your brand and not so much about simply filling in the space.
- If You Don't Know, Then Ask:
It is not always possible for brands to get understand exactly what their fans want. In such cases it would be best to ask them directly and get an idea of what they expect to hear from you. This not only increases engagement, but also avoids spamming their timeline with unnecessary posts and tweets which may eventually result in them unfollowing your brand.
- Linking Twitter and Facebook Accounts? Not a Wise Move: While linking your Twitter account to your Facebook page may save time, it will also increase the possibility of annoying followers with information overload. A smart marketer understands that his Twitter followers are different from his Facebook users. Also, Twitter, being a microblogging tool, can be used for frequent updates when compared to Facebook, where users don't appreciate being flooded with messages every time you tweet something. Take the Vitaminwater brand for instance. Although their Twitter handle does include a link to their Facebook page, what the company posts on Facebook is completely different from their Twitter timeline; which means Vitaminwater smartly choose not to link the two. For followers who are also interested in checking out the brand's Facebook page, there is always the option of clicking on the link provided.
- Stay Real:
- Content Really Matters:
When it comes to online marketing, content is still the king. One of the reasons why fans may categorize a brand as 'too boring to follow' could be because of the uninteresting or repetitive content. Keeping the brand-customer relationship fresh can be an uphill task for social media marketers. Recent research indicates that 'uninteresting information' was the #2 reason why consumers stopped following a brand. How can companies turn this around?
- More Personal, Less Promotional:
It is no secret that brands get on to social media to promote their products. However, designing content that resembles sales talk, while lacking personal touch, may discourage users from following your brand. When it comes to marketing messages, the key is to be subtle. When building a brand's social media marketing strategy, it is important to add that 'humane' touch to your Facebook page or Twitter handle. Consumers will not just connect better with your brand, but will also want to check out the products and services being offered.
- Keep it Relevant:
The occasional 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Thanksgiving' messages are fine, provided you don't overdo them. When people 'friend' or 'follow' a brand on a networking channel they expect to see relevant, company related information and not a 'this is such a pleasant morning' post. Posting content that strays too far from your domain may be a tad unprofessional. After all, that was not the reason why people 'liked' your brand or 'followed' you in the first place.
- Include Visuals: No matter how informative and relevant the content is, the absence of images can render your social media page dull, thereby increasing the possibility of driving the users away. A smart online marketer knows that content isn't just about text anymore. Also, users' shortening attention spans mean brands need to include visuals to keep the boredom factor at bay and hold their consumers' attention. One example that comes to mind when talking about brands that have creatively included visuals in their social media page(s) is L'Oreal. Besides being highly engaged and including informative content, the company's Facebook page is a visual treat.
- More Personal, Less Promotional:
- Not Enough Offers and Deals:
A recent eMarketer study shows that when people 'like' a brand on Facebook, they automatically expect to receive offers and discounts through the networking channel. While 58% respondents anticipated access to exclusive events and sales, an equal percentage of fans expected to receive discounts and promotions. Meanwhile, research by IBM revealed that receiving discounts was one of the top two reasons why consumers interacted with companies on social networks. While 61% of the respondents looked forward to discounts, 55% said that they engaged with brands to make purchases. In most cases, customers have no reservations about admitting to 'liking' a brand on Facebook, just to take advantage of a one-time offer.
- The Thin Line Between Too Much and Too Little:
While relevant content and regular updates are crucial for retaining customers, enticing them with special offers, deals-of-the-day, etc is just as essential to keep users from unfollowing or unfriending your brand. However, there is a thin line between spamming users with an overload of offers and not offering enough discounts and deals. Our advice? Understand your customers and find out what they expect. Is deal-of-the-day their thing, or do they expect seasonal specials? This discounts and deals formula almost always works...provided you know what your customer wants.
- Customers Need Incentives:
The Redbox Facebook page rewards fans with a free one-night rental for 'liking' their page. Currently, the movies and games rental company's fan page boasts +3,600,000 likes; now that's something! What is Redbox's formula for success? Customers need incentives; otherwise they know that they're simply being a part of the brand's marketing strategy without receiving anything in return. This means they wouldn't hesitate from clicking on that 'unfriend' button before checking out the competitor's Facebook page for coupons and offers. The Red Box formula is quite simple really; after all, why would visitors to their page pass-up the chance to watch the latest blockbuster for free?
- The Thin Line Between Too Much and Too Little:
- When Brands Go Silent:
There are many cases where a company creates a Facebook page, jumps on to the Twitter bandwagon with great enthusiasm, and then goes silent. Fans and followers interpret this silence as 'the brand does not want to connect with their customers' and subsequently decide to unfriend the brand. Here's how lack of communication can impact a brand's followers:
- Unresponsiveness: While some brands have a completely inactive social media presence, there are others that choose to remain unresponsive to customer queries. This monologue means sooner or later frustrated users decide to distance themselves from the brand. According to a recent report by Econsultancy, companies only respond to 5% of all their Wall postings on an average. When Sony's account was hacked for the first time, the CEO addressed fans and expressed his regret. However, as the hacks and breaches continued, the company unwisely decided to remain silent. Sony users, who expected the company to communicate with them, were unhappy with the silent treatment. One of the best ways to prevent fans and followers from leaving is to interact; because being social is all about talking to your fans, responding to their queries and engaging in dialogue. You wouldn't want your fans to think you're too busy to respond, would you?
- The Disappearing Act:
Why do some Facebook and Twitter accounts resemble a social media ghost town? Even as some brands push too much promotional material and information, the others have little to say. This disappearing act not only impacts the follower count, but also discourages first-time visitors from clicking on the 'follow' option. Lack of time and not enough content are among the most common reasons for brands to give-up on their social media efforts. Also, the incorrect notion that simply creating a Facebook or a Twitter account will immediately fatten up the bank balance discourages marketers when this does not happen. Our suggestion? Be patient and persistent, your fans will show up, and most importantly, stay.
While it is tough to zero-in on one specific reason why previously enthusiastic users decide to unfriend brands on social media, our research points to a few important causes that drive followers and fans away. Most social media marketers are under a lot of pressure to win over users and convert them to fans and followers. This translates into an overdose of retweets and promotional content, which leaves the social consumer tired and confused. When users' Facebook pages and Twitter timelines get crammed with spam, what they will do next is predictable...click on the 'unfriend' option. Although there isn't a magical solution to retain fans, we believe asking them what they expect from you is a great first step. This could include everything from discount expectations to reasons for 'liking' or 'following' a brand. This, in our opinion, is a mutually beneficial marketing strategy; the fans get what they want, and for brands, the possibility of losing loyal followers greatly reduces.
That said, the 'like-me-to-know-more' option is a smart way to gain visibility; however, there's a flipside to this. A smart marketer understands that some people like to first check-out the brand's social media page before deciding to either 'like' it or 'follow' it. Asking people to 'like' a page, irrespective of what they actually feel about your brand may temporarily add to the fan following, only to see them leave just as fast. Our advice? Let your consumers decide, entice them with too-good-to-pass-up offers and most importantly, talk to them. Just as social media users don't appreciate too much sales talk and irrelevant messages, they won't be too happy to be given the silent treatment.
Although it is does not make sense to worry about the occasional follower lost or celebrate every friend added, the process of converting these 'social media butterflies' to loyal followers is quite simple actually. A little less spam, a little more content and engagement, and lots of time spent in understanding your customers will go a long way towards cementing the brand-customer relationship.