Fannying about with fans

Facebook fans; they’re fantastic. They’re every marketer’s fantasy. We all fancy as many as we can get. But not all marketers are fanatics; for some it is fandabbydozy, for others it is all still new-fangled and unproven.

That’s enough of that fandango.

The last week or so has seen the issue of how marketers should treat their Facebook fans debated from different angles.

We’ve had AB In-Bev’s Chris Burggraeve saying that his strategy is ‘Fans First’ and suggesting TV is now a ‘secondary’ medium (ahem, allow us and all the effectiveness evidence to disagree).

We’ve had Diageo’s Philip Gladman saying that brands without a major social media following (at least a million) shouldn’t bother and should invest in TV.

And we’ve had the incredibly brainy and forthright Professor Byron Sharp (speaking at a Thinkbox event last week) saying that Facebook is a ‘lower quality’ medium for marketers because it skews towards a brand’s heaviest users and, to be a big brand, you need to reach lighter users. You can watch him saying it here, as well as watch Richard Huntington of Saatchis and Martin Weigel of W+K Amsterdam get some things off their chests (warning: there is quite a bit of swearing).

For our part, it seems obvious that a brand should look after its fans; it should treat them accordingly, sometimes specially. They’ve come to you – often because of a TV ad, in fact – and unless they get fed new content they will drift away. Make them welcome, and try to attract more. But, focusing on fans alone and hoping they’ll attract more fans is not the most effective way to grow your business.

(Indeed, one way of thanking fans is to let them see your new TV ad a day or so early. Who’d have thought? A TV ad as a treat. But that’s not a substitute for letting the whole world beyond your fans see it; real viral will only begin when TV starts the ball rolling.)

As a cautionary tale, remember what happened to Pepsi. A couple of years ago it publically declared it was swapping TV for social media. As a consequence it picked up lots of fans, but it also saw its main brand drop to an unprecedented third in cola sales, behind Diet Coke for the first time ever, and experienced a sales slump of over 5% (worth up to half a billion dollars). Unsurprisingly it went back to TV (only without the fanfare it made when it left).

  • Martin Thomas

    Pepsi didn’t declare that it was swapping TV for social media.  It simply decided to try an alternative approach during the Superbowl, spending money on a cause-related campaign (supported by social media), rather than throwing an obscene amount of money ($3m+ for a 30 second spot) at TV advertising.  It didn’t need to go back to TV … TV was always part of its mix. 

    Thinkbox is rightly quick to criticise the social media evangelists for announcing the death of TV and exaggerating the mass market impact of social channels, but don’t fall into the same trap by suggesting that Pepsi’s tactical use of social media was responsible for a collapse in sales.

    • Lindsey Clay

      Hi Martin. Sorry to be so late responding to this.  Have been on hols for a week and then at the Festival of Media in Montreux where by weird coincidence the Pepsi CMO Salman Amin talked about TV being the next big thing in media.

      The point you make is a fair one. Often though there is a disconnect between the actual strategy being adoped by an advertiser and the way it is reported by the media and in that case it was very much seen as a case of “Pepsi ditches TV for social media”.  But you’re quite right.  We would not want to suggest that tactical use of social media is responsible for a collapse in sales. What causes a collapse in sales is significant reduction in the TV budget.  More on this here in our “Upside to downturn” research if you’re interested.