A recent Forrester report on the value of Facebook marketing found that liking a brand consistently increased the likelihood to purchase, recommend, and consider that brand. BlackBerry users who liked the brand on Facebook were 5.6 times more likely to have purchased a BlackBerry than those who didn’t “Like” the brand, while Coca-Cola Facebook fans have a 95% probability of purchasing the brand, compared with a 71% probability for the general population.
These results seem exiting, but there are at least two clear issues with this “research.” First, there’s the issue of causation. The type of person who’s willing to become a Facebook fan of a brand is likely to already be an enthusiastic fan of that brand, or at least have an interest in it. That makes the increased purchase, recommendation, and consideration likelihood a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy: is the increase due to the Facebook relationship, due to the existing brand relationship itself, or due to another factor entirely? The modeling used in the study compares Facebook fans to non-fans, but can’t fully account for the brand relationship outside of the Facebook “like.” The study did find that BlackBerry owners who like the brand have an 87% probability of recommending the company to friends, compared with 44% for BlackBerry owners who haven’t clicked the magic “Like” button, but again–that’s not caused by the “like,” just indicative that those who “like” tend to be engaged supporters.
Additionally, this study focused on established brands (BlackBerry, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Best Buy) that already have widespread brand recognition, as well as a large existing pool of customers. Is it possible to say that Facebook marketing works in the same way for smaller, less-known brands? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work–in fact, it might have an even more demonstrable impact for small brands. But this study doesn’t tell us that for sure.
Finally, the top reason that consumers engage with brands online is to receive information about deals and promotions. This isn’t caused by brand affinity, it’s caused by the desire to save a buck. Brands who think their Facebook like count is benefiting them more than the cost of expensive promotions may need to reexamine their ROI. That said, the value of Facebook marketing is hard to quantify, and the data does show Facebook fans to be a beneficial group. So leverage them, don’t just tempt them.
We think events (including in-store promotions) are a perfect place to acquire Facebook fans (potentially with an existing interest in your brand) that you’ll retain over time. What’s a creative Facebook promotion you’ve seen at an event?