The real value of a Facebook Fan lies in that Fan's Friends. To maximize social media exposure, brands must provide content their Fans will share.
According to a recent ComScore whitepaper, Facebook Fans' Friends may matter more as an audience than the Fans themselves.
ComScore's research indicates that Fans' Friends "represent a much larger set of consumers" and receive a brand's message through their Friends' interactions with brands. In fact, "the reach of branded content among Friends of Fans significantly exceeded the reach among Fans."
As Ad Age's Kunur Patel wrote in an analysis of the ComScore study, when a brand posts to its Facebook page, only a small percentage of its Fans see that post. But when those Fans share or comment on the post, that activity appears in their Friends' newsfeeds. An exponentially greater number of non-Fans then sees the brand's post.
That exposure happens without having to coerce Facebook users into becoming Fans. As I wrote earlier, brands that run contests or other events to increase their Facebook Fan count, as Gerber did, may suffer a backlash in negative attitudes. Reaching more people without requiring them to click on the Like button can pay off immensely for a brand.
So how can brands reach the Friends of their Fans? ComScore used Starbucks, Southwest, and Bing as examples of brands whose Fans help to spread their message effectively. While Starbucks is something of a special case on Facebook, with its 24 million Fans, both Southwest and Bing also saw their messages spread to more Fans' Friends than the number of their Fans.
A look at some recent Starbucks Facebook posts shows how it's done. Starbucks doesn't simply share product-related updates. The brand also posts links to other content its Fans may find engaging enough to comment on or share.
When event organizers in Australia recreated the Mona Lisa using thousands of cups of coffee, Starbucks linked to an article about it. Starbucks also plays to the interests of its customer base by featuring the tech, music, and community-service aspects of its brand.
The strategy works. In May, Starbucks reached 8 percent of all American Internet users, most of whom weren't Facebook Fans of the company.
The example of Starbucks teaches an important lesson to marketers hoping to connect with more consumers through social media. Look beyond your Fans to Friends of your Fans. And to reach them, consider who your Fans are, apart from their willingness to consume your products. What your Fans like gives you a good indication of what their Friends may also like. Share content that engages your Fans, and you can engage their Friends as well, at little to no extra marketing cost.
— Jude Chao is a marketing writer and consultant who works with small businesses and startups.
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