William

Businesses are using social media to earn Likes and Follows, engage with customers, and the more progressive brands, are extracting insights from social and interest graphs to improve and personalize experiences and products. The quest for a larger install base of social consumers is admirable and quite honestly, necessary in a new era of empowered consumerism. It is the intentions of businesses that I question as I believe that their vision and interpretation of acts of Liking and Following are clouded.

The importance of the 3F’s (friends, fans, and followers) does not lie in the initial conversion from consumer to connected consumer. Counting numbers as a metric here isn’t helpful or usefull. In fact, it’s misleading and potentially distracts any business from long-term success. The value in the connection is in understanding not only why a conversion took place, but learning about expectations and also studying behavior and preferences to deliver against them in social networks and in the real world.

What does fan really mean?

In June 2011, ExactTarget published a revealing study that shed light on the discrepancy between how brands and consumers interpret the act of liking. For example, when you hear the word fan, connotations of loyalty, advocacy, and passion come to mind. But, for many consumers, clicking Like isn’t a profession of affinity as much as it is a reflection of support. In some cases, the gesture is merely a move to take advantage of an offer, contest or promotion.

According to ExactTarget, only 42% of active Facebook users view the act of a “Like” as a declaration of their devotion or support. On the other side of the coin however, 33% disagree with a Like equating to fandom. The other 25% aren’t quite sure what to think. Finding the meaning of Like is not unattainable though. Understanding what it means to different customers can only improve programming, service and engagement strategies. The reality is that people are actively Liking brands and many know exactly what they expect from the connection. Other consumers who do not know why they do so or what they expect will soon learn once they feel stream fatigue from the lack of focus in the content that flows through their timelines.

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