Facebook - Awareness Driver or Retention Tool?

Facebook_Acquisition_or_Retention_toolFor many premium and luxury marketers, Facebook is perceived to be a tool that should be used at the early stages of the purchase cycle. Strategies focus on building large followings and driving those fans to brand sites to get the purchase journey underway. It's no doubt one of the reasons that a recent survey of US CMOs found that over 1/2 measured the success of their social media campaigns by website visits, over 1/3 by the size of fanbases but less than 1 in 7 used sales generated as their measurement metric.But recent research findings released by DDB Worldwide and Opinionway Research has revealed that Facebook may be at its most effective at the opposite end of that purchase funnel. Their research found that 84% of a typical brand's Facebook followers were in fact existing customers.This finding makes sense on 2 levels. Firstly, isn't Facebook a place where people go to stay in touch with people they already know, rather than a place they go looking for new friends? It wouldn't be surprising if the motivations that applied to personal use of the medium also applied when interacting with brands. Based on this assumption, search would seem a more natural environment for customer acquisition, Facebook for customer retention.In addition, one of the primary motivations for following brands on Facebook is for customers to show their support for and affinity with the brand they've choose to follow - the more affluent the customers, the more important this motivation becomes.  People are unlikely to feel an affinity for a brand they haven't yet purchased a product from.The logical conclusion of DDB/Opinionway's findings is that Facebook would be more effective if used to leverage re-purchase, rather than initial purchase.  It should be viewed as a retention tool, rather than an acqusition tool, and be integrated into a brand's customer relationship management strategy rather than its customer acquisition strategy.  Hence, brands should be looking to offer their Facebook followers largely what they offer their loyal customers - whether that be loyalty discounts, advance news on new product launches or invitations to exclusive events.A_T_R_RThat's not to say that Facebook can't work as an acquisition tool too.  For new brands without established customer bases, offering prospects a compelling reason to 'like' their page combined with effective promotion on Facebook can be highly effective in building a following. But established brands might be best advised to shift their focus from trying to recruit new followers via demographic or interest targeting to leveraging their existing fan bases by using a 'member-get-member' approach. For example, they may encourage their followers to spread the word to their friends by offering incentives, or by advertising to their followers' friends using tools such as Sponsored Stories.Of course, the revelation that Facebook fan followings are so heavily populated with loyal customers poses its own challenges, not least the management of discrete loyalty segments when every follower can see every wall post. But for brands looking for a focus for their Facebook strategy to drive demonstrable return on investment, it points the way down a potentially lucrative path.

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