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The Social Dynamics of Facebook Fan Pages

By MikeW

The Social Dynamics of Facebook Fan Pages

by Lithium Guru on ‎12-10-2010 03:56 PM - last edited on ‎03-03-2014 11:56 PM by Community Manager Community Manager

Dr Michael WuMichael Wu, Ph.D. is 927iC9C1FD6224627807Lithium's Principal Scientist of Analytics, digging into the complex dynamics of social interaction and group behavior in online communities and social networks.

 

Michael was voted a 2010 Influential Leader by CRM Magazine for his work on predictive social analytics and its application to Social CRM.He's a regular blogger on the Lithosphere's Building Community blog and previously wrote in the Analytic Science blog. You can follow him on Twitter at mich8elwu.

 


 

By 2010, social media has become an integral part of most marketing strategies. But what does it really mean for a brand to have a social media strategy? Since social networks are so pervasive, one of the easiest ways for brands to tap the power of social media is by establishing a presence on social networks, such as Facebook (FB). Most brands probably already have fan pages setup on FB. Like any social technology, FB is definitely going to help us to communicate and connect better in some ways, but it is at the same time restrictive in others. As I mentioned last time, to make this new technology work for us, we must understand the relative strengths and weaknesses.

 

So what is a FB fan page good for? And what is it bad for? To answer this question, we must understand the social dynamics (which I’ve covered quite extensively in the past few months) that governs how people behave on FB fan pages. If you want a recap on some of the social principles we’ve discussed, or just missed them first time round, I recommend reviewing the following posts before proceeding:

  1. Figuring Out the Relationship Puzzle
  2. The Relativity and Economics of Relationship
  3. Where is the New Dunbar Limit?
  4. Can Social Technologies Increase Our Dunbar Limit?
  5. Virtual vs. in Real Life: The Value of Relationship Perspective

If you’ve worked with a FB fan page, you probably noticed that it is rather hard to keep the members of your fan page engaged, despite FB being a fairly engaging platform. Consequently it is difficult to build relationships with those fans, and even more difficult to drive action among them. Today, we will apply the principles and social dynamics that what we’ve learned in the past few weeks, to explain some of these commonly observed challenges when working with FB fan pages.

 

The Cyber Anthropology of FB and Its Fan Pages

If you recall from my mini-series on Cyber Anthropology, I outlined some of the distinctive characteristics of communities vs. social networks. Even though fan pages reside in Facebook, which is a social networking platform, they really behave like a community.

1. On a FB fan page, you probably don’t know all the fans on that page. In fact, if you’ve just joined a fan page, you probably don’t know most of the people on that fan page. So it is clear that a fan page is not held together by pre-existing interpersonal relationships as is the case with social networks, because there are not many pre-existing interpersonal relationships on the fan page. Instead, what holds a fan page together is the common interest in a particular brand. Whether these fans are there to get coupons/discounts, or they are a true supporter of the company/product, their common interest about the brand is the cohesive force that brings them back to the fan page. This is the first and most prominent characteristic that distinguishes a community from a social network.
2. People may join and be part of many fan pages. This implies that a fan page has some sort of abstract boundary like a community. And people can choose to join as many fan pages as they like or have time for.
3. Finally, fan pages may overlap. For any big brand, there are probably numerous fan pages about the brand. Moreover, fans on one page may also be fans of another page. This is exactly how communities overlap in the real and virtual world: the common members of two communities are precisely where the two communities meet and overlap.

 

In contrast to a fan page, FB itself is a social network, which is held together by pre-existing interpersonal relationships. Many researches have documented that nearly all the relationships on FB were first established elsewhere offline. This is consistent with the fact that social network has been historically, and anthropologically, the social structure for maintaining relationships, rather than building relationships. And FB is so good at maintaining pre-existing relationships that most people use it to maintain their strongest ties: families, close friends, relatives, old classmates, etc. Clearly people have many strong ties on FB.

 

The Competition for Attention

Kids Raise Hands Getting Attention3.jpgFB is one of the most pervasive, engaging and sticky social platforms out there. So it makes perfect sense for brands to want to create a fan page in the FB platform. The hope is that brands would then enjoy the breadth of reach, the engagement, and the stickiness of the FB platform. However, practitioners who actually work with fan pages often find the contrary. The question is why? There is a clear explanation from the social principles that we’ve learned about the attention economy.

 

In this information-overloaded world, attention has become a very scarce resource. Consequently, we must constantly choose where we want to focus our limited attention in an active engagement. As we discussed earlier (see The Relativity and Economics of Relationship), during any active engagement there is an attention economy that governs who we are likely to engage and interact with. It has to do with the relative tie strength in our immediate engagement circle. Since stronger ties tend to draw more attention, they will usually win and get the attention, engagement, and interaction from a user.

 

If we apply this principle to FB, we can clearly see that most people on FB have lots of strong ties on FB (due to FB’s superb efficacy on maintaining relationships). Since these strong ties tend to draw more attention, they will compete with the weaker ties for a user’s attention. But who are these weaker ties?

 

Since any fan page is immediately accessible when you are on the FB platform, the weaker ties include the brands (i.e. the fan page and other members within the page). As we’ve already discussed, a fan page is a community; there are little pre-existing relationships on branded fan pages. Furthermore, a person’s relationship with a brand tends to be much weaker than their interpersonal relationships. Due to the relatively weak tie strength between customers and brands, some researchers even argue that customers generally do not actually have a relationship with a brand (see Figuring Out the Relationship Puzzle).

 

So who do you think is going to win this tug of war? The answer should be clear. Although the fan page is certainly going to lose the tug of war when it comes to competing for attention with the strong ties, it doesn’t mean that no one will visit the fan page. If you recall from my post on The Relativity and Economics of Relationship, weaker ties can sometimes win small amounts of attention though contextual and extrinsic factors, such as urgency, easiness, arousal, interest, and gaming. So fans will drop by a fan page to pick up a coupon if they find it valuable, they will ask a question if the need something, and they will look at an ad if it looks relevant or interesting. But with so many strong ties around competing for attention, it’s much harder for brands to engage their fans sufficiently to build any meaningful relationship with them.

 

In other words, the mere presence of strong ties on the FB platform inhibits the development of other weak ties, such as those with brands. This may sound counterintuitive, but it is crucially important: the reason that FB fan pages are not engaging enough to build relationships is ironically the fact that the FB platform is too engaging due to the presence of many pre-existing strong ties. As a result, it is often difficult to drive actions through a fan page.

 

The Conflict between Social Spheres (Communities)

Network Sphere 1008232_95103949s.jpgIn the offline world, weak ties (e.g. brands) can sometimes get your full attentions for an extended period of time when you are not actively engaged with your strong ties. Can brands utilize this mechanism to win your engagement on the fan page? Probably not! If you didn’t want to engage with your strong ties online, you probably wouldn’t be on FB. If you want to engage with anyone on FB, the rest of your strong ties will be there too.

 

If a fan page is not an efficient medium for brands to develop a meaningful relationship with their customers, what else can brands do? Historically and anthropologically the best place to develop relationships is in a community. Weak ties develop most rapidly in an environment devoid of distractions from the attention-demanding strong ties.

 

One of the reasons leading to the initial success of FB is the fact that they know how to leverage a university campus (which is a natural community) for relationship building. Most of the students have just left home, where they had most of their strong ties. Since they have just started college, there aren’t very many pre-existing strong ties in their engagement circle (i.e. the university campus). The university community (a social structure for building relationship devoid of strong ties) complemented with the FB social network (a social structure for maintaining relationships) is what led to FB’s initial success.

 

But wait the minute... Didn’t we just establish that a fan page is really a community? We did say that, so what is it about a FB fan page that makes it inefficient for building relationships? Clearly it has to do with the strong ties that are on FB. This is actually an interesting problem that has been documented in the research and academic community; it’s known as the problem of conflicting social spheres. In most cases, a person’s social sphere often corresponds to the different communities they belong to. Google researcher, Paul Adams, also gave an excellent presentation on this subject with his 224-page deck.

 

Simply put, there are natural boundaries between different social spheres (communities) in the offline world. These boundaries are created due to spatial and/or temporal separation of contact. However, FB removes these boundaries and treats the different types of relationships (e.g. my relatives in Taiwan, families in CA, high school friends, church friends, neuroscience colleagues, etc) as equal. The important side effect is that information within any one social sphere (community) will become visible to all. Research has shown that this often creates tensions that interfere with the development of new ties, and therefore constrain the growth of personal social networks.

 

Conclusion

There is no doubt that FB has enhanced the way we communicate and connect with our friends and relatives. It does such an excellent job on sharing information and maintaining relationships that it created a side effect due to its efficacy. This, unfortunately, has an adverse effect on the development of weaker ties on FB (such as relationships with brands through their fan page).

 

  1. FB is a social network (that contains many strong ties of a user)
  2. A fan page on FB is really a community (that generally has much weaker or no ties to a user).
  3. The strong ties (families and friends) on FB will compete with weaker ties (brands) for attention. The mere presence of strong ties on FB will inhibit the development of weaker ties with brands.
  4. FB removes the spatial/temporal boundaries between the different social spheres in our offline world by dumping all the different relationships of ours into one bucket: friends. This conflict of the social spheres further aggravate the competition for attention, and researches have shown that it often interfere with development of new ties.

 

Alright, this is a rather long and deep post that utilizes many social principles that we have discussed earlier. I hope it provides an understanding for the challenges when working with a FB fan page. Keep in mind that this is not a failure on FB’s part. The reason that FB has this problem is because it is doing an excellent job at what it’s supposed to do as a social network (i.e. maintaining relationships).

 

Next time we will look deeper at some of the greatest strengths of FB, so you’ll know both the strengths and weaknesses of this popular social platform. So stay tuned! As always, I welcome any comment, suggestion, critiques, and discussion. See you next time.

 

 

Comments
by A Maui Blog(anon) on ‎12-11-2010 01:41 AM

Insightful.  Looking forward to the next post on this. :smileyhappy:

 

Liza

by Lithium Guru on ‎12-11-2010 01:46 AM

Hello Liza,

 

Thank you for the nice comment.

 

Next time we will discuss the strength of FB from a social sciences perspective with respect to enterprises and businesses. Very glad to hear that you find this post insightful. Hope to see you next time.

 

 

by Matt Kammerait(anon) on ‎12-12-2010 05:33 PM

Insightful post Michael. Another piece that I think plays into this as well is the type of interactions that users expect to have on a given platform. Facebook users approach the platform expecting to have casual interactions with those with whom they have established relationships (as you point out) - and when they interact with a brand on the platform it is typically to aid in the development of those relationships - not their relationships with the brand or with strangers who are also interacting with the brand. I think this is a key piece that many marketers willfully ignore. If I indicate that I "like" a certain kind of music, or food, or a company on facebook, I'm doing so to let my friends and family know that I like that brand. In the early days of facebook I did this by including them in my interests or activities, but now can do so with one click by liking. It's the exceptional case when I'm looking for a meaningful interaction with the brand (and those cases usually involve discounts).

by Lithium Guru on ‎12-13-2010 02:14 AM

Hello Matt,

 

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

 

The users expectation is definitely going to affect how they form and build relationships on any particular entity, whether it is with brand or other people. You pointed out another very good observation that much of the effort to interact with brand is intended to help their friends and family (strong ties) know them better, so they can build even better and stronger relationship with the strong ties. I can see that this definitely leading to the riches get richer positive feedback. And since people’s attention is limited, that leaves the brand further behind in terms of relationship building.

 

So it seems that brand can only get a users intermittent attention by rewarding them with value (i.e. bargains and coupons etc.). There are many of these mechanisms where brands can get a users short attention, but these are generally not sufficient for building any meaningful relationships.

 

Thanks again for the comment. Hope to see you next time.

 

by Claudia Goffan(anon) on ‎12-13-2010 07:19 AM

Hi Mike,

 

As always, love to read your articles. I like the fact that you point out the discounts but I like even better that you mention the gaming aspect. Not too many brands are investing into FB games that allow their fans to "interact and play" with their brands. When they do, if the game is well thought out, the results are incredible. Why companies tend to do the same thing over and over with FB, if their results prove them not to be successful at it, totally escapes me. But I guess, people tend to stay in their comfort zone and avoid change.

 

Look forward to your next one!!! :smileyhappy:

 

Claudia

by Lithium Guru on ‎12-13-2010 12:30 PM

Hello Claudia,

 

Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

 

Yes, there are a several contextual factors that can alter the typically normal behavior of people on FB. Actually the bargain and coupon with expiration is a kind of gaming dynamics known as the appointment dynamics. Because people get rewarded (get some kind of bargain/coupon) when they do something by a certain expiration time (the appointment). As most have seen, and you've mentioned it, it is not sufficiently engaging for brands to build relationships with their customers.

 

There are a lot of science behind gaming/user behavior and it is hard to design a gaming dynamics that works properly. For a gaming dynamics to work properly, it means that they have to challenge the user enough to be engaging so they keep come back and not feel bored, but not too challenging that they feel it’s too hard that they give up. This fine balance is often an adaptive learning process. If you are interested in the psychology behind this aspect of gaming, I recommend you take a look at another article I’ve written earlier on the mental state of flow.

 

One of the reason that brands don’t do it could be because it is just hard to get it right (i.e. getting the fine balance between a game that is too easy vs too hard). Moreover, they may have to develop an FB app to properly implement the gaming dynamics.

 

Anyway, I hope I’ve address your questions. Thanks again for the comment and see you next time.

 

by Matt Kammerait(anon) on ‎12-13-2010 05:58 PM

Great tie to flow and Game Dynamics! I'm just rereading flow at the moment so this caught my eye. You should do a series on Game Mechanics/Dynamics and how to leverage them in light of what we learn in SNA. :smileyhappy:

by Lithium Guru ‎12-13-2010 07:10 PM - edited ‎12-13-2010 07:24 PM

Hello Matt,

 

Thank you for coming back. Glad you find the concept of Flow and Gaming interesting. Have you read the piece i wrote a while back on Flow and Gaming? I think you might find it interesting.

 

 

There are certainly a lot I can write about Gaming Mechanics/Dynamics+SNA+social science, since Lithium as you probably know, has a very strong gaming root. The trouble is finding the time to write them. I've just put this topic on my to-do list, and I will definitely do a series on this topic. What do the rest of the reader thinks? What other topics would you like to see?

 

Thanks again for the nice comment. See you again next time.

by Lithium Alumni (Retired) Lithium Alumni (Retired) on ‎12-14-2010 06:47 AM

Enjoyed the article, Michael. I'm glad to have come across the formal topic "conflicting social spheres". This is something I observed after joining FB and having my "friends" expand to include almost anyone I've ever had any kind of relationship with - school, work, family, sports, etc. I realized that these various sub-groups were familiar with different aspects of me. My high school buddies new a more obnoxious side of me than did my friends from meditation group. My family had a different view of me than my work colleagues, etc. So there was definetely a tension - which Mike is updating his status? :smileyhappy: I hope to find the time to look at the ACM article and Google deck.

by Lithium Guru on ‎12-14-2010 07:52 AM

Hello Mike,

 

Thank you for the comment and glad you enjoy it.

 

Yeah, there are several of these social effects out there that academicians discuss about. I will try to cover some more of them later if they appear relevant.

 

FB is finding ways to deal with the problem of conflicting social sphere now. They've started to classify relationships. Now you can specify people as relative as oppose to friends. But they are definiltey have a long ways to go, because the types of relationship that one can have collectively is a huge. And it is very difficult to get peple to go back and re-label their relationships. So the more user base they have, the more difficult it will be.

 

I think that the google deck is probably suffice. It tells a very good story. Unless you want the detail data and methodology, which you would have to get from the paper.

 

Thanks again for commenting.

 

by kirasw(anon) on ‎12-14-2010 09:52 AM

[re-posting this from the Social CRM page where Mike asked a similar question]

 

This might not be the nicest way to start the comments, but I usually find that brands have only themselves to blame. Most brands and companies are in Stage 2 of the Social Engagement Journey, meaning they have many, many fan pages for every last feature in their products instead of cohesive social presence strategy. And, the content most companies share is not optimized for fans' newsfeeds. Instead the content is optimized for what the company wants to communicate. So, effectively fan pages have become another one-way communication tool, which is not what FB optimizes for its algorithms.

by Lithium Guru on ‎12-14-2010 10:17 AM

Hello Kira,

 

Thank you for reposting this comment from the linkedin group page.


You are absolutely right! By spreading their presence, brands are essentially shooting themselves on the foot. One of the result I found when I was developing the community health index is that you need a concentrated activity to produce a sense of livelihood that attracts new members and grows the community. If brands are spreading their activity thin, then yes, they can only blame themselves.

 

To add a few more thought to this... As Jeremiah Owyang mentioned at his LeWeb keynote, if people simply put a follow me on FB or TW on their corporate homeage without an integrated strategy, they are actually driving traffic away, and thus doing themselves a dis-service. The effect would be N times worse if they have N fan pages.


Finally, if companies are still doing the 1-way communication, then they've totally missed the point of social. They are simply going to be ignored and left behind. Social communication platform is inherently bi-directional. And community is build on value co-creation between the customers and the brands. Roads with most traffic are never one way streets.


Thanks again for the comment. See you again next time.


by Andrei Kamarouski(anon) on ‎12-14-2010 12:16 PM

Hi Mike,

Great analysis of Fan Page social dynamic from SNA point of view.

But I ask me about the term "strong tie" for networked people (in the sense of your discussion with Ned-Kumar earler). 

It seems that you assume some sort of metrics by the vision of strengh. You speak about family and friends, where we have really deep social - emotional - history and observed future. But in some cases trusting require definitly fewer trust and building for meaningful relations? 

 

It seems that a communicating become easer and shifted to networking. 

I hope be understood :smileyhappy:

by 1114organic(anon) on ‎12-14-2010 01:15 PM

for me the draw to FB is interacting with friends no matter their location.  I do enjoy keeping up with their activities but do prefer the interaction much more.  Most of us have moved away from where we have me and most are busy so a daily phone call to everyone of my FB friends would not be practical.

 

I think theis is where most "social" sites fall on their face.  A fan page generates material so they can publish it to your activity stream much like a newletter.  Heaven  forbid that you post a comment on one of their postings or try and start a conversation (something I think that goes hand in hand with community) and your effort is met with silence.  The owners of the site are not paying attention.  They just want to tell you what is going on with them and thats it.  Dan Zarella's latest article "Stop Talking About Yourself, Start Talking as Yourself" also speaks to this point.  People get board of you if its just a one sided conversation.

 

-Robert

by Lithium Guru on ‎12-14-2010 03:05 PM

Hello Andrei,

 

Thank you for the comment. I am not sure if I get everything that want to say. But let me take a stab at it. If I completely missed your message, we can discuss further.

 

First, this is actually more of a social anthropological analysis of fan pages rather than a social network analysis (SNA). Let me clarify that strong tie and weak ties are relative to the individual. There is actually a distribution of tie strength spanning from the strongest (e.g. immediate family, close childhood friends) to the weakest (stranger that we just know the name). Strong ties are just those on one end of the spectrum and weak ties are on the other end. But we can draw the line in the middle pretty much anywhere we want, and different people draw the line at different places.

 

It seems that you have a question about how we determine the tie strength. How we measure or compute tie strength is the main issue of controversy. Some people infer them from the structural connectivity of the social graph, some measure tie strength by amount of time spent together, etc. There are many ways. Sociologist gave us some good starting points, and I like to use knowledge from that field without re-inventing the wheel. Please see Figuring Out the Relationship Puzzle on this topic. Basically tie strength is a function of 4 factors: time, intensity, trust, and reciprocity.

 

However, it doesn't mean that we need to have strong ties with brands in order to have a meaningful relationship with them. Because brands may never build up the emotional intensity with their customer, or have enough interaction with customers to have a lot of time spent together. But there should be trust and reciprocity.

 

I hope I've address your question. If not please feel free to ask agian. Thanks again for commenting.

 

 

by Lithium Guru on ‎12-14-2010 03:33 PM

Hello Robert,

 

Thanks for the comment. And what you said is absolutely right. People go on FB to interact with friends, because it does such an excellent job at overcoming the barrier of spatial and temporal separation.

 

To add to your point. FB is a social platform where communication is inherently bi-directional. But brands probably still think of it as just another medium and keep doing what they have been doing on traditional media. And that is one more reason why a FB fan page is not going to help brands build meaningful and deep relationships with their customers.

 

Value co-creation is key to sustaining a community. Anything that is overly biased for one sided value will not be sustainable. Please see my reply to Kira in the discussions above. Finally, I will reiterate what I say there: Roads with a lot of traffic are never one way streets.

 

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. Hope to see you again next time.


by Frequent Commentator on ‎12-14-2010 10:44 PM

Michael,

Excellent post. You put some real theory behind some of the things that is evident in the use of FB fan pages.

 

Many firms have the wrong perception that creating a "good" fan page is their biggest hurdle and once they have that they are going to ride the social media wave to success. The truth is far from it. As you point out through your community/tie-strength argument, creating a fan page is in a way the easiest of task. The more challenging task is how to (a) gain new fans, and more importantly (b) how to keep them engaged, interested, and interactive.

 

 

This is where real creativity comes in. To make the most out of FB fan page community, a brand should identify what their fans came for in the first place and then leverage that to "build" a relationship (my use of the word build might be slightly off from the normal use). This can be through gaming dynamics, leveraging empathy (e.g Target's Bullseyes Gives campaign), bridging convenience (online & instore experience), engaging fans in market research etc.

 

In the end, as you aptly mention in your post firms have to realize what exactly a fan page can and cannot be used for and also how best to leverage it given their company culture, business context, and other market factors.

 

Enjoyed the read.

 

Regards,

Ned

by Lithium Guru ‎12-14-2010 11:31 PM - edited ‎12-14-2010 11:38 PM

Hello Ned,

 

Thank you for being a loyal reader and keep coming back. I really appreciate that and all the great discussions too.

 

You are totally right with creating fan page is the easiest part. As with most social technologies, the adoption is always the easiest part. All it takes is a decision and some learning time to use the technology. The hard part usually involves the social dynamics that technologies cannot automate well. This is rarely discussed. That is why I want to take the time to talk about it here.

 

You actually hit home in when you say

"To make the most out of FB fan page community, a brand should identify what their fans came for in the first place."

Here is my question for you. Since a fan pages are on FB, why don't brands ask why to people go on FB in the first place?" So why do they go on FB? The answer is probably to interact and get info about their friends, families, etc (strong ties). Rarely would a person say they go to FB to check out a product or find out something about a brand. But it is the FB platform that provides all the interaction with friends/families, not the fan pages! That is the key reason why FB fan pages are not going to be an effective social platform for building customer relationships.

 

Even if brands can provide value to their fans or implement some gaming dynamics that draws their attention, the fans are not going to be there long enough for brands to build any meaningful relationship with them. Because what people want out of FB is provided so well by the FB platform that they won't pay much attention to the brands on the fan pages. And if people don't want to engage your friends, they probably won't go on FB in the first place.

 

So fan page is clearly not a very effective platform for building relationship. It is much better for maintaining pre-existing relationship, which is what a social networks supposed to do. Next time I will talk about what the fan page can do and does it very well for business. So stay tuned!

 

Thanks again for commenting and sharing your thought.

 

 

by Frequent Commentator on ‎12-15-2010 10:29 AM

Hi Michael,

I agree with you completely that it is FB that folks normally come to interact (with their friends/families). I also agree that for most firms the fan page might not be the most effective way for building relationship.
Having said that, I also don't think firms should start out with a negative outlook on the value that a FB fan page can provide. It really comes down to your business & context. [And keeping in mind that there are millions of folks out there and even getting a fraction really engaged might be worth it for their situation ].
An example that comes to mind is Harley-Davidson. I think one cannot find a better example of folks really identifying with the brand and for a company like Harley, I do think the FB fan page is a real community with a solid brand relationship.
Thoughts?
Regards,
Ned

 

by Lithium Guru ‎12-15-2010 03:12 PM - edited ‎12-15-2010 03:27 PM

Hello Ned,

 

Thanks again for continuing the conversation.


There is no doubt that the fan pages are community; structurally and functionally they are indeed communities. But that is not my point here. The point is whether they are good for relationship building. Despite the fact that communities are supposed to build relationship FB fan pages are not idea for this purpose due to the competition for attention and conflicting social sphere.


But that doesn’t mean fan pages have no value. They certainly have. It depends on how you use them. If you are using them to build relationship and drive action (e.g. purchase, referral), which they are not good at, your value gain would be much less. So you are much better off seeking other community solutions. Next week time I will talk about what fan pages are good at. And if you are using them the right way, you will get more bangs out of the buck.


Personally, I think it is nice to look at the success cases, such as Harley-Davidson (H-D), for understanding why they are successful. But you can pretty much find rare success cases in anything. They are the outliers not the norm. So sometime it could just be pure luck that they are successful. It is much more important to look at the success rate. That is, out of ALL the fan pages on FB, how many of them are successful like H-D. That should give you a rough estimate of your success rate if you do decide to go with FB fan pages and expect results like H-D.


OK, I hope this clear up some confusions. Thanks again for the discussion. Always enjoy it. Hope to see you next time.

by Andrei Kamarouski(anon) on ‎12-16-2010 11:39 AM

Hi Mike!

Thanks for a link to Puzzle post!

I am self sociologically educated and have some littile experience in researching labor networks :smileyhappy:

 

Have some words

1. FB is network of personal networks inside some pre-existing comminities. So I have established any strong ties inside Russian SMM community  (it is clear to see at social Graph in FB as minimal argument). 

2. What is a goal for fan page? If we think that it can create from "0", from nothing strong ties between brand and users - it's really impossible. But maybe sens is think about strong actions (pointed through given time) as in term "tie". My strong tie to Nike (as brand image?), for ex, is true consumption behaivor, but at fan page I make some strong actions - comments, reviews, abuses... I neddn't have a constant tie (series of actions) - but only some -  profitable for brand - actions. 

3. Problem is to develop ties between brand and user. Sense is to make relationships between users of brand. But function of fan page is to represent a brand, and not users of it. If company will keep at page many tacit trust/fan's acts of worship - they have only weak community.

So it seems look for me. 

by Lithium Guru ‎12-16-2010 02:07 PM - edited ‎12-16-2010 02:08 PM

Hello Andrei,

 

Welcome back and thanks for continuing the conversation.

 

I'm actually not a sociologically trained. My education is in mathematics/physics and statistics/machine learning. But I just feel that to understand social media, I need to attack it from multiple angles. So both the rigorous math/stat is as well as the social sciences are needed. And that is how I plan to study social media.

 

There is a clear and complementary role for communities and social networks. As you mentioned, social graph (or social networks) forms naturally in a community. I actually wrote about that in my Cyber Anthropology post, which you might find interesting due to your sociology background.

 

You are absolutely right. Action (and presumably profitable action) is what most brands want. But how do you get action out of fans? That is the key question. We have over 10 years of data on commununity user behaviors and we see a lot of actions that are extremely (I mean hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars) profitable to companies. Some of the popularized case studies are Dell's Predator (Dell were still on our community platform back then) and Logitech's Kachiwachi. However, actions on FB fan pages were pretty insignificant for the most cases. That is what promoted me to look into the cause.

 

As I’ve mention in my reply to Ned above, I am not saying that fan pages don’t have value. It has definitely has value, but your ROI would not be as good as it could be.

 

Why? Because many researches have shown that friends and families influence each other the most. And the common link there is that these people have strong ties to each other. So there seem to be a strong correlation between tie strength and the ability to drive action. Although building relationship is not the only way to drive action. It is one way to drive actions persistently in the long term. And we see this in our community data too.

 

People can certainly use coupon/bargain to attract visitor to come and do something. If that is the case, IMHO, I think they are missing the whole point of being social. They could have put those coupons and bargains on their corporate homepage and the effective value gain would probably be very similar.

 

Alright, I hope this clarfiy some of the issues you point out. Thank you again for the discussion. See you again next time.

 

 

by Commentator KaushalS on ‎12-28-2010 10:47 AM

Michael,

 

The focus of your article and following comments have been about how FB fan pages are not an effective way of building ties with consumers of a brand.  I totally agree with all of this.  However, are companies able to access the networks of their fans to find potential customers?  I'm not sure whether or not this is possible, but given all the publicity about Facebook's lack of privacy controls, I imagine this would be possible.  Do you have a sense of whether companies are actually leverage this valuable information or is it too difficult to do so in a practical manner?

 

Thanks,

Kaushal

by Lithium Guru on ‎12-29-2010 04:35 PM

Hello Kaushal,

 

Thank you for coming back and commenting.

 

Glad to hear that we agree :-)  I also agree with you in that companies can probably have some access to their fans. However, it might not be easy to find potential customers from fans. Just because people click "Like", it doesn't mean they will buy. In fact that is one of the problem with fan pages we try to explain here. Fan pages have a hard time driving people to take action to purchse. If they don't have a good marketing strategy with these people, they can easily turn their fans into foes.

 

I'm not aware of companies leveraging this information. And I think the main reason is precisely that brands don't have a good strategy to market to fans. Basically, brands only know who they are on FB, and brands can only communicate with them through FB. Brands don't have fans' email or any other means of contacting them. But any marketing communication through FB is tracked, searchable, and visible to everyone. So you probably don't want to do anything that fans can turn into a weapon against the brand later. It doesn't look like an easy task to manage.

 

That's just my thoughts. I hope this address your questions. Thanks for asking and see you around next time.