Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? The immediate answer for many people would be a straight: Yes, it is possible. You only need to look at our daily lives to see where we have a surfeit of materials, of possessions, of things which have been wanted, purchased and, after only a short period of time, laid to one side again. Daily lives are, however, completely different to our virtual lives, to our use of Social Media. Here many may claim that the one thing we decidedly do not have enough of is Time: sufficient time to spend chatting with faraway friends and acquaintances; to read blogs; to surf interesting sites; to stay in touch. A few more hours in the day and we might be happy with our online social lives, especially when one or another of our online contacts lives in a foreign country and the time zones are too far apart to allow normal conversation at a civilized time of day Egypt or night.
Social media is, however, far more than just a social gathering of friends and relationships: it has become the meeting point between ordinary people and the business or products which interest them; social media has become the ground used as a virtual marketplace. Social media and the networks which have been built up over the last five to eight years is a sales arena which can be exploited, in the best sense of the word, by all those who know how to do it effectively.
The high point, for many, of social media and networking is Facebook. The social giant is without a shadow of a doubt the most present social media platform in the world, with more connections and links than any one person can imagine or fathom. Mark Zuckerberg has managed to build an empire which spans both private and public life, which bridges the gap between personal conversation and business interests. In short, any business which is not represented on Facebook, either through advertizing or through a Fan Page, is not up with the times, is not operating effectively in today's marketplace. And there is hardly a web site today which does not have a Facebook symbol included somewhere, which does not want its visitors to click the famous Like button and show their appreciation of what they've seen, endorse products, brand names, events .
The question is, what happens next? After a visitor to one or another web site has shown their appreciation, has clicked on the Like button and told all their friends that this one company has earned their respect or their custom, what is the next stage?
Before Facebook began to take its hold on our social connections, many companies had a small form offering e-mail updates or, sometimes, a regular newsletter. Many still have this facility on offer, but it has become lost amidst all the various buttons you can click, the various symbols and graphics which link to other sites where you can show your approval. The newsletter or a regular e-mail to customers was one of the few means by which a company could quickly and inexpensively bring new products to a set base of people, could present itself in a new light or simply get the customers to keep on coming back. Today, with the expanding use of Social Media and the building up of interconnected Social Media Networks, more and more reliance is being placed of the number of people who Like a Fan Page, a web site, a company. More and more reliance is being placed on these people coming back to the company of their own free will and without a specific object or product in mind. The personal connection to a customer base has been lost as more value is placed upon achieving high Like figures, on showing that a half million or even ten million have enjoyed, would recommend what is on offer.
The figures on Facebook, and other sites, of appreciation are only a minor part of the whole, they do not count towards the bottom line at the end of the year. As good publicity, fine, they show that so many people have visited the web site. As a ranking tool, most certainly also a good thing, but that does nothing for sales, nothing for customer communication, and little to ensure that these customers – or potential customers – ever return. The only way that the figures on Facebook can really be judged as a success, from a marketing point of view, is if each and every one of these individual people remain in touch with the company, remain up to date with their products and services. Anyone who compares the number of Likes against the number of visitors to a web site, the number of visitors to a Fan Page, will immediately see that there is a discrepancy: the Likes are always going to be greater than the number of returning visitors, greater than the number of individual sales made. Anyone who relies on these figures to show their business popularity does themselves, and their company, a disservice.
A recommendation is one thing, turning that recommendation into actual live visits to a web site or a store is quite another. Having a million recommendations on Facebook is completely different to knowing exactly what they are recommending and whether they have purchased the item or simply like the color. To put it in a nutshell: a Like on Facebook is not the same as a dollar in the cash register; it is worth considering less. Why else does a company with millions of 'followers' on Facebook still need to advertize elsewhere?
The answer to this last question is simple: the company concerned has no connection whatsoever to the person who recommended them. It is a one way, one time transaction. A click on a button and the potential customer is gone, with no guarantee that they will ever return, will ever live up to the hopes and dreams of Facebook advocates, of marketing executives.
A company with a million Facebook Likes is in no better position than a smaller business with a few hundred. They appear to be more popular, but nothing more than that. The connection to the potential customer base is missing, and it is this direct connection which is of far more importance, it is this personal connection which brings the customer back into the store – or to the store time and time again.
How, though, can a company with millions of Likes on Facebook turn these recommendations into income?
The first thing that is needed is a change to how the Facebook Like button, and other similar recommendation tools, work. If a recommendation is coupled with a redirect to a survey page on the site, for example, or to an offer of further information through a regular newsletter the first step has been taken. A survey page can provide the marketing and public departments with valuable information on what the customer is recommending, on what they appreciate about the web site. Coupled with a regular newsletter tailor to the customers' needs, it provides a much needed connection to someone who has already indicated that they like what they have seen. This works for businesses of all sizes, regardless of how many Likes they may gain.
A second change which might be considered is having individual Facebook buttons according to product or item. A single button which passes a recommendation on for one web site filled with hundreds of products helps no one but those who compile statistics. A Facebook button which provides information on exactly where the potential customer or visitor is or what they have seen is invaluable.
Most important, however, is the customer connection. Having no feedback from visitors over what they wish to see, not being able to recommend similar items or new products at a future date is the equivalent of turning customers away at the door.
A third variable on the Facebook Like button is having a direct link from the recommending person – their Facebook page – back to the company which they have recommended. The ability to communicate to them through Facebook, to say: You Liked us and we have something new. Interaction is a two-way medium and contains far more than one person saying Yes and leaving it at that. True interaction is when the recommended company can say: And what about this? and gain further insight on products and brands through specific answers. Interaction involves a similar process to that used successfully by Amazon – with their recommendations and Other People Also Bought – but through Facebook or any of the other Social Media Networks available. A simple information sent out to those who Liked a page when there has been a change or when there is a special offer, or coupled with a discount or coupon incentive.
A business can indeed have too much of a good thing if that business can not turn a high number into a solid return. If the communication between customer and business is missing, it is the business which loses out, often to the competition.