It’s not hard to sniff out a Facebook follow scam. It reminds me of penny stocks or a Ponzi scheme. If you see a self-checkout right on the page where you can send a PayPal payment or order fans in bulk, run. You’re getting bot traffic, international traffic, traffic rings and other so-called fans that will never result in engagement or sales of any kind. Now if you just want to be able to say you have 100,000 fans but don’t care beyond a single boasting metric, then go for it.
The idea here is: If you fan me, I’ll fan you. Often there’s a credit system in place where it’s not a one-to-one trade, as you find on Twitter. Some of these trades are automated fan exchanges. Not only is this against the Facebook Terms of Service, but these firms require you to give them administrative access to your page. Might as well give them your social security number while you’re at it.
Our ‘proprietary’ system!
These charlatans will try to sell you an ebook or software, promising the “secrets” to making millions. If you believe that, I’d like to sell you some oceanfront property in Colorado. Do they have real examples to share, or must you pay to see them?
The alternative: A marketing strategy for fan acquisition and valuation
In the end, there’s just no substitute for a clear marketing strategy for fan acquisition and valuation. On Facebook, three things are key when appealing to customers: Decide what your best customers look like, write ads that appeal to them, and send them to a landing page that makes good on that compelling value proposition. Then test like crazy to fine-tune your targeting, ad copy, and landing pages. Know what your fan costs and what a fan is worth — hopefully, the former is greater than the latter.
The hucksters described above present you with a simple shopping cart check out to sell fans — select how many fans you want and then pay. Yet how could they possibly deliver on that promise if you don’t inform them of your unique selling proposition, which particular audiences to go after, and how you will engage or convert them? Are you trusting them to write whatever ad copy they want, buy traffic from underdeveloped countries, or make misleading promises about your brand to encourage users to click Like? We’ve seen some firms place a dozen Like buttons on a page and offer an incentive to users who click on all of them. Those users who are clicking on the Like buttons machine gun style — have they had a chance to learn about your brand?
Using analytics to optimize your outreach and campaigns
No amount of software or gimmicks can substitute for not having a strategy in place. A key component of that strategy is analytics. You must be able to measure fan quality so that you can use this as a basis to optimize your campaigns. What is a fan worth to you? What are you doing with these folks once they become a fan? And how do you identify and reward your most loyal fans — the people who love your product or service in real life?
The idea of spending money on Facebook ads just because the CEO said to do it or because your competitor has more fans is ludicrous. You might be inviting derelicts to loiter in the lobby of your high-end hotel, which will discourage the very customers you want to serve. Your real fans will notice who is in your community and decide whether they want to spend time with you there.
Imagine your fan page now has a bunch of 13-year-olds from Indonesia and Turkey (no offense, folks). These could be people who clicked Like on your page because they wanted to earn some FarmVille dollars for a Facebook game. Not only do they not know about your product, but they don’t even speak English.
A simple litmus test for quality
Whether you’re evaluating your page, the agency you’re considering, or the clients they put forth as examples, just look at their wall. Is there a lot of user interaction relative to how many fans they have? Count up the number of Likes and comments for the most recent post, which is the number of interactions. Divide that by the number of fans they have. If it’s less than 1 in 200 (half a percent), then the engagement rate is low.
Your cost per fan depends upon the industry your company is in, how well you can capitalize on your brand’s real-world awareness, and how effectively you run your Facebook campaigns. Of 11,000 Facebook campaigns we analyzed in a recent study, the cost per fan was $1.07. But that averages out entertainment categories that are half that cost, versus healthcare and financial companies that might be five times the cost. Just like in regular Pay Per Click marketing or even direct marketing as a whole, the cost to acquire a customer varies dramatically.
So determine what your real world customer is worth, ensure that your Facebook fans are of the same quality, and then apply the same ROI measurements you’d apply to any other channel. Don’t entrust your marketing strategy or Facebook advertising to an outsider. Does this mean don’t hire an agency? No, just make sure you run the strategy, while they execute the details. Does this mean don’t buy Facebook ads? No, just make sure you’re connecting with your valuable customers and nurturing them in a profitable way.