‘Like’ you know, whatever

Naysayers have been arguing for a while now that Facebook may have peaked in the UK. It’s true that their growth is not as prolific as it once was, and that some users are turning away through frustration with the opacity of their privacy policies, or even just through boredom. New members continue to sign up in their thousands every week though, and reports suggesting a decline in overall membership have been shown to manipulate the statistics to support premeditated hypotheses. Lies and damned lies, etc.

 

The fact is that if the level of sign-ups is slowing down, this is largely because of saturation. Most young people already have accounts, so new sign-ups will largely come from older demographics who traditionally tend to be late adopters. With Facebook traffic continuing to increase every week, and half the population now owning accounts, it looks certain to remain a platform that you should ignore at your peril.

 

Liking things

The ‘Like’ button, in case you’ve been living under a rock without internet access for the last few years [although how you’re reading this blog does pose a few questions] is a way for Facebook users to align themselves with your brand. Many users, particularly younger ones, don’t need any encouragement to do this; it’s nice to show off what exquisite taste you have in things to your friends. However the more savvy companies have taken to offering additional content, exclusive deals and more in exchange for ‘Likes’. This effectively gives them a quantifiable online fanbase, which is a useful thing to have, but more importantly it’s a priceless channel to engage with your customers through direct marketing.

 

Which brands are doing it right?

The popularity of certain brands on Facebook is a clear reflection of the demographics using it, as reflected in the table below.

Burberry has worked hard to engage with their customers on Facebook, but they were helped by having a head-start in being a brand that’s already hugely popular with younger consumers. Skittles have been into new media and viral marketing for years now, going back to adverts like this:

 

So establishing a popular brand on Facebook was a logical progression for them. Likewise with Cadbury, who have tried to integrate their marketing campaigns across various platforms simultaneously. Smirnoff and iTunes are other brands that you’d largely expect to be popular with the general Facebook demographic. It’s more interesting to think about brands popular with young people that are conspicuous in their absence. Why, for instance, is Blackberry not up there? For all their recent troubles they still have a huge customer base. Are they missing a trick here?

 

Not just youth brands

As the demographics of Facebook users slowly shift, we’re also seeing a shift in which brands are increasing their share. This graph shows the growth for fan pages as a percentage increase in what they were at the beginning of the year.

Very few if any of these brands are known for their youth appeal. The actual numbers are still way off the millions of followers that Burberry and Skittles enjoy, but this does go to show that Facebook is not just a young person’s game anymore. For older users, ‘Liking’ something isn’t so much a badge of consumerism, but a practical way to get more out of a brand, be it technical support, exclusive offers or finding out release dates and prices for products.

 

The conclusion to draw from this seems to be that in taking your brand online, it’s not enough to sit there and wait for the brand advocates to declare their liking for you. Facebook is changing, the people who use Facebook are changing, and just like with every other platform, you need to know your market. Just because you can’t hope to challenge with Burberry for the most fans on Facebook, doesn’t mean it’s not an invaluable channel through which to engage with your customers and add value.

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