Advertising to Facebook “Fans” Alone Contradicts Marketing Theory

This research paper was featured in Campaign US magazine.

As we noted in a previous post, 97% of the world top 100 brands on Facebook still post organic content.

Through BBDO’s partnership with Unmetric, we found that at least 80% of public content on top branded pages is without paid media support.

Not only does this mean that a very few people are seeing a brand’s content, but those exposed to this content are only the page “Likes” or, as we used to call them, Facebook ‘fans’.

This implies that many marketers believe there’s value in consistently publishing content for their social fan community alone — essentially, driving business results through a loyalty approach.

The problem is, we know loyalty campaigns (across any channel) have consistently proven ineffective at driving brand growth.

Penetration Campaigns outperform Loyalty Campaigns, every time.

In the 880 cases analyzed from the IPA databank by Les Binet & Peter Field in 2007, the percentage of cases that reported “very large” business effects (sales, market share, penetration, loyalty, price sensitivity, or profit) for loyalty campaigns was only 44%, while penetration campaigns had an effective success rate of 77% for the metrics outlined above.

Light Buyers vs. Heavy Buyers

This is in large part due to the fact that ‘light buyers’ — those who know or care little about your brand — contribute the most to sales effects.

How do we know whether or not Facebook fans are heaviest buyers? To answer that, Karen Nelson-Field and Kellie Newstead ran a study in 2012 that collected self-reported purchase data from Facebook fans of two brands in repeat-purchase categories (chocolate and soft drinks) and then used actual consumer panel data for the same brands as a comparison.

They found that the Facebook fan base for these brands were composed of the heaviest of the brands’ buyers. Thus, Nelson-Field and Newstead concluded that “Facebook fan pages are inefficient at providing vast reach to light buyers. [These] fan pages are not reaching the most fundamental customers needed for brand growth.”

Grow your reach to drive results

For brands to grow, they cannot just target loyal consumers, but must also aim to increase their customer base to include light category buyers and non-buyers. This can only be achieved through paid support content that actively seeks to reach light and non-buyers consumers at scale.

This article is part two of a five part series highlighting BBDO Comms Planning’s latest report, About Face: A New Approach to Facebook for Big Brands.

To download this white paper, click here.

Binet, Les, and Peter Field. Marketing in the Era of Accountability: Identifying the Marketing Practices and Metrics That Truly Increase Profitability. Henley-on-Thames: World Advertising Research Center, 2007.
Sharp, Byron. How Brands Grow: What Marketers Don’t Know. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010.
Nelson-Field, Karen, Byron Sharp, and Kellie Newstead. Viral Marketing: The Science of Sharing. Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.
Field, Peter, and Les Binet. “The Long and the Short of It: Balancing Short and Long-Term Marketing Strategies.” IPA, n.d. 12 June 2013.