The Unbearable Likeness of Mass

Originally posted by  09.09.12

I was sitting in a strategy meeting the other day of a company that was scoping out media and platforms for its below the line spend. In the meeting, the brand manager repeatedly reinforced his wish for a greater number of “likes” on the brand’s Facebook page. The CEO heard that was the “new big thing”, so that was the directive. To be fair the brand guy didn’t agree with it, but he also hadn’t pushed back. So “get more likes” was the challenge put forward.

It’s not the first time I have seen nor heard this request from clients. Can you conceptualize a competition or campaign that can increase the brand’s “likes”? My answer is generally, “probably” but why on earth would you want to?

It goes back to our unending need to drive the numbers up everywhere, sometimes regardless of whether it actually means a better result for the business. It is still a 90′s and early 00′s mentality to me. Media buyers demand return on investment, planners need to see numerical results and brand managers need something to put into an Excel spreadsheet as to why online and social media is so costly and why we need it so desperately. But let’s be completely honest: having 10 000 likes on your business’ Facebook page is irrelevant. It means nothing; if anything its a status symbol, but then so was having Anna Nicole Smith on your arm ten years ago. Now, like Anna, it’s dead and old news; at best a bit of dress up for reporting back to the boardroom. Another piece of mumbo-jumbo to impress the suits.

I am willing to bet that the majority of campaigns to incentivize or drive traffic to a Facebook page may well build up your “likes”, but do very little for your brand, if that is your main intention. Put simply, as a consumer we don’t care. To click “like” for a chance to win is easy (it’s also “Facebook illegal” but the loopholes around it are ever-present). We will do it all day long. It doesn’t mean we like you. It’s kiss-catch for the consumer. A quick chase for a chance of brief reward. Then on to the next one.

We go to the trough when something is on offer; after that we go wherever else new slops are dished. As a business you’re hoping that “x” amount of people consume or take note of your brand and you may even see it as a way to communicate with those 10 000 people who “like” you. But you are competing against a thousand other brands who did the same thing and even more recently than you; and in an environment where the average wall of a teenage Facebook consumer moves faster than a bribed politician. You are hit and miss at best. Bragging rights is one thing but as an actual brand loyalty exercise, it’s weak.

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