The Corporate Battle of the Facebook Likes

One of the best things about my job is that I get to meet executives from many different companies, both big and small.  I was having a discussion the other day with a digital marketing executive from a seriously huge brand (can’t politely name it) and he told me this story, which he said was OK to share with you …

His company, a famous consumer products company, became obsessed with assuring that their brands had more Facebook “Likes” than equivalent competitor products.  It actually became a marketing strategic goal and part of the annual performance objectives for brand managers.

The brand equity is roughly equivalent to something like “Mr. Clean” — successful, well-known, historic, but not exactly the center of daily conversation. A household given.

The company has two success metrics for this social media initiative:  1) Did the brand have more Likes than the leading competitor and 2) What was the “cost per Like?”  So internally, brand managers competed fiercely to have the lowest “Like acquisition cost.”

At first, I was amazed that a major brand would have such a seemingly strange view of marketing success but these are smart people so I gave them the benefit of the doubt and tried to figure out what the possible benefits of this approach might be. Here’s what I dreamed up:

  • Perhaps they have research that shows there is important value in the appearance — “the social proof” — of having lots of Facebook Likes versus competitors.
  • Maybe they are planning to create exceptional content that will reward those people who like the brand and turn them into fans. I don’t think this is the case, but it could be possible.
  • Some studies have come out equating Facebook fans with a dollar value. I am skeptical about these generalizations but maybe they have some new market insight about this potential.
  • By creating this internal competition, perhaps they are exploring best practices to garner fans.
  • Maybe with this experiment, they are figuring out the most cost-effective way to link paid advertising and interaction on Facebook

On the surface, this battle of Facebook Likes seems arbitrary, but what do you think?  What is the possible value?  Are people getting caught up in this at your company?  Are you linking “Likes” to brand loyalty or sales?

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