Wednesday, June 01, 2011

You Don't Really "Like" It, Do You?

Let's be honest, almost everyone uses facebook now and it has become quite the tool for businesses, individuals, brands, and just about anything you can think of that needs promotion.  I end up checking and using facebook altogether too much. As much as I dislike it, it is the tool to use for keeping up with your social circles when not with those people in real life. And as a promotional tool it is turning out to be huge, even more so than a strong Twitter following. In fact, I think that Twitter will lose relevance in a couple of years as it becomes more and more apparent that facebook is the social tool to use.

I've been using facebook as a place to, somewhat shamelessly, plug myself and what I do/write at times and I've found that it is usually great for sparking conversations, much more so than Twitter ever did for me and much, much, much more than just tossing stuff up on this here blog and hoping to get some interactions from the denizens of the interwebs. And it's also been a great tool for my mom's photography business (Fotos Forever) and for Decoy Music. Instead of simply advertising to gain traffic, the social connections created via the various webs weaved by people and businesses in facebook can be used organically to gain more popularity or, using facebook's terminology, "likes".

I've seen, to a small extent in the time I've worked with both of these facebook pages, the importance of utilizing "social graphs," the buzzword of the day. For the Fotos Forever page, having past, current, and future customers keeping up on what's going provides a sense of "closeness" to the business. You get to read and see how the business is working, get updates on potential deals, and even see if any of your friends have liked the business. Yes, it's a small social graph at the moment (my mom's studio is in a rural Minnesota area), but it still serves a purpose.

With Decoy Music's facebook, we simply want to get as many people to like our page as possible, as well as show up as being linked to from other pages, most notably bands we've covered, their labels, and their PR companies. We want eyeballs on our facebook page in order to funnel users to our actual webpage. Simply getting eyes on our facebook page is only a stepping stone of the actual process we want our users to go through. At the end of the day, Decoy needs to make enough money to stay afloat and hosted. In order to do that, we need people to see and (hopefully) click on the ads that are running on our site. Facebook, for Decoy's purposes, is used the same way we use Twitter--it's a tool to herd people to our actual website.  If we're getting likes on facebook, but they don't translate into further traffic to the Decoy website, it's not as much of a win for us. Yes, it makes us look better the more likes we have, but ultimately we need to translate those like, those links from bands, those mentions by PR contacts, and the interweaving of our fans' social graphs into more eyeballs on the Decoy website.

At the current moment we only have around 375 likes on Facebook, but we've been using a completely organic approach to gaining likes. Even though we've talked about it, we've avoided the artificial inflation tactics to push up your likes. The biggest of these tactics is something we're seeing all too often, especially with bands, and it is becoming very annoying for me, personally, and that is the practice of forcing someone to "like" your page in order to see the content of the page. For instance, many bands force you to like their page in order to hear a new song or see a video or get some piece of information.  This helps pump up a band's likes, but I don't think it translates into sticky fans. If someone is really a fan of the band, they're probably already a fan. The only people you're pulling in are people that may want to have temporary access to the "hidden" content. In the end, these likes will turn to unlikes or, if they stick, the users may not be as interactive as you'd want.

The plus side to this tactic is that it does get you more exposure. Having your page liked shows up in more and more people's news feeds. Some people who like the page but aren't interested may not "unlike" the page since it's a hassle. Your like totals will grow, giving you some numbers clout to use.  These are all great things to have, however, it feels... shady. I realize there are plenty of shady practices used to promote things, especially on facebook, but this one tactic really gets under my skin. I often find myself purposely avoiding bands or products that want to force me to like something in order to have access to their content. In the future, maybe we'll have to resort to this tactic for the Decoy Music facebook page simply because it works, but I'd really love to see things take off organically as it feels so much more satisfying to have people profess their fandom because they genuinely want to "like" you instead of being forced to like you because of a gimmick.

1 comment:

Jared said...

I am completely against holding your fans/followers hostage for content. The whole "If we get x number of likes" or "x number of followers" idea is BS. Those followers don't mean anything if you don't continue to engage them in meaningful ways. Otherwise, as you said, they'll just move on, unlike, or unfollow.

Something you didn't bring up though is how Facebook specifically handles likes. If you like a band's Facebook page, they then have access to your personal information. There is no prompt to tell you this and I would wager a guess that most people don't know that. I believe if your settings are more public, then they can also see things like who your friends are. People are opening themselves up and they don't even realize it. Every time you like something Facebook, you should just assume they're able to see all the same things the people you friend can see.