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Most Top Brands on Facebook Still Don't Talk to Their Fans

Out of Interbrand's Top 50 Global Brands on Facebook, 27 of them won’t even reply directly to their customers. This is according to a study conducted by Jim Singer, a partner at A.T. Kearny, who spoke at the Media Technology Summit last week in New York City. As recently as May of 2012, Singer reported that companies as consumer-facing as Disney, McDonald’s, and Sony only allow posts that were created by the companies themselves. (An interesting side note: Apple still has no official Facebook presence, though a fan-created page has still attracted 7.8 million likes since coming online in July 2011, almost more than Sony (3.4 million) and McDonald’s (5.2 million) combined.)

“They’re still posting coupons, sales, and other promotions, but largely these conversations are still one-way,” said Singer. “For the first time, many marketers have to engage with their customers instead of talking at them, and it’s becoming a nightmare.”

Singer explained this behavior based on two main theories. First, companies are genuinely concerned with losing control over their message and branding. More than a third of all the posts collected were ones that would only do the companies harm. About 27% of all the posts surveyed were pure spam, but another 8% were real complaints. People with gripes about a company can vent their feelings on an official company portal, sharing their complaints not only with the companies themselves but also with the potentially millions of hard-earned fans.

But the other reason is that many marketers simply don’t know how to create the kinds of conversations that engage customers. 20 of the 50 companies have a 4:1 company to customer ratio of posts on their Facebook pages. 71% of the company posts were promotional, but only 5% of all posts actually sought to create real conversation with their customers 

Not all hope is lost, though. Singer went on to discuss that three ways companies can successfully connect with their customers on Facebook: “using nostalgia, product discussions, and finding common causes.” For example, Coca-Cola has almost 130 years of history with its products, and with it decades of iconic memorabilia its consumers can relate to. Sony partnered with Foursquare to encourage customers on Facebook to check in at its PlayStation HQ stores, getting them special deals and then asking for feedback. And the Harley-Davidson Foundation publicly made a $1 million donation to Disabled American Veterans on Veteran’s Day, along with posting an associated story about a veteran who was also a Harley-Davidson owner, which combined generated almost 10,000 “likes” and 400 hundred comments.

The days of merely trying to drive up Facebook fans are drawing to a close. The guests have arrived, and it’s now up to companies to make sure they have a reason to stay. What are some of the best ways you’ve seen companies engage with their customers on Facebook? 

(More can be found on A.T. Kearny's study here: Socially Awkward Media)

Join The Conversation

  • Romona Foster's picture
    Oct 30 Posted 4 years ago Romona Foster

    This is a little shocking.  With all of the talk about "engagement" this really surprises me.

  • Oct 23 Posted 4 years ago olsonjm

    Marketers shouldn't be engaging with consumers anyway.....public relations pros should be the ones having the conversation with the consumers because they are skilled in talking to people, plus they want to engage in conversation with consumers, unlike marketers.

  • Adam Chapman's picture
    Oct 22 Posted 4 years ago Adam Chapman

    That's rather heartening. Lowe's always did have a stronger focus on customer care (sort of following the Avis model); do you think your success was made more possible due to customer care being in your culture, a few fortunate hires, or a combination of both? (Or something else entirely?)

  • Adam Chapman's picture
    Oct 22 Posted 4 years ago Adam Chapman

    It's agencies like yours that give us hope there's still sanity and someone considering the clients' best interests out there. How do you feel about branded communities?

  • Adam Chapman's picture
    Oct 22 Posted 4 years ago Adam Chapman

    That's kind of fascinating, Rahul. Have your clients seen any kind of ROI since starting their Facebook pages, or do they consider it something they have to do now just to tread water? 

  • Adam Chapman's picture
    Oct 22 Posted 4 years ago Adam Chapman

    Couldn't agree with you more. If you haven't already, check out my latest piece on SAP and The Social Customer (don't worry, there isn't too much SAP in it). I talk about some of the points you make and I'd like to hear your thoughts on them.

  • aloha22's picture
    Oct 22 Posted 4 years ago aloha22

    Facebook will always be one of the best places to promote any business. With a professional fan page your traffic and sales will be much greater than before.

  • Oct 22 Posted 4 years ago ebarkaee

    Its a pity marketing managers still view customer service as a disturbence and also tend not to listen.

    Top managers and also common sense says otherwise.

    Listen to your customers and if you are using social networks for marketing, converce with your customers, do not be afraid of bad reviews (But rather handle them) - This will, in the long term, create a more layal customers and will benefit marketing as well !!


  • ChrisSyme's picture
    Oct 21 Posted 4 years ago ChrisSyme

    This is a great discussion. For me, as principal of an agency, my bottom line advice to clients is, not everyone belongs on Facebook. We never advise clients to get a Facebook page until we have given them a full list of responsibilities that goes with it. If, through needs assessment, we find they don't have the time, money, and people to make it work well, we advise against. There are a lot of channels out there and with the increased difficulty of getting seen in people's newsfeeds, it isn't worth it for many of my clients. It's not a marketing requirement for every business. I think the days of thinking everybody has to be there are over with. I have advised more than one client to take their Facebook page down and pay more attention to their website and customer service portals.

  • Oct 21 Posted 4 years ago Brad Walters

    I'd say visit Lowe's Home Improvement Facebook ( page and scroll the wall/timeline for a good example.  You'll see that we respond to everyone's post in a very timely manner.  For customer care issues, we direct the conversation into email for our customers privacy. But even non-customer care related issues will receive a response from our social media team (and no, our team does not consist of interns, but rather a team of social media managers, content developers and social media specialists).  Our content is created internally by our team instead of being shipped to an agency, which allows us to create an authentic voice, an informed cadence on when content gets posted and we work to provide content that our customers find valuable and useful without over filling newsfeeds with sales messages. 

  • Ebusinesssubmit's picture
    Oct 20 Posted 4 years ago ebusinesssubmit

    Undoubtedly true.. why they make fanpages if they didn't respond back.. this is really disgusting :(

  • Oct 20 Posted 4 years ago sivasankar1323

    This is the real sitution of all the pages on Facebook.Spend so much money for upgrading marketing plans and entering into social.Now brands are on no mans land searching for solution waht to do with the fan base.Some points in the article must be taken into consideration.Again it is the PTAT which the real score for fanbase not the like count.

  • mcgannonma's picture
    Oct 19 Posted 4 years ago mcgannonma


    I think it’s a combination because they are promoting their own work or the work of their own company, so they have a vested interest in success. The cosplay models and game designers that I follow on facebook/twitter for them this is not only their job, but at this time it’s a whole lifestyle and they are getting paid to do something they enjoy and would do if they were working a regular 9-5 job for free. Making a living from the work is a bonus, so you can tell they are exciting about promoting their work.


    With larger companies employee # whatever is assigned to maintain the social media pages or they are outsourced to a company that handles social media counts. In this case you’re losing both the personal touch and the vested interest in seeing the successful use of social media. If you have an intern or relatively new employ maintaining the social media pages at say Kraft Foods, do you think they really care about the facebook or twitter account? Probably not, they might see it as just another boring task or something they need to do before they can move on to some real work.


    A 3rd party who is handling the account while they may have a general interest in keeping the client happy, that doesn’t mean they are going to necessarily be passionate about the work, so again it becomes simply a task someone needs to do.


    So for example if you look at the BMW facebook page it’s pretty typical of a company/brand page and pretty boring. They post photos and notices you would see on their website in the news/press release section, but there is not interaction between anyone in the company and the people on facebook.


    Not using one of the professional coplay models as an example


    She does post allot of photos, but she lets her fans know what she’s doing, what events she’s going to attend, posts updates from the events, posts contests, merchandise information and generally interacts with her fans.

  • Rahul S's picture
    Oct 19 Posted 4 years ago Rahul S

    Being the admin of many brand pages, I know how difficult it is to handle them. To increase fan base, we ask our clients to conduct aleast 1 contest per month, giving away freebies and Gift Vouchers as prizes. Cause that is what brings the fans to a page. Pages with contests, attracted so many fans while for pages without contests, we could see likes and comments, decreasing. When a contest is running on a page, we could even post a simple "Good Morning" and fans are so happy to greet back. Without a contest, these fans are nowhere to be found; even an interesting post would get only minimal likes.

    Then there are fans who post their complaints as comments under any posts, even though we have provided 'Feedback Forms'. We have to check notifications every hour to moderate the conversations happening in the page. There are fans who even ask for product prices every day. By blocking certain words, hate comments can be hidden automaticaly. There are situations when certain 'net hooligans' are banned from the page for constant hate spamming. Certain queries and complaints need to be escalated to the client, so that they could help us in giving replies. Its hectic, but necessary for a well-managed brand page.

    We also have to deal with a lot of "Can I get a job in your firm" comments and messages everyday :)

  • Adam Chapman's picture
    Oct 19 Posted 4 years ago Adam Chapman

    @mcgannonma: Do you think that has anything to do with those industries being more passionate about their fields, innate creativity, or some combination of both? 

    @MKTdojo: I read that article too. It might seem like a chicken/egg problem to the brands, but don't you think it's ultimately up to them to drum up interest? After all, consumers still have to be won.

    @ewoodson: Agreed, small(er) businesses usually have fewer restrictions and their employees can be more invested in/responsible for the success of their companies, as opposed to being one of 156,000 at somewhere like Disney. 

  • Oct 19 Posted 4 years ago ewoodson

    I think the smaller companies do a much better job of connecting with their customers on FB. A lot of times you are talking directly to the owner or someone directly under the owner. There's a lot less red tape to deal with.

  • MKTdojo's picture
    Oct 19 Posted 4 years ago MKTdojo

    An article I read this morning by @sfiegerman mentioned that only 6% of Fans engage with Brand's Facebook Page.  Now I am wondering, how important is Facebook to Social Media Marketing?

  • mcgannonma's picture
    Oct 19 Posted 4 years ago mcgannonma

    Some of the best examples I have seen of how individuals use facebook for business has come from the creative/hobby industries with game and comic book companies and individual artists and models. The professional cosplay models who travel around to all the comic book and game conventions are a great example. They are using facebook for promotions, but their messages are not sales pitches and they engage with their fans to promote their brand.

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