Last week the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones reported on a 'virtual bagel' experiment he conducted with Facebook. The research was simple, set up a 'virtual bagel' company page and drive Facebook Likes with paid advertising on the network. A novelty idea with the 'virtual bagel', the question is who would 'like' such a company? Cellan-Jones was definitely testing the value of paid advertising on Facebook and to a lesser extent the value of a Facebook 'Like.'
The page received over 3,000 likes in four days; upon analysis Cellan-Jones found that the page was more popular in certain countries, particularly Egypt. The UK and US markets were relatively underwhelmed by the offering but they were targeted in the advertising. The research highlighted the issue with fake Facebook accounts de-valuing Facebook's advertising system and poses questions into the value of 'Likes'.
Personally I don't think the results are that surprising. I've written on this subject before - about asking for Facebook 'Likes'. The Cellan-Jones experiment is relatively similar but it looks at the impact of paid advertising. I think that one of the main issues here is what metrics we are using to gauge the success of a page. In this case the number of 'likes' has been used as a success metric. Clearly this research shows that the number of 'likes' a page receives is not an accurate indicator of success.
We have a responsibility to get the measurement right - what metrics matter? If we look at motor vehicles, horsepower is measured. However horsepower is only important because some bright sparks decided this would be the metric. Horsepower would mean nothing if performance had not been originally measured this way. The million dollar question is what metrics should be used in social?
Our fascination with numbers and of course the need to justify social media spend to senior executives has left the metrics of social media on a cliff edge. I read a lot about metrics and I don't always agree with what is being said, you probably don't either.
In the Cellan-Jones study, the paid advertising was indicative of asking for 'likes'. The advert generated awareness and the near 3,000 people 'liking' the 'virtual bagel' page highlights this but the quality and value of the 'likes' generated is under question. The 'virtual bagel' page did not earn 'likes' in the same way a real brand or business would. Current customers of these brands and businesses may 'like' the page in a bid to increase the intrinsic value of the brand after consumption of the brands products or services. This 'like' is earned and I would say is more valuable.
If you want to look at marketing theory, social media channels form part of the augmented product. Social media could mean an increase in the brands value in the eyes of the consumer - increasing the bond and consumption of the brands value after (or before) the actual consumption of the product or service. This view overcomes the narrow view that social media is just for marketing, we have seen it's not.
The Cellan-Jones study highlighted that people will 'like' just about anything and that there is a real question into the types of people generating these 'likes' we now need to move beyond social media marketing and ask what the customers generating the 'earned' likes would want from the social channels.
In my own work I have been exploring the intangible benefits of social media in the eyes of the consumer. Such value cannot be easily measured but does incorporate this notion of increasing the value of the brand in the eyes of the consumers generating 'earned' likes. Obviously marketing is important in the development of social media tactics but perhaps we shouldn't lose sight of increasing the brands value and brand equity in the race to get a million 'likes' - who knows who these people are, if even real at all.
What's your thoughts? Have you ever found a good example of social media measurement? This blog looks particularly at Facebook but let's open it up to the whole social sphere.