Buying vs. Earning Fans


bribe_smallADOTAS – Is it better to buy or earn fans? The answer to that question seems simple. Earning fans by creating compelling content – be it an ad, a Facebook contest, or even sponsored editorial – is obviously far better for a brand than buying them in bulk. Right?

Startups like and the brands currently working with them might argue the contrary. Why else would companies that offer deals like “Get 1,000 Likes for $79” be thriving right now?

Quantity is important. Our industry uses stats like the number of comments, Likes, and retweets to help determine the ROI of social campaigns. And in many cases, knowing the number of users that commented or voted can also help determine a campaign’s influence on things like purchase intent, in the absence of metrics that connect social directly to sales.

But focusing solely on quantity leaves a huge component out of the mix: Quality.

Sure, a brand can buy a few thousand Likes for its Facebook Page, but are those new Likes going to be true brand ambassadors? Will they influence their friends? Will they ultimately make a purchase? Are those Likes authentic?

Reducing influence to a cheap commodity

I’m not saying that companies selling fans in bulk don’t have a right to exist. Clearly, some brands think they’re useful. But I do think we’re creating a big problem for ourselves – digital media companies, brands and everything in between – if these services become commonplace. We’re commoditizing Likes and influence, before anyone really has the time to determine how valuable they are.

We keep making this mistake as an industry. We did it with clicks and impressions, and we’re doing it with Likes and fans now. Trying to establish the value of something by showing how cheaply someone can get or give it isn’t a good long-term strategy.

Instead of buying fans for the lowest price possible, brands need to earn them. That’s where companies like Halogen, Buddy Media and others come in. We help brands earn fans that ultimately have more value. How do we know they’re more valuable? At Halogen, we use three criteria:

1 – Are they purchasing? Economic value, plain and simple. Are they first-time buyers? Repeat buyers?

2 – What’s the level of engagement? Do these fans contribute to the community and enhance the brand’s social presence? Have they subscribed to a mailing list as a result? Are they posting recipes they made with a specific product, or pictures of themselves wearing the item?

3 – Are they real brand advocates? It’s easy to “Like” a brand on Facebook. Being an advocate – sharing the positive experience of a brand with someone else – is harder. Are your Likes or fans pulling others into the conversation? Are they showing their loyalty in other ways?

Of course, measuring influence and fan value is an ongoing process. We haven’t completely figured it out for our clients yet, but we’re constantly trying. What about you? How is your brand measuring fans?


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