Marketing land was abuzz this week with the unveiling of new Hitwise survey data that revealed that in the retail sector, each facebook fan drove an additional twenty visits to the site of a brand. Social Media devotees rejoiced! At last something tangible to show for all that fan building, and from a source as trusted as Hitwise.
But hang on, there’s a few things which you need to understand before you run into the boardroom requesting a larger Social Media budget.
1. It draws inference from tenuous methodology.
To quote from Robin Goad’s blog post:
“We took the top 100 retailers ranked in the Hitwise Shopping and Classifieds category and benchmarked visits to those websites against the number of fans those brands had on their Facebook page. We then also looked at the propensity for people to search for those retail brands after a visit to Facebook using our Search Sequence tool.”
Basically they are looking at a list of brands and saying, how many fans so they have? Now, let’s look at how much traffic they have and draw some inference. Is it surprising that the brand with most visits overall will generally have the most fans?
2. It is pretty shaky to assume visits = revenue. And you don’t have to these days.
Hitwise are a little restricted in what they track. It’s all about traffic flows, traffic profiling and market share – and that’s great when you need that. But with web analytics tracking now very commonplace, there’s no reason why brands shouldn’t know how many sales are coming directly from their facebook posts. Just pop a query string on there and voila you can monitor post click behaviour versus another traffic driver like display or PPC. Why try to justify building a loyal community of repeat customers on the basis of the rather uninspiring ‘visit’ or ‘frequency’ when you could just express the value in conversions and revenue?
3. If the information surprises you, panic.
If you couldn’t have figured out yourself that making someone a fan on facebook will encourage them to visit your site more often through prompts appearing in their newsfeed and more generally building an interactive relationship and staying front-of-mind, you should rethink whether marketing is the industry for you!!
4. The timing is rather convenient
Experian are launching a cost-per-acquisition service for gathering facebook fans. How timely then, that they spit out some tenuous data claiming to ‘finally solve the riddle of ROI from Facebook’, which it doesn’t in the slightest. This also means that those big black holes in the methodology probably involved some rounding up.
5. It’s different for every brand
The incremental visits created by fan growth will be different for every sector, every brand. Depending on if it is high frequency brand (retail) or low frequency (automotive) if your strategy is exclusive time sensitive offers (lastminute.com) or engagement and front-of-mind maintenance (domino’s) etc etc. It’s really dangerous to generalise and say if ‘If I recruit a fan that’s 20 more visits this year’. Evolved marketing is about benchmarking against yourself and your prior performance, it’s about continuous improvement. Don’t look at the other guy too much, it can lead you astray.
6. Remember it’s visits, not visitors
As such this means Facebook fan page marketing falls into the retention category, it’s about driving frequency and yield from existing customers. What would be really interesting to look at would be Facebook’s ability to generate new customers and acquisition through recommendation and word of mouth. Overlooking this understates the importance of making someone a fan. Not only will they visit more often, they will refer friends and highlight your brand in their friends newsfeed, be that organically or through sponsored stories.
All in all I found the announcement pretty ‘so what’ and not especially convincing. There are much better ways to demonstrate the value of your Social Media activities. Think about actual ROI tracking and also work to understand both the retention and acquisition benefits of turning a customer into a fan. That said I do think Hitwise is a fine tool and they have some smart people over there, but this foray into Social Media hasn’t left me all that impressed.