Wednesday, August 26, 2009

SMEs' Future is Connecting With 'Fans'

The Problem With 'Fans'
by Joe Marchese
Excerpted from 8/25/2009 MediaPost Blogs Follow the author on Twitter @joemarchese (

Fans, by definition, have raised their hand to indicate some sort of affiliation to a brand. The intent of that affiliation can vary widely, depending on the individual. Perhaps the "fan" simply wanted to tell her friends about a brand she liked, one time. Perhaps the "fan" wanted to get the coupon offered by a brand for becoming a fan. Or perhaps, and this is the one the brands want to hear, the "fan" wants to hear from and talk to the brand going forward.

Whatever the reason, an individual has opted to form a loose connection to a brand within social media. There is no doubt that this is the next generation of CRM (customer relationship management), and will be an incredibly valuable tool as brands better learn how to communicate in a social media setting -- but it is no way a complete answer to social media marketing.

Consider the number of brands the average person interacts with in his or her daily life. Now consider how many of those brands a person would be willing to become a fan of. Also, in what setting does marketing to your most loyal fans only constitute the whole of your marketing efforts?

The power of social media marketing is to reach out to people who are not already fans, outside the setting of direct communication between brands and people -- instead generating conversation between people about brands. The difference is between Nike talking to me on Facebook, versus a friend and I talking to each other about Nike on Facebook. Authenticity is found in peer-to-peer communication, not just within a core group of loyal fans, but reaching out to the community at large.

Activating this strategy will unlock significant reach and generate the ROI brands are looking for to justify social media investments (re: new customers).

People are spending more time in social media all the time. Adapting best practices to leverage fans/friends/followers is a must, and should be a major component of every social media marketing plan.

My Take

Marchese touches on several consumer trends:

  • Increasing tendency of consumers to affiliate with brands (substitute Small to Medium Sized Enterprises - SMEs - for the purpose of this commentary)
  • These fans' motivation ranges from sheer loyalty to desired connection to reward
  • As consumers increasingly use social media, it is an ideal place for SMEs to connect with loyal and prospective customers. In fact, adapting best practices to leverage fans/friends/followers is a "*must".

These trends are early indicators of the emerging social economy which will recognize and incorporate social media as the most valuable advertising channel. The $100B US local advertising market will increasingly shift to social media.