Why Marketers Should Care About Annoying Facebook “Friends”

We all know by now –  Facebook, widespread as it is and rich in consumer data as it is, cannot be ignored as a marketing and advertising channel – paid, owned, earned, or all of the above.  And as such, targeting and segmentation becomes an obvious consideration in any marketer’s Facebook campaign strategy.  These segments and personas emerge not just from a consumer’s registered demographic data or even the pages they like – aka which brands they are fans of – but from their overall activities within Facebook itself.  These personas do not provide a direct measure of the value of a Facebook like, per se, although some actions do impact the relative value of a liker to an advertiser.  But I’m jumping ahead…

As a consumer, I can’t help but notice that certain “types” of friends start to emerge based on what people are doing on Facebook.  These types are not universally appreciated, and yet we all have these friends (admit it).  Some of these people are actual friends in the non-social networking sense of the word, while others are cyber-friends (with whom you may have had the old –fashioned type of friendship once upon a time).  But each and every person who has more than a handful of friends on Facebook can recognize these characters.

So, let’s begin the “name the annoying Facebook friend” game!  In no particular order, here are just a few that come to mind:

  • “Mr. or Ms. Popularity” – maybe you’ve met several thousand people in your lifetime, but do you really have minimally meaningful interactions with even a fraction of them?
  • “Scully or Mulder” – yes, Facebook is watching you, so why are you even on Facebook?  Unless you also fit the next persona…
  • “The Stalker” – true, who among us doesn’t want to see what an ex, enemy, or frenemy is up to (or looks like since you last were in touch) but some people should realize that stalking can get you in actual trouble with the law.  In a recent 15-day period, there were 24 users who spend at least 5 full days of elapsed  time on Facebook, and only updated their own status once.  What do you suppose they were doing during all that time?
  • “Very proud Mom-Dad-Pet Owner-Grandparent” – do you really believe that all several hundred (or thousands) of your Facebook friends truly look forward to daily photos and/or updates of your newborn (child, puppy, kitten, or goldfish)?  A recent average showed that people posted on 2.6 days in the first half of August; how often are you posting photos?
  • “Obsessive Check-ins” – no one except for Exxon Mobil cares if you are at a gas station, and that’s only so they can serve you a bunch of display ads.
  • “Need to Have the Last Word” – well, these people have always existed whether in conversation, email, social media – at least they are consistent.
  • “I’m So Interesting” – and as such, it is my civic duty to let everyone know what I am thinking, doing, or even eating.  All.  The. Time.  The average user updates their status about every other day.
  • “Social Media Over-Integrator” – I don’t want to hear about what you are thinking or doing on Facebook and on Twitter and on LinkedIn; you get the idea.
  • “Super Fan” – in theory, this is an advertiser’s dream consumer.  This person likes something, all their FB friends see they like it in their news feed, their friends will see their “endorsements” on sponsored ads, sponsored stories, friend’s favorite places, etc. – more on this in a bit.  One particular Super Fan liked 42 things in one day!

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Now, as a marketer, I can immediately think of a few obvious marketing implications of these personas. While I am certainly not suggesting that any of the above personas should be considered marketing segments, as an advertiser, it’s mostly beneficial to target the over-sharer of any kind.  Yes, there is a bit of risk involved in what these consumers say about your brand and how they interact with your brand page, but that can be mitigated by integrating the other rich data Facebook has into your campaign along with some type of social media monitoring.

On the very important flip side, more and more people are discovering ways to avoid (or at least limit) exposure to people, brands, and information on Facebook.  And, for marketers, these actions are critical when determining what the full and true value of a Facebook like is – especially over the customer lifecycle:

  • You can hide any and all posts from anyone of your choosing – so all those additional consumer touch points you thought you acquired from your fan base can be diminished with one click.
  • You can just as easily dislike a brand as easily as you can like one.  With each dislike, those viral endorsement opportunities (sponsored stories, etc.) go away.
  • Endorsements from people you know are great, but not always appreciated when you’re not actively seeking information.  To an extent, Facebook likes are still part of push marketing tactics.

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Bottom line?  Facebook is an invaluable consumer acquisition platform, but to ignore the ongoing aspect of the Facebook-brand-consumer relationship is to forego opportunity for customer retention, brand reputation management, and even future new customer acquisition.  Look beyond how many pages people like, how many friends they have.  Monitor their overall activity and monitor it over time.  Patterns will emerge that can be directly used to shape and influence campaigns.

Two last thoughts: 1) I hope that none of my “friends” read this, and 2) I want to hear about your Facebook pet peeves!