On Thursday while in the office, Mark Stephenson, the MD of Sandstorm Kenya, cracked me up with what he referred to as a Facebook Moment. A friend of Violet, the lady in charge of social media for Sandstorm Kenya told Mark “I am your Fan on Facebook, what is it that you do?” I agreed. That right there was a Facebook Moment indeed. Later that day, Mark in reply my tweet as asked me whether we need to redefine who a fan is or rather the value of a fan is.
When someone who is apparently your Fan asks you what you do, you got to really reexamine the whole brand-fan concept. I can’t imagine going to my favourite people like Chris Brogan, Dave Fleet, Lisa Barone, the Floetry duo, Mos Def, Talib Kweli or Nas to declare that I am a fan and follow it up with a “by the way, what is it that you do?” The whole point behind being a Fan of something or someone is appreciation of something that someone does. I love Lisa Barone’s witty writing, Chris Brogan’s thinking, and Dave Fleet’s insight. As a Neo-Soul and conscious Hip-Hop enthusiast, Les Nubians, Floetry, Mos Def, Nas, Talib Kweli and Common make my day. I am a Fan because I appreciate what they all do, having read or heard it first.
The problem we are now faced with is that of being a Fan without the faintest insight of whom or what we are becoming fans of. The Facebook like Button is like the shiny Red Button in cartoons, we have no idea what it does but it’s so tempting we cannot resist the urge to press it. At the end of the day, we become Fans of every freaking page that our friends recommend to us without as much as clicking to know more about what we are becoming Fans of. And let’s face it; most of us become fans of pages out of sympathy because it is somehow rude to refuse to become a fan of a page a friend has recommended to us. That’s the reason we end up with 100 pages that we like but know shit about. That is the reason people have the audacity to say things like “I am a Fan, What is it that you do?” They have given just passing glances to pages we become fans of.
At the end of the day, as a brand, you have to question whether the fans you have reflect a credible community of brand evangelists, loyal customers, potentials clients or just lurkers who have no idea what you even do. On twitter, Mark asked me an interesting question which I would like to pose here as well. “So when is a ‘fan’ a ‘real fan’? Is it time to reevaluate the currency?” As you look at your Fanbase, start asking questions like: are they your real fans with ‘real fan’ here meaning people who actually know what you do? Can you attach the value usually associated with Fans to all your Fans? How many of your fans actually know what you do? Is it as issue of engagement? How have you built your Fanbase? How many of your fans actually comment on your Fanpage or engage with you in any way? Who is at fault when a Fan has no idea what it is that you do?
I have been wondering whether the explosion of like buttons all over the web lead to mass uninformed liking that dilute the value of the genuine Fanbase. My follow up question to the above is; does the manner in which someone becomes a fan define their worth? Here, I presume that if you become a Fan of Socialight Media Kenya from the link on the sidebar of this blog, you are a more credible fan than someone who is invited to be a fan from Facebook and just clicks on the like button and it’s done. Have you developed your Fanbase from clientele/customer emails database? I believe this makes for a credible Fanbase because it represents people who have already had contact with the brand and appreciate it. Inviting new fans who have not had contact with the brand is ok provided there is a context to it all that allows them to interact with your brand more.
Ultimately, this is not a numbers game where you should expect all your fans to engage with you on your fanpage. However, numbers are still important in as far as setting a baseline is concerned. Look at the average engagements you receive per update, the number of fans you amass per week, the kind of updates you make against responses etc and then use those as the baseline to ensure growth in your Fanbase, increasing engagement as well as better brand awareness. Start looking at the types of questions or updates you can make that will inform as well as entertain. Start experimenting with a myriad of update topics and watch which spark engagement and debate. Based on your agenda for creating the fanpage, are your objectives being met and if not; start asking why.
At the end of the day, I believe that it is the responsibility of a Brand to ensure that regardless of the way people become fans, they will get to know more about the brand to the extent of converting and becoming customers. I do believe that the onus is on you the brand/social media manager to evaluate every single observable metric on the fanpage and seek to improve on it. And if you receive a question like “I am a fan, what is it that you?” you may actually want to drop by your page to check whether indeed you have answered that question on your fanpage?