Why brands need fan action, not fan acquisition

As more brands embrace social media as a marketing strategy, many are racing to establish a sizable social footprint. For their marketers, that translates to creative briefs like, “How can you get me to a million Facebook fans fast?’ or “What bots can I use to fast-track my followers on twitter?” This inevitably begs the question: “What good are a million Facebook fans if they are not engaged and won’t do anything for the brand?’

Brands must work to inspire fan action, not merely seek fan acquisition. A thousand fans that share the same core values, that find a brand’s communications meaningful and that are willing to do, say or buy something for the brand are far more valuable than one hundred thousand passive members. In fact, if a brand is only after numbers, they are not only wasting their marketing dollars but the dynamics of social media will work against them. Consumers now look to brands for transparency, authenticity and accountability . That means a brand must show genuine interest in their community ¬†as Zappos, Ford, Dell, Nike, Pepsi, Old Spice and Starbucks have done. If they treat Facebook as yet another broadcast medium and twitter like direct mail, the only thing they will demonstrate is their total lack of understanding of social media dynamics.

The reason a brand builds a social community is to provide a fair exchange of value. The company offers something meaningful whether it’s product, service or cause related, and that generates goodwill and loyalty that effectively puts the community to work for the brand through word of mouth advertising. Yet if a brand is simply rushing to hit a “magic number” and has no intention of genuinely engaging with their community, that’s what consumers will share with their friends and peers doing more harm than good.

Social media is not a numbers game. It’s a relationships game. If you’re not interested in your community, they won’t be interested in you. So work out what’s meaningful to your brand and share it with your community. What consumers want is an emotional connection. Once they get that, they’ll build a community for you.

Do you think most brands are building communities the right way? Of are they simply managing perceptions?