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What’s a Facebook fan worth?

I’ve had a few clients ask me recently what a Facebook fan is worth. I hate seeing the crestfallen looks on their faces when I tell them, “Zero.” They are immediately puzzled, however, because they know that I am an advocate of using social media for marketing. So, I quickly explain that it doesn’t provide any value to your company to have a fan, but what you do with a fan can have great value if you take advantage of this new relationship with the company.

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Let me explain myself. If you think about it, most Facebook fans are already your customers. Sure, there might be fans of the iPhone that have the “wrong” carrier. Perhaps many fans of BMWs can’t afford one. But these products are the exceptions. Most people who become Facebook fans of products or brands were real-life fans long before. And customers. So what is the value of these customers becoming fans? Probably nothing. They liked you before and they like you now. Now that they “like” you on Facebook, will they buy more?

The real answer to what a fan is worth is what you make of it. How do you market to these fans? Do you offer them insider deals? Do you give them sneak previews of new stuff? What do you do to make them feel special?

It’s those tactics, not the fact that they are fans, that have value. In a sense, a Facebook fan is no different than an e-mail address. That e-mail address is worth nothing if you don’t have some valuable e-mail marketing tactics that make it worth something.

There’s one firm I know that has an even bigger problem. By the time people become their fans, they are not just customers—they might be former customers! Graco Baby has a legion of loyal customers who are likely to become Facebook fans. Hey, I am one of them. Each of my four kids used our Graco stroller, among other Graco products. But what is it worth for me to become a fan of Graco? Not much. My youngest kid is 12. We bought our last stroller 18 years ago.

So how can a company like Graco make use of Facebook fans? That was a tough problem to think through. [Full disclosure: I am the Chief Strategist at Graco’s social media agency, Converseon, although I had noting to do with the great idea I’ll explain here.] The real issue is that the people you want to market to (first-time parents) couldn’t possibly be fans of your products (yet) but by the time they are, they don’t need to buy any more.

So, Graco came up with an innovative solution. Last week, they launched a different kind of Facebook fan page, called “I Love My Baby Bump.” It reaches out to expectant parents as a place to connect and get information. The people who “like” that page are probably the precise target market that Graco is looking for, which helps get Graco’s brand and expertise in front of the right people. What Graco does with these fans will answer the question of what each one is worth. Special offers, mailing lists—Graco has a chance to treat these prospective customers in special ways.

I doubt that any of this costs all that much. The idea is what mattered. I can even imagine a success here being something that Graco can build on—could they create a similar Facebook page around adoptive parents? Perhaps there are even more ideas here, but you get the point. No matter what kind of business you have, merely setting up Facebook fan pages doesn’t get you anywhere. Any marketing approach starts with segmenting the right people and doing something that keeps them engaged and eventually buying from you. Facebook doesn’t change any of those rules, but sometimes it takes more creativity to know how to apply them.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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