Scale in social won’t come for free

The brutal truth about social marketing is that size really does matter. Brands need to be prepared to buy their way to scale on social networks to maximise returns on their digital marketing strategies, according to Diageo’s Philip Gladman.

Seb Joseph

Speaking earlier this week (21 March) at the annual ISBA conference, Gladman, Diageo Western Europe’s white spirits director, argued that unless a brand is going to get a million followers on Facebook it should “stick [the money] in TV.”

He added: “If you build it. They won’t come. There’s absolutely no point in having a little Facebook community bubbling away. You buy your way to scale.”

This is easier said than done, particularly when you’re not the world’s largest producer of spirits and a major producer of beer and wine. But Gladman has a point.

And it’s a point not lost on Facebook either, which recently warned brands that scale on its platform won’t come for free.

I don’t agree with Gladman’s theory that 1 million fans is the magic number for an effective social media strategy, but he’s right when he talks about scale. Focusing on one-to-one interactions with a minority of active participants just won’t cut when it comes to measuring ROI.

It is obvious why a brand like Coca-Cola, with 40 million Facebook fans, continues to invest in social media marketing. But with only several thousand what is the benefit?

Advertisers are bombarded with reports and studies purporting to give the return on investment of Facebook fans. While the methodologies differ, the emphasis on the value of fans remains the same.

Chris Burggraeve, chief marketing officer at Stella Artois and Budweiser brewer, AB InBev told Marketing Week earlier this month (March 14) that those people that have chosen to be a “Fan” of its brands on Facebook are potentially more valuable.

At its first Marketing Conference in New York last month (29 February), Facebook asked marketers to up both their ad spend and content offering in return for a guarantee that they’ll reach a sizeable share of the fan base they’ve been nurturing for years.

Facebook’s Reach Generator, which allows advertisers to pay a fixed fee to guarantee that their content is seen by up to 98% of their fans, is targeted at deep-pocketed brands such as Diageo at present, but it could offer a lower-cost option for smaller brands in the future.

By tapping into brands’ already popular content and existing offers, Facebook now provides opportunities to broadcast this content to a wider audience… just not for free.

Until brands consider how mass approaches are affecting the value of fans they will fail to realise the benefits of social marketing and miss the path to profitability.

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