Is this a sign of a bubble? Lately you can’t watch a TV spot without seeing a major brand bray “visit us at Facebook.com/Brandname.” This would be a bit funny if we hadn’t seen it before, a decade ago, when firms cried out their AOL keywords in every advertisement. We surfed over to an old discussion board
about “What happened to AOL keyword ______?” and found these prescient comments:
Question: I remember about 10+ years ago, whenever a tv commercial or something had an add [sic], they would give a website or “aol keyword food” or something like that… however, you never hear this anymore… ist it even around still… just wondering, does anyone even remember this.. or heck, did anyone ever even use them, i didnt.
Answer: It is no longer fashionable to advertise AOL keywords, since the better companies have their own websites, and the members of the buying public are now savvy enough to visit REAL websites instead of AOL keywords (even though a number of them still aren’t smart enough to ditch AOL as their ISP).
Sound familiar? So let’s do some quick math on how well Facebook, the modern AOL portal, is performing. To see how one of the world’s largest banks fares on today’s largest social network, we visited Bank of America’s Facebook fan page
1. Bank of America has 9,367 Likes.
2. Bank of America serves 1 out of 2 homes in the U.S., about 57 million households.
3. Do the math, um, carry the 2, and that is a 0.016% Like rate.
Of course, not everyone is on Facebook, but households typically hold more than one person, so we’ll call it a wash. We’ll also not discuss that Bank of America has 300,000 employees and operates in 40 countries, so the % response is actually much lower. Conclusion: 1 out of 6,250 U.S. Bank of America customers Like them.
It is curious that so many brands are rushing to stake a place inside the Facebook portal, when the potential Like payoff has so little value. Facebook users don’t really care to connect, in the majority, with companies; if they want to find your brand, they can do so via Google or by typing in your URL. And if they want to Like you, you can promote the option with a button on your own website. Truth is, much of the rush toward Facebook is a lemming-like leap off a cliff, hoping that the glowing Facebook aura will infuse your own brand with a halo. And maybe, just maybe, with all those FarmVille-chatty connections, your brand will go viral.
Yeah. We could calculate this another way: The typical U.S. consumer sees 166 TV commercials each day (5 hours and 9 minutes of average television viewing with 16-18 minutes of commercials per hour, most 30-seconds long). Does anyone want to have a relationship with 166 brands? Of course not. Marketers have always chased audiences, and as Facebook nears 700 million viewers, it certainly has a sweet customer goldmine. We don’t dismiss a Facebook fan page for brands that really can build communities of passionate support. But like sneakers, bras and Bank of America financial accounts, in media, one size does not fit all. Instead of building a microsite inside Facebook hoping the throngs there will find you, perhaps your energy is better invested in building a reason for an audience to come see where you already are.
Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.
As a public service announcement we remind you that Facebook will allow you to grab a vanity URL starting Saturday morning at 12:01 a.m. Eastern. This is supposed to help people find you, or your brand, on Facebook more easily, since up until now Facebook-specific pages were complex URLs with long strings of numbers impossible to remember.
Of course all of this poses the question of why some brands want Facebook pages at all. Facebook allows businesses to build “fan pages” which mirror human profiles, and usually end up awkward compilations of photos, user comments, and press releases. Bank of America, for example, has 6,139 retail branches in the United States and holds $791 billion in domestic deposits — and yet has only 1,650 “fans” at its Facebook page. The top comment at the BofA Facebook fan page today says “Citibank will work with you but BofA does nothing. Their execs should be executed in public!” (Ahem. We quote.)
If consumers and business partners care so little about their money on social media, perhaps Facebook fan pages aren’t for every brand. It is possible, perhaps, that Facebook will evolve into a web inside the web, a social-media operating system so popular that not having a presence there would be a strategic mistake. The average age of Facebook users is now 27, and social media use has been creeping up (Twitter users average age 31 and LinkedIn users are 40). With 200 million users at Facebook, perhaps there is marketing gold inside those online pillow fights. So go ahead, grab your www.facebook.com/brand URL. Think of it as a low risk and probably very, very low reward investment.