Applied Reputation – Part 3

applied reputation part 3Guess what???… Facebook, for business, is dead. You wanna know how I know?

Coca Cola boasts more than 63,000,000 Facebook followers, yet averages fewer than 8,000 ‘likes’ per post. That means that literally 99.987% of their total following either doesn’t see or doesn’t interact with any given update. If you add all activity up for an entire month, you come to a whopping 1% total audience engagement… again, meaning that 99% of everyone they have spent millions upon millions of dollars attracting is blind to their efforts. What a bargain! And the results are consistent, from beloved brands like Hershey’s and Target to entertainers like Rihanna and  Taylor Swift, virtually none of them exceed 2% user engagement in any 28 day period. That’s amazing.

Yet, most “internet savvy” businesses today, large and small, feel compelled to maintain a profile on Facebook because “everyone is doing it.”

Well kids, that’s not what this blog is about. If you have the time and the resources, I say go for it. Heck, I’ve got one for my own company, it just doesn’t drive any business. None. I use it to post interesting things that make me look smart. I get a few likes. Everybody wins. Except for my wallet.

Prepare To Be Enlightened

Ok, so you know how I talk about LinkedIn all the time? There’s a reason. I believe that it is the most powerful networking tool of all-time, yet it remains a mystery to most. Even fewer companies grasp its potential to build their brands, recruit top talent and attract new customers. This is part 3 of a 3-part series on applying the reputations we work so hard to build, but this one, as you might have surmised, is about company-level branding.

Now, there are a zillion, trillion articles about “corporate branding,” from logo design to the use of slogans, jingles, commercial advertising and more. I’m going to assume that you are proficient in the art of googling words for yourself, so feel free to give that a shot if you’re into that sort of thing. I’m about to blow your mind though, with a model I doubt you have seen anywhere else, and yet, it’s been sitting right in front of you the whole time.

You know that friend of yours that makes you feel fancy just for knowing them? Maybe they work at a luxury goods company like Tiffany’s or Versace, or a sexy high tech powerhouse like Apple or Google. Maybe it’s the friend from high school that moved to the big city and is living the dream, or perhaps it’s a buddy that runs a successful business locally. In any case, these friends make us feel like we are more successful just for knowing them. It’s human nature, and it happens everywhere in the world. Success is attractive. Success attracts success. Successful people want to work for successful companies. I have never used the word success so many times in a single paragraph. (Success!)

Well, guess what… that same phenomenon can be engineered.

Let’s use a small business with 10 employees as an example. They have a sharp intern named Johnny that had the bright idea to set up a company page on LinkedIn, and he has done a good job of making sure that the latest news is up to date. Great. That’s a good start there, Johnny. But Johnny and his 9 coworkers, who all work for the exact same company, all say very different things about that company on their own personal profiles. Designer Jane just lists her title and how long she’s been there. Developer Dave lists his primary accomplishments in chronological order. But Communications Specialist Susan is one smart cookie. She knows that when she brags about how awesome her company is before she even mentions what she does there, she is making herself look good just for being there.

Susan is promoting the company by promoting herself and vice versa.

You would think that companies would at least offer some standard text for their employees to use for their own LinkedIn profiles, right?

Almost none of them do. It’s one of the greatest missed opportunities in the modern business world. Period.

According to Harvard Business Review (April 2013), the average number of LinkedIn connections is at least a few hundred. “Casual users,” the largest segment identified in the study, have an average of 250 connections each, while “enthusiasts” are rocking 700+. I don’t mean to brag, but yes I do, and I have more than that. ;)

Even if you only have 10 employees, if each has just 250 contacts, you have 2,500 direct connections through your staff to potential customers and new recruits. If you’re a mid-sized business of 300, you’re looking at a whopping 75,000 direct connections between you and the rest of the world… and that doesn’t even count the number of times those people appear in LinkedIn searches. Coca Cola employs 146,200 people and spends almost $3 billion every year on advertising, yet there is virtually zero continuity amongst their employees’ profiles, including the chief executives themselves.

People… I don’t know why I geek out on this stuff. I really don’t. I have been semi-obsessed with LinkedIn for 7 years now, and the network has come a very long way in that time. While everyone else is clamoring for worthless Facebook followers (well, 99.987% of them, anyway), smart marketers are working the angles.

I hope you have enjoyed this 3-part series. It’s not the ultimate guide to personal branding or anything, but I hope it has jogged a few thoughts in that old noggin of yours. In a few weeks’ time, I will be revamping this website and UpriverSolutions.com to focus specifically on career advancement and corporate communication strategies. I am bailing out of the Facebook hype machine, using Twitter just for fun, and focusing on building businesses through the people that run them. That includes leadership training workshops, speaking at conferences & conventions, and one-on-one employee counseling for companies big and small. My aim is to help people tell better stories… about themselves, about the products & services they sell, and about why they do what they do for a living, when there are so many other options out there.

Adios for now, and see you again real soon.



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  1. I couldn’t agree more with your assessment of the value of LinkedIn and the crazy lack of LinkedIn competence with which most companies operate. I personally find LinkedIn to be my most valuable business tool.

    However, I feel that Facebook is still not to be discounted in terms of its value for those who use it correctly. The less than 1% engagement stat might be true for Coca Cola, but they have a marketing page, which sucks. I’d be interested in seeing that stat for Red Bull. They run a content page, which rocks.

    Which brings me to the point, which is, each tool is a great way to insert a message into someone’s life, if it’s done in the right part of that person’s life. LinkedIn allows me to send someone a business message that they only see when they have business underpants on and they are checking their business stuff. Facebook allows me to insert content (ie not message but story!) into people’s lives when they are engaged in understanding story in others via Facebook. I took this approach with a non-profit Facebook page and here are the numbers:
    Average of 30 likes per content post: 6% of audience
    Minimum likes 9 (2%) Maximum likes 95 (19%)
    $11K raised from 85 donors- average of $129/donor
    (yes, there were 2 $1,000 donors. Remove them for avg of $108.

    Anyway, 17% of the audience converted over the 6 month course of the project with an AOV of over $100. Right content, right place, right time, right underpants.

  2. Awesome response, Jorobins. You make an outstanding point.

    To answer your question about Red Bull, as of May 6, 2013, they had 377,100 people engage with something in the past month, of the 37,731,522 people that have followed them. That is a 0.9% engagement rate. Right on the money.

    You also have some outstanding engagement numbers on your hands there, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that those were the stats prior to Facebook’s new “Timeline” interface going live? The redesign had a *devastating* impact on brand engagement, and with more and more brands piling on in competition for the same Facebook followers, there is less and less time for any of them to be seen on a regular basis. The algorithm is called Facebook Edgerank, and it is literally designed to prevent people from seeing updates from anyone other than their closest contacts, with rare exception.

    I failed to make one important point in this article. The number that matters most to Red Bull in this case, is the 377k followers that DID engage this month. All RB needs to do is to decide whether that number of people is worth spending their money on. It may well be! I have no idea what their budget is. But if a small business that has a whopping 10,000 followers really only has 100 people interacting, I can just about guarantee that the time and/or money it took to amass those users wasn’t worth it, compared to many other forms of marketing, such as email collecting, offering coupons, paid search listings or other “less sexy” alternatives.

    I am not saying that there is NO value in using Facebook as a marketing and communications tool, and I am certainly not saying that Facebook will be going away any time soon, but I am ABSOLUTELY saying that the number of followers on a brand page looks nothing like the number customers that are buying more, or buying more often, after connecting with the site. It’s as simple as that.

    • Thanks for letting me play devil’s advocate :)

      I will admit I’m surprised that RedBull and Coca Cola’s engagement numbers are so close. But you bring up another interesting point that seems especially relevant to medium business (10K-100K fb likes) and that is the value of the number of engagers vs. the cost.

      Perhaps it’s an issue of scale and connection degrees. I ran a very small program compared to the big boys and my close connections (personal friends) were therefore more likely to share and engage. Their connections, it stands to reason, would be too. Seems like there might be a bit of a u-shaped curve in terms of engagement value vs audience size. If you have a tiny brand where each action drives result, maybe it’s valuable to engage that way. If you run a huge program where value can be derived at scale, maybe its worth it. But if you run a medium program that takes a ton of work and only .9% engage, maybe a reassessment it in order and a shift to other [less sexy] channels is in order.

      Anyway awesome post keep up the thinking!

      PS I’m proud to say the day I set up the nonprofit brand (fb.com/100marathons.org) was the first day you could no longer set up a page but were forced to use timeline. I wasn’t happy but built the strategy based on what I saw as the value of the timeline. I might have gained some advantage there by competing with people who were still thining in “page mode” rather than “timeline mode”. But honestly it turned out much better than I thought it would!

      • Awesome stuff, and all the more impressive that your engagement was so high, even using Timeline.

        I think you’re dead-on about the U-curve. That would make another solid post, or maybe an infograph. There is *absolutely* a correlation between connecting with people you actually know through your brand page vs a “general audience,” but I think the real question there is when to use an official brand page that you invite your friends to connect with vs. just posting that same content through your personal profile. The way Edgerank prioritizes traffic, you would almost be guaranteed higher engagement from your personal profile but there is definitely a case to be made for separating the two. Pages do offer all kinds of interesting stats & options that personal profiles do not, but I guess it’s just a case-by-case decision.

        At any rate, you obviously have a strong grasp on how to work the fb angle, and that’s saying a lot. I’ll have to get a little deeper into the issue of “scale” in a future post. Thanks Joe!

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