Is there Real Worth for Brands Behind Social Currency?


While Facebook fans spend more money on brands they’ve ‘liked’ than on ones they haven’t, is there any real value hidden behind that thumbs-up?

On average, a ‘like’ is worth $174.17. “Superconsumers,” says a study by Syncapse, have significant power to effect products. “Not only do they tend to be brand users first, they spend more, engage more, advocate more and are more loyal. The significant and increasing value of a Facebook brand fan affirms past social marketing investment and mandates deeper commitment and accountability in the future.”

But while brands navigate the tides of “like-currency,” it turns out that the gesture by “slacktivists” doesn’t translate into anything significant for social causes. After years of encouraging consumers to click for issues of conscience, UNICEF Sweden is the first major international charity to restate the obvious, pre-‘like’ era fact: donate money and supplies—not just virtual support.[more]

An installment of their Likes Don’t Save Lives campaign shows a young boy named Rahim, who’s sick, though he says he’s not worried because of UNICEF Sweden’s Facebook community. “UNICEF Sweden has 177,000 Likes on Facebook. Maybe they will reach 200,000 by summer,” he says, as the tagline emphasizes, “Likes don’t save lives. Money does.”

“We like likes, and social media could be a good first step to get involved, but it cannot stop there,” UNICEF Sweden Director of Communications Petra Hallebrant told The Atlantic. “Likes don’t save children’s lives. We need money to buy vaccines for instance.”

As more social sites emergy and in turn, more social campaigns, many ‘like’ for a cause initiatives lead no where, and benefit no one but the brand, which gains more visibility. “Beware any study that measures ‘Likes’ and correlates them to anything of significance, notably anything to do with healthcare,” writes Neil Seeman, founder of the RIWI Corporation in The Huffington Post. Facebook and Twitter are primarily used as ad engines to build visibility, which also feeds the growing issue of ‘buying followers’ on social media. 

Recently, Pepsi, Mercedes-Benz, Louis Vuitton and celebrities including Sean Combs and 50 Cent have been targeted as brands with artificial inflation on social media. Italian security researchers Andrea Stroppa and Carlo De Micheli exposed the multi-million dollar underground market that allows brands and individuals to ability to buy ‘likes’ or followers, resulting in some jarring data.

“It’s natural for brands to want to build their Twitter and Facebook accounts because they are constantly looking for ways to expand awareness of their products and services and expand opportunities to create consideration of their products compared to others,” said Susan Etlinger, industry analyst at the Altimeter Group in the New York Times. “Many brands struggle to measure the top line value of social media, so there is a thirst to show momentum in different ways, one of which is to show that the brand has a bigger audience today than it did yesterday.”

With more than two dozen online services willing to sell fake followers, Stroppa and De Micheli estimate there are more than 20 million fake accounts on Twitter which can be sold to multiple buyers, offering potential for a $40 million to $360 million business. “There will always be people who try to game the system in every nook and cranny of business,” said Etlinger. “But brands should know that Twitter and Facebook are getting very good at weeding out fake fans and followers. So any gains would just be temporary.” Brands can be sure, too, that those fake followers won’t boost their bottom line and may eventually damage their online reputation. 


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