Brands fail on Facebook

24 December 2010

NEW YORK: Many major brands are failing to make the most of the opportunities afforded by Facebook, a study from AT Kearney has argued.

In a new report, the consultancy monitored the performance of the top 50 global brands, as identified by Interbrand, on the world's biggest social network.

It found that over 70m people had registered as fans of these products and corporations to date.

Less positively, five members of this group were not formally active on Facebook, and therefore missed out on the chance to connect with the 175m people accessing this site per day.

Elsewhere, Disney, Gucci, McDonald's, Louis Vuitton, American Express and Sony were among the operators solely featuring official posts on their "walls", rather than participating in a genuine interaction with netizens.

Only one member of the sample initially diverted web users visiting brand pages to unfiltered content including comments uploaded by consumers.

In contrast, more than half began by presenting information about their business, as was the case with Heinz, GE and Nintendo.

Several other organisations, such as McDonald's and Google, pointed interested shoppers to material added by staff in the first instance.

"These world-class brands are using their ostensibly hip Facebook profiles to showcase traditional, time-honoured and digitally irrelevant one-way communication … while hiding actual communication from consumers behind a digital curtain," AT Kearney said.

Based on an analysis of 1,115 posts made by firms, alongside the 60,570 responses to these messages, AT Kearney revealed 89% of customer replies ultimately went unanswered.

Indeed, Gucci had not reacted to user-generated opinions for three months, and just 11 brands had followed up a comment at least twice.

Electronics specialist Philips led the charts on this metric, having responded nine times during the period under consideration.

Similarly, only 15% of replies invited further suggestions from Facebook users, and just 17% addressed individuals by name, meaning marketers are "failing to bring enough passion" to this channel.

"Inactivity is the hallmark of companies that don't quite know what to do with Facebook," AT Kearney said.

Financial services providers like JPMorgan and Citibank commonly fell victim to this trend.

Another key concern related to a possible "loss of control" as advertisers allow the public to set the agenda.

Of the user-generated statements assessed in the study, 27% were classified as "spam" and 8% took the form of complaints.

A quarter of remarks proved complimentary in tone, 12% were discussions between netizens peers and 11% were questions directed to manufacturers.

However, while 34% of observations were made by corporations and 66% originated with consumers, such figures are "somewhat misleading".

For example, highly engaged firms recorded three posts from consumers for every message issued by employees.

This cohort included Amazon, BMW, Coca-Cola, eBay, Gillette, H&M, Heinz, Honda, HP, Kellogg's, L'Oreal Paris, Nescafe, Nokia, Pepsi, Samsung and Zara.

In comparison, the less effective organisations delivered four announcements for each reply contributed by shoppers.

Promotional posts comprised 71% of authorised updates, measured against 5% constituting an effort to start a conversation.

Dispatches offering deals and discounts secured the most "likes", on 423,000 – 75% of the total – declining to 283 "likes" associated with communications simply spreading information.

Data sourced from AT Kearney; additional content by Warc staff