In the scheme of things, social media marketing is still incredibly new, and what I find fascinating is the new trend of strategies that companies employ to create a following in social media. New tricks get old very, very fast as consumers wise up, or simply get bored.

What’s becoming evident is that gaining a Like, follow or check-in is becoming almost a game in itself, as companies try newer ways to get the all important trade from their consumers. I believe this is largely a result of the fact that as people become more comfortable with following brands online, we realise that we can only realistically follow so many, before they take up a large portion of our newsfeeds. So your Likes or follows become even more valuable both to you and the brand. The solution that many companies are looking at now, is what you can offer users that makes the action of Liking, a game or challenge in itself, beyond the content you actually offer them in the long run that would draw them to you.

Rewarding Likes

facebook like buton 200x127 How brands should be attracting fans and followersPorsche were there early with their stunt to reward Facebook Likes by pledging to engrave its fans’ name on a custom car. All you had to do to get your name on the car was Like the page. Then Heineken followed by celebrating 1 million Likes with 1 million hugs. Heinz has explored this most recently, when it decided to release a brand new flavour of Ketchup, only available through its Facebook page, which you had to Like first in order to purchase.

From a user point of view, this adds completely to the experience of following a brand. You’re not just following to get updates, you get your name on a car, a hug, and the chance to buy a bottle of ketchup. What’s interesting among these campaigns is that it’s not about rewarding fans through anything monetary, it’s about adding to the social experience. They can get something that no-one else can, and this is how hard brands now need to work, to get that all important Like.

Points for Check-Ins

What’s interesting is that this concept of rewarding a virtual ‘follow’ is now very much extending into the real-world, when it’s no longer about what shop you walk into, but which shop is going to reward you when you check in. This is evident through Foursquare’s recently launched version 3.0 . They’ve learned very quickly that it’s not necessarily about sharing location with your friends, but the points and rewards you get from organisations in return for this. They’ve revamped their points system to open up the opportunities for businesses to reward customers, extending from just mayors to include groups, swarms or pretty much anyone. While Foursquare may no longer be the dominant player in location, the fact that the way deals or specials operate is such an important part of their update, shows the interest between both customers and businesses, for rewarding checkins beyond the social element.

Community How brands should be attracting fans and followersIt’s clear why a Like, checkin or follow means so much to brands : because of the entire community that comes with just one person joining your page. Heinz made the decision it did not only because it was a new marketing gimmick, but because of the huge potential social reach in return for taking the action on their page. Not just 3,000 bottles, but 3,000 bottles seen by 390,000 people. That’s serious numbers for a lot of brands, and it’s easy to see why the tactics to reach Likes or follows would be so extreme. There has always been competition between brands through social media, but lately it seems to be reaching new levels. Constantly more inventive ways to celebrate Likes or reach a goal, but what happens when you reach that goal?

The worrying thing of course, is that it all becomes too much of a game to get people to simply Like you, without that really meaning anything to a brand. There is a big difference between someone joining your page because they’re engaged with your brand at a meaningful level, and joining your page to get their name engraved on a car. The long-term effect of that, for many brands, will be painful. The quality of conversation, and value you get out of the page may be negligible. The long-term effect this really has on brand loyalty remains to be seen.

Picture 192 How brands should be attracting fans and followers

startuprally2 How brands should be attracting fans and followers