Simon Hakim: does Facebook really work for brands?

How great is Facebook for brands? All those likes, all those shares, all those people interacting with your brand and engaging in a two-way conversation – it’s the social media marketing utopian ideal. For plenty of agencies, too, Facebook, Twitter and other digital and social media are the silver bullets for what ails them. Social media reaches millennials, it slips by ad blocking software and it’s measurable. It’s always great to be able to turn to a client and say here, we did our job and here’s the proof: 100,000 likes, 30,000 retweets and some objective metrics on reach and impressions.

But if your agency has delivered a campaign roundup like this, here’s a question – do they also back it up with metrics that make a difference to your business? Were there sales lifts? Increases in foot traffic, website visitors or inbound enquiries? Did overall spend increase? Did you wrest market share away from a competitor or grow the overall category? And if you didn’t get the answers to any of these questions, how do you know if the campaign was really a success?

I’ve always approached a client’s business as if I owned it. As a business owner myself, I know what it’s like to have skin in the game. That’s why we approach a client’s advertising needs from a business strategy point of view. I believe agencies – to paraphrase the great UK adman Dave Trott – are here to solve business problems, not advertising problems. And a business problem is rarely going to be solved by more Facebook likes. Obviously that’s not to say that Facebook and viral videos and Twitter mentions don’t play into the strategy for solving these business problems. I’m not bagging them – social media can play an important role in a solution – but they are rarely the solution in and of themselves.

What I am saying is that if you are trying to solve the wrong problem, then you end up measuring the wrong outcomes. And if you’re measuring the wrong outcomes, you may never really know if your advertising is working. If somewhere around 90 per cent of advertising goes unremembered (another insight from Trott), are you confident your advertising is in the ten per cent that is remembered?

Here’s an example of a campaign I love getting it right. Thankyou is a social enterprise founded by three young Australians to make a real difference in global poverty. The company started out selling its own branded bottled water, body care and food with all the profits slated to go to partner non-profits – like Oxfam, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army – for their poverty reduction programmes. With tracker ids on each product that allow buyers to see where in the world their purchase has made a difference, and how it has, Thankyou already has a strong and very compelling brand proposition. Now, Thankyou wants to expand its range into baby care, and geographically into New Zealand and it needs to raise the capital to do that.

I’m unsure who’s behind Thankyou’s latest Chapter One campaign, which is designed to raise the $1.2 million needed for its expansion, but whoever it is has done a great job. Chapter One is a book written by the Thankyou co-founder, Daniel Flynn, about the genesis of the company – and it is now selling on a campaign microsite through a pay-what-you-want crowdfunding model. There is real-time tracking of the fundraising, plenty of smart social media integration (see, it can be part of the solution!) and even live-streaming of volunteers packing books at the distribution centre.

This campaign would not be a success for all the Instagram likes, or #hashtag shares or retweets in the world, if that fundraising meter didn’t keep ticking upwards towards its goal. As a bonus, of course, Thankyou’s brand and its values get shared and better known but every dollar towards its $1.2 million goal – that’s the measure of success. All the other elements, the social media, live-streaming, the book itself – whether by underpinning the brand’s values of transparency, or simply allowing people to share their enthusiasm for the message – those simply add value to the overall goal.

So let’s do away with short-term thinking and with the idea that social media shares are a goal in and of themselves. Clients must engage their agencies as partners, and work with them to take a long-term view to solving business problems. When they don’t, or when short term thinking leads the process, you end up with campaigns that address symptoms instead of causes. It’s often so much easier to design a campaign where likes and shares – or other ultimately shallow metrics – are the end goal. It may well result in impressive numbers both sides can point to and say, “Look! We’re doing our job!” — but it’s not good advertising and it doesn’t help your business.

Unknown-74-1-226x160Simon Hakim is CEO at Hunter
Twitter: @nomis_mikah

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