This week’s reading covers a topic many of us are keenly interested in, and one which I don’t believe business or academic researchers really have a grasp on, largely because of its continually evolving nature. M.A. Hodis, R. Sriramachandramurthy and H.C. Sashittal’s article Interact with me on my terms: a four segment Facebook engagement framework for marketers looks at a sample of Facebook users and segments them based not on their demographics, as Facebook advertisements do, but on the way that they use the medium and what psychological benefit they gain from it, as illustrated in the figure below:
This is an interesting approach to segmentation and I agree with their assertion that “The four-segment approach is not about choosing a segment and targeting it better, but rather about understanding that all four segments are present in the brand’s existing audience and need to be engaged with, and that each segment has very different preferences and motivations for engaging with the brand.”
However, I would caution setting these segments in stone as they are based on a relatively small number of responses from US business school students – two focus groups with a total of 25 students aged 19-23 and a qualitative survey of 65 students aged 19-27 – whereas as we learned in The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media 65% of Facebook users are over 35 and the average age of a Facebook user is 41. Therefore, some of the traits exhibited (particularly by the Attention Seekers and Connection Seekers) may be more closely linked to a younger person’s need for peer approval and support for their self-esteem than their status as a Facebook user.
The best insight I found in this article has very little to do with effectively targeting consumers, but in reconsidering ‘why’ your brand is on Facebook. Hodis et al conclude that, “Given our findings and the fact that Facebook advertisement costs have more than doubled in recent years , marketing communication efforts in Facebook would be better served by staying away from advertising and focusing on actively developing strategies for a permanent Facebook presence and a more interactive Facebook brand experience.”
We must remember that Facebook has not always had ads, in fact it started out with the holistic goal of connecting users, making them happy, and perhaps attracting some ads ‘in the future’ to offset the cost of servers. However fast forward 12 years, and Facebook’s revenue has climbed to nearly US$18 million in 2015.
This historical context is relevant as it underlies Facebook users’ resentment of advertisements, particularly of targeted advertisements which they describe as ‘creepy.’ Facebook users consider the site to be ‘their’ network, which exists primarily for enabling social interaction and in which advertisements are an unwelcome intrusion.
Therefore, business needs to let go of their obsession with finding new ways to segment, target and sell to Facebook users and measuring their success in sales figures – they need to understand that the value of their presence on Facebook in more intangible than that. It is in building a community where they can interact with their customers informally, to allow them to feel that they ‘know’ the brand. Yes, most Facebook users who follow a brand’s page want to be the first to know about product launches, promotions or giveaways… but they also want to gain a broader understanding of the brand values, they want to hear the brand’s ‘voice’ and have their appreciation of the brand reinforced by other followers on the site. The end goal should be increasing positive feelings toward the brand and fostering brand advocates, and if this leads to increased sales in the long term then that is a bonus.