Why Adding A 'Fan Option' to Brand Advertising Should Be De Rigeur
You may have seen the study put out yesterday by allrecipes.com and Psychster that studies the engagement activity around seven different online ad types (via Mashable). The study, which polled both allrecipes users and Facebook users -- and showed them ads suitable for either site -- tells us many things we already know, such as that sponsored content ranks high in engagement but low in purchase intent.
But the stat that most stood out to me was this: "Corporate Profiles on social networking sites produced greater purchase intent and more recommendations when users could become a fan and add the logo to their own profiles than when they could not."
The study explained this well-known phenomenon through cognitive dissonance, the idea that "people strongly avoid the tension associated with discrepancies between their actions and their behavior." In other words, if you're going to fan a brand, you're more likely to put your money where your mouth is. For advertisers, this may not represent the purest of motives, but there's certainly nothing new there.
While not fall-out-of-your-chair surprising, what the "fan" ad model did that the others for the most part did not, was marry the kind of squishy engagement of sponsored content with purchase intent. (As an aside, I should note that Facebook is changing "Become a Fan" to "Like.") The other ad forms tested seemed to lean heavily in one direction or another:
- Corporate profiles in social networking sites that don't let users become fans, don't work as well as those that do. (I can't imagine having a fan page or its equivalent that doesn't allow fan-ship, but I suppose they exist.)
- "Give and Get" widgets, like sponsored content, rank high in engagement, but low in purchase intent.
- That old war horse, the banner ad, still ranks highest in purchase intent.
- The effectiveness of ad types was the same whether they were seen in a Facebook environment, or the considerably less-social allrecipes.com. (Like most sites, it has its social features, but is certainly not strictly social.) This was true for both brands in the study, which were a car and a soup brand.
If I were a brand, what would my takeaway be from this study? That if I'm not actively trying to get people to fan my brand, and/or add the logo to my profile, then I'm not really doing my job. That you should be doing this within social environments, as I said above, is drop-dead obvious. But fan-ship should increasingly be brought out of the Facebook environment, particularly as Facebook pages become to brands what Web sites used to be. Still, right now (I think) most of the "Become a Fan" (or "Like") entreaties that occur outside of Facebook are for the content sites that people are visiting, not the brands that are advertising on them. Shouldn't a "Become a Fan" badge on online advertising become as de rigeur as a URL is in offline advertising? At the very least, when people log on to a site using Facebook Connect, shouldn't the potential for "fanning" be added into the ads that they see?
It seems so. No matter what an advertiser's intention for an ad is, adding a fan button doesn't change that intent. It does however, seem to hold the possibility of increasing the purchase intent of those who decide to do so, so why the hell not? Is it really that hard to do? Is it really so in-your-face to the user that brands shouldn't do it?
The hard part is ensuring that brands make sure to reward fans on the back end -- a fan button does not a loyal fan make. But that should be understood. Or maybe not. Sometimes, the most obvious ideas somehow get lost in the clutter-filled social media shuffle.