March 24, 2011
Once upon a time, a guy could just list his favorite movies, music, sports, books and the like on his Facebook profile. He would tell the world about his predilection for baseball, Hemingway and the Chili Peppers, and that would be the end of it. (Unless a friend left a comment on his wall about how awesome “Stadium Arcadium” is, in which case a day-and-a-half-long back-and-forth would ensue until the guy and his friend finally agreed that “Snow (Hey Oh)” and “Readymade” are both “equally awesome.”)
A while back, Facebook made a change that removed the option to simply list things you like on your profile. Now you have to “like” a band’s Facebook page if you want your profile to reflect your appreciation for said band. Any band (or book or sports team or political philosophy or whatever) you had listed on your profile when this change took place was automatically replaced with a “like” for the appropriate Facebook page (Facebook did give an opportunity for people to verify or remove these new “likes” before they went live to the world).
That’s awesome for Facebook and the people who run those pages, but this is somewhat unawesome for your everyday Facebooker. For example, I thoroughly enjoy the movie “Boondock Saints” (I’m of Irish descent, I have family in Boston, and Willem Dafoe was stellar). But I can’t simply tell people I like the movie; I have to “like” the movie in the Facebook sense. Now I get all sorts of updates from the hyperactive folks who run the Facebook page for this 12-year-old (already?!) movie. And I don’t want them.
“Boondock” is certainly among my favorite movies, but I don’t give a damn if one of the film’s secondary actors is making an appearance at some event somewhere I don’t live. I know I can hide these updates so they don’t appear in my news feed, but I shouldn’t have to take that step to simply show my appreciation for a movie, and it’s unfortunate that I find myself annoyed by people who like the movie more than I do.
“Liking” pages has a clear upside, too, though: I can “like” the Nieman Journalism Lab or The Onion — two outlets that pump out far more content than I care to consume, but they’re too excellent to pass up entirely — and see occasional items, particularly the more popular ones, as they fly by in my news feed.
What does this matter for marketers? First, it’s important to be aware of; your audience of fans on Facebook will be broad, some far more passionate and engaged than others. Second, know what you hope to accomplish with the updates and content you publish to your Facebook page, and don’t be worried if you see small numbers of people fleeing from your page. Unless your goal is to simply amass as many fans as humanly possible, rest assured that you’re probably not missing much with those who left — they weren’t very engaged and interested anyway.
When I consider how this affects my work, I feel as though I’m on the right side of the line. With the pages I help manage, including Fast Horse’s, we’re not constantly pumping out nearly useless updates about a 12-year-old movie. We share things daily, sometimes even a bit more frequently than that, but they feel more timely and relevant than the updates the pushed me past the breaking point with “Boondock.”
I have to imagine an overwhelming majority of the more than 2 million people who “like” the “Boondock” page have done so in the “I want this listed on my profile” sense and not because they’re truly interested in keeping up with the latest “news” about the film and its stars. With the Fast Horse page, for example, I’d be willing to bet that an overwhelming majority of our fans are there specifically because they like the updates we share about industry trends, new posts to our blog, job openings here and elsewhere, and so on. I don’t think we have a lot of the “I want this listed on my profile” sort of fans, which gives us greater flexibility in how we use the page without worrying about turning away people who are barely interested and barely engaged.