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Brand fans on social networks – cost and value

13.03.2013, 13:27

FB likeBrand fans on social media official company pages have recently become a new kpi to measure the effectiveness of online advertising, or even a goal of social media at times. Companies by no means always ask themselves if their businesses really need those subscribers, and they hardly ever get an answer to the question.

 How much? A subscriber on a social network could cost anything from “nothing” to 250 RUB each. 250 RUB is an amount you are likely to pay to a digital agency for followers on Facebook (as a rule) attracted by targeted advertising. Subscribers could be cheaper on other social networks or/and attracted by different methods. Subscribers “for free” usually mean that they were driven by company employees and their friends and pals, and the brand’s owner doesn’t know how. Taxes and the employees’ salaries are not taken into account.

How to attract?

1.      Targeted advertising – is one of the most common ways. This method involves placing an ad with a small image and a short text and paying the social network for that. You pay either per click or per display. You can select the audience you would like your ad to be shown to by gender, age, region, and interests. These options are offered by Facebook, Vkontakte, Linkedin, Odnoklassniki. Targeting possibilities are quite limited on Odnoklassniki, though. So having paid to the network you get visitors to your company page. But not all of them will subscribe. One subscriber per 3-4 visitors is a good conversion rate. One in 5-6 is a norm.  If conversion is lower you should change the ad settings or sometimes even reconsider the concept of your page.targeted adBenefits: no manual work and possibilities to select your target audience. Experience in setting up campaigns with different targeting and bidding gives opportunities to lower subscriber costs.

Drawbacks: the price – these are still the most expensive subscribers. Any network or platform has its own special features, and you have to know them. What’s more, new features appear all the time. That’s why hiring an experienced specialist working with different platforms non-stop is going to save you time and money.

2.      Work with active communities. This method is similar to targeting advertising but there are some differences:

  • You pay directly to the owners of the community where you want to place your ad, not to the social network.
  • You cannot target the audience by gender, age, and region. The only targeting is the interests that unite the members of the group itself. Before you decide to place an ad, you can (and actually must) have a look at the statistics of the community.
  • You pay for the placement, not for the clicks or displays. Depending on the community, the placement of an ad can cost from 700 up to 5,000 RUB.
  • You cannot be flexible in setting bids because you should place several ads (sometimes only one ad) to get 1,000 new subscribers, and you cannot get 525 people and stop the campaign.VK active commun

The mechanism of attracting new subscribers stays the same: some part of the audience who saw your ad come to your page, and then a part of those visitors subscribe. One subscriber per 10 visitors can be considered a good conversion rate, because when people see your ad in their feed they are not always quick to realize that it is advertising.

Benefits: Cost per subscriber. You pay significantly less per subscriber and get access to the same audience as a targeted ad would give you. The cost per subscriber on Vkontakte could be from 7 to 15 RUB. This type of services is poorly developed on Facebook because at the moment this network doesn’t have communities with 300,000+ followers.

Drawbacks: no regional targeting (it is especially important for local brands). You have to deal with students because it’s them who own communities as a rule. Fluctuation of cost per subscriber which is more difficult to set.

3. Buying Likes services.

 There dozens of such services on the Runet. You place an order and get what you want – likes, comments, subscriptions to certain pages. Of course you are not shown their IDs but these accounts at least have several photos and some history on the network. Buying Likes is possible both on old networks (Vkontakte, Odnoklassniki, Facebook, Twitter), and on the new ones (Instagram, for example). The scheme is standard: some money goes to the blogger/the owner of the account and some money (about ¼ of the total sum) – to the service itself. Theoretically the blogger and the service are both interested in your coming back, and what’s more the Internet is full of comments and reviews, so cheating is unlikely.  You are sure to get your Likes for the money paid and roughly according to the wanted targeting. But… you will never hear from such subscribers again. They are not people at all but some fake profiles. Do not expect any comments, shares, polls or leads from them.

Benefits: Cost per subscriber (usually per hundred or per mille), time input and control. Actually it requires little effort on your part. And it doesn’t require much money either. You just place an order and see Likes number growing.

Drawbacks: Subscriber motivation. It’s no love match. These subscribers won’t help you reach your business goals. Those who sell their Like for a penny are unlikely to become your loyal customers and wouldn’t spend money on your product. You’ll have great reporting, though… (if it’s the only thing you want from your online presence).

4.      Mutual following.

Friendship in return for reciprocity. It is practiced on the platforms where reciprocity is not implied (Twitter, Livejournal, etc.). So when you subscribe to an account you can only hope that you’ll be noticed and subscribed back. Accounts acquired by mutual following are easy to detect: the number of followers approximates the number of those who are followed. As a rule this method implies very wide targeting (Russia or Russian-speaking accounts, to be exact) and it can be automated. The trouble is, you risk having your account banned. For instance, one year ago Bulad Subanov (the deputy president “OTP Bank”) had about 40,000 followers on Twitter and he was reading back the same amount of accounts.Subanov Twitter

Benefits: Some networks /platforms don’t provide tools for promotion of unknown people or brands. Mutual following is a good way to gather people around you even if nobody knows you.

Drawbacks: it does not work on brand awareness. These subscribers won’t read you all the time. Accounts with more than 100-300 subscribers are unlikely to read everything their followers publish. And you have to do something out of the ordinary to attract their attention. No targeting – it’s another disadvantage. At best, you’ll be able to define the gender and the location, but you’ll have to analyze the content of the account to get this information.

5.      Direct invitations.

This is the case when you address a particular person directly with an invitation / a request / an incentive to subscribe to your page. Some networks have their own built-in tools for it. For example, upon creating a page Facebook will suggest you inviting your friends to the page. Odnoklassniki still allows to invite any user to your page (not necessarily friends), which significantly increases the effectiveness of such invitations. When you invite somebody to become your friend and in 2 hours ask them to subscribe to your group, such double impudence is annoying and disappointing. One subscriber per 10 invitations like these is a good conversion rate.

Benefits: It seems to be a good way to attract people for free + good chances for targeting (you find women publishing photos of their children and invite them only).

Drawbacks: a lot of manual work, negative reaction of those who regard your invitation as spam (9 out of 10 at the most) and limited, small audience who you can address in this way.odnoklassniki

6.      Bringing audience from a different channel.

Let’s say, you already have places where your audience is numerous (you are a coffeehouse chain and people come to your places every day, and you get huge traffic at your website, etc.). It’s  sometimes enough just to place an invitation to join your social media page on this channel and you get hundreds or even thousands of subscribers. And if you figure out how to motivate people to subscribe, you’ll get dozens of thousands. Well, for instance, on Twitter you can daily hold a competition for a prize of a free business lunch.

Benefits: you have subscribers and on the other hand you have a loyal audience who have visited you at least twice. You have an opportunity to get to a new communication level, create sales, client support and reach other goals which are worthwhile.

The only drawback: you may not have this channel.

7.      Hacking and other manipulations of consciousness.

This method implies that the only thing that matters is the number of subscribers shown by the counter. And you don’t care who they are and what they think of your page. Here goes hacking, making fake accounts which subscribe to your page, repurchasing of communities. For example, a page was designed as a community of bubble wrap lovers and all of a sudden it appears under a brand name.

Benefits: very cheap subscribers.

Drawbacks: Subscribers like these cannot work on any of business goals. They won’t buy anything from you or express any interest to your brand.

How to bring down the cost per subscriber.

Every method has its own criteria for conversion and its own ways how to cut down the price.  In case of targeted advertising you work with targeting, bids, sometimes the account itself. When attracting audience from active communities, the community itself is of major importance: how active is its audience? how many ads except yours will be placed next hour / tomorrow?  How much content for subscribers (not for advertising) does the community post? How well the ad, your page and the community match? The account itself is also of great importance if you send a direct invitation, as well as the contents of the invitation.

But apart from the features of the methods conversion and consequently the price are influenced by:

  1. The subject matter of the community. The narrower and the closer to the real problems of the target audience it is, the more likely people are to subscribe to it.  The wider and the closer to glamour it is, the less interesting it is for people to join.
  2. Attitude to the brand. Some brands are perceived positively and they are forgiven for a lot of things. Others bring up mixed feelings and any their slip-up, even a spelling mistake, could arouse barbed remarks. The more diverse the reactions to the brand are, the more feelings are touched, the more readily people will subscribe. Positive and simply good brands that are nothing to be spoken about are not of much interest.
  3. Audience activity in the community. If old subscribers are interested and excited about everything going on in the community, new subscribers are sooner to join in.
  4. Tangible benefits. If a community enables audience to get some practical benefit that CANNOT be received anywhere else (to get a response in 5 min to any question, to order lunch, to talk to a person inaccessible in ordinary, everyday life, etc.), the conversion of visitors to subscribers will rise dramatically.

 Which method is the best of the best?

If I were to decide on how to attract subscribers, I wouldn’t speak about moral and ethic principals. Focus on the goal. If the goal of your community is to strengthen the bond with the audience, client support and so on, bring audience from other channels. You wouldn’t attract new audience in this way, but you would bring back people who had already come to you. And that’s exactly what your goal is about. If your goal is primary sales, raising brand / product awareness, education of potential clients, then taking audience from current channels is not for you.  You should use targeted advertising, active communities and so on. It’s important to remember that the method you choose to attract people have to come out of the main question – WHY?

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