How to build an overnight Facebook sensation on the cheap
That’s how you could pretty much sum up the conversation I had this morning with Jon Bishop, head of social media for PayPal UK. For the second time in a year, the popular online payment service has amassed 6-digit gains in its Facebook following in a matter of days with a pretty cost-effective pitch: friend us and you’ll get a chance to win a new iPad 2.
When we first reported on this campaign we were pretty skeptical, wondering if such a blatant give-away was, you know, pandering to the masses. What happens when the winners are announced, we wondered, and all but 10 grumble in disappointment? Would they stick around, or un-Like PayPal UK and go about their day? And isn’t there a more meaningful way to generate interest than to just give away a must-have gadget?
Before we answer that we should admit that we’ve got a bit of egg on our face. Bishop convincingly pointed out that the weeks-old effort has been a big success in not only attracting fans (more than 100,000 have “liked” PayPal UK in the past 2 weeks) but in boosting the daily interaction in the community (comments and queries are up, and not only to talk about the give-away) and, he believes, it will lead to continued loyalty and even further engagement down the road. Why so? PayPal executed this same campaign a year ago in Germany and the net result was roughly 100,000 new fans and the community there has grown incrementally ever since, in both follower numbers and in terms of daily interaction between members and PayPal Germany staffers.
PayPal UK figured it had a good chance of duplicating the success of what occurred in Germany, Bishop says, because “at least 80% of UK Facebook users have a PayPal account. What a great platform for us then to go out and engage with them.”
Here are a few other things about this campaign that are worth noting:
On customer acquisition costs: Bishop says there was NO out-of-pocket digital ad spend backing this effort. The only cost was the price of the 10 iPads (for sake of argument, let’s call that £5,000) and the cost of building the contest app (price = “very little,” he says). And the results? They’ve gained over 100,000 followers on a cost of little more than £5,000. If you do the math, that’s a cost of 5 pence a follower! And the campaign still has a few weeks to run. Run that ROI metric past your direct-marketing number-crunchers.
The risk of attracting the wrong kind of fans: Marketers know in the back of their mind that any time they organize a give-away it will attract contest junkies who could care less about your company or brand. Bishop says he expects they’ll lose some fans after the contest winners are announced, “but we’ll still have a big audience left with which we can engage.” And building the community is the hard part, he points out. He’s confident the vast majority will stay with PayPal UK because so many of them use the service already. And, with a big community they can begin to talk to them about other issues, including new product launches and even answer customer service queries.
Golden rule of engagement: Which is? Right. “Don’t talk about yourself all the time.” Many brands forget this, pumping out the me-me-me announcements. “The idea is quite simply you should be talking about what they want to hear. After all, it’s their page,” Bishop says.
Are give-aways the only way to boost your fan following? Bishop acknowledges it’s worked very well twice now for PayPal. But he points out that it’s worked because once people are there on the Facebook fan page they can read up on other related matters of interest. It’s true that the give-away is far and away the most-discussed conversations on the PayPal UK Facebook page at the moment, but, in reading the comments, Bishop says he and his team can start to learn better what people are interested in. And guess what? It’s not always what can I win?
The importance of momentum. Here’s why a give-away of this kind makes sense, Bishop explains. At the outset the typical fans community needs some kind of jolt, something to perk their interest, something that will compel the general public to investigate the community and maybe tell friends about it. In this case it happened to be the lure of an iPad2. Once the seeds are sown, the numbers grow and the community starts to reach its full(er) potential. But you do need that level of meaningful daily interaction otherwise nobody will join the community. And you need the people to make that happen. And you need the incentive to lure them there in the first place. If the offering is a compelling one then the new followers will stay long after they’ve won or lost the contest.
Ok, so “bribery” it’s not. We admit it. Now we’re wondering: will PayPal UK succeed in breaking some kind of customer-acquisition-cost record? We’re also guessing Facebook cannot be too happy that a brand has so deftly used its platform to build a swelling fan base without needing to buy a single ad. Expect to see this kind of effort duplicated again, and not just by PayPal.