Facebook Users Motives: Pure Or Purely Human?

Facebook has become the darling of the social media marketing set largely based on the size of the audience and the relative cost to advertise to subsets of that audience. Now that Twitter has jumped into the fray with ads, time will tell which model will prevail. But I must say I look suspiciously at the results of studies like this done by the Michigan-based firm Morpace.

First, let me say that I have no reason to question the intentions or methodology of Morpace. However, while I don’t doubt that there is valuable conversation going on between Facebook users and companies, I wonder about the conclusions drawn from questions like this:

Ok. Call me cynical. But if the primary reason given for joining a fan page is “To let my friends know what products I support,” social media marketing may have a problem. As I see it, here are the possible conclusions that can be drawn from this statement:

1. I actually support this product and want my friends to be aware of this.
If this is true, then I’m wrong and everyone should move along because there’s nothing to see here. And this may be partially true. Or true for some users. But I think it’s likely that, due to the cozy nature of Facebook relationships, there may be some other motivations.

2. I think my friends would think it was cool (and I was cool) for supporting this product.
Facebook relationships ostensibly let others know what you are thinking. But what if your motivations aren’t so pure? What if you want more friends? Or want your existing friends to think better of you? Then why not align yourself with brands and products that would appear to make you a more desirable friend?

3. I actually just want the coupons and free stuff, but I’m too embarrassed to be truthful.
It’s hard to admit that you’re just in it for the swag. It sounds kind of sordid (though 37% did fess up). Still, it’s easy enough to say that you support the product for a more noble reason. So why not use the Facebook page for access to the deals and tell people it’s for a more lofty reason. It’s a win-win, right?

4. I have no idea what this product is, but my friend suggested I become a fan and I don’t want to disappoint him/her.
This is related to #2, but it’s more about the relationship with the person (or persons) than the brand association. With Facebook’s ability to “suggest,” the user is put on the spot. It’s the adult equivalent of the Do you like me – Yes/No note from fifth grade Language Arts class. And like #3, the truth is hard to admit. So it sounds better to say that you have another reason.

Now, a marketer who is not a cynic would look at all of these possibilities and say, “I don’t care why they’re there. If they’re there, they are part of the conversation. I can win them over, even if they’re there for the wrong reasons.” This is fundamentally true. However, if polls like this are telling you that 41% of your Fans are evangelists for your product you may market differently than if you were being told they might be too ashamed to admit their real reasons.

There is obviously much more in this study than just this question. And I don’t suggest that I know any of this for a fact. I can’t. I guess that’s true of all surveys. But I’m especially suspicious of these conclusions based on conversations I’ve had with people about social media in general and Facebook in particular. That, and I’ve met a bunch of people in my life.

Now that “Fan” has changed to “Like,” I’ll be interested in how or if this changes my mind. Though I think there is tremendous value for products and brands on Facebook, I’m just not sure that the motives of its users are as pure as this study would suggest.

What do you think? Am I being unfair?



Filed under Advertising & Marketing, Facebook, Social media & branding

4 responses to “Facebook Users Motives: Pure Or Purely Human?

  1. John,
    I, too, tend to be a bit of a cynic. This is the problem with relying too heavily on surveys and focus groups. I have personally witnessed focus group respondents lying because they felt (for whatever reason) they should or needed to. Is there truth in social media? I don’t know. We all know that buzz word “transparency” that social media is supposed to ooze, but I don’t think there is true transparency, maybe more like translucence. Everyone, consumers and brands alike, all have their own unique and private motivations in their various social media engagements and interactions. The REAL truth is impossible to ever know.

    • Thanks for your comment, Cheryl. I suppose this makes social media like any other media as far as the honesty of the participants. You could argue that its conversational nature should catch people with their guard down more than in a traditional survey or focus group setting. However, there are those who see it as a global stage. That gives him or her the opportunity to re-make and re-model to suit an intended persona. That, to me, is social media’s true danger as a source for transparency.

      By the way…readers should definitely check out your wonderful blog: Momblebee Blog. Consistently thought-provoking and intelligent stuff!

  2. Pingback: Momblebee Blog » Is New School Marketing Really That Different From Old School?

  3. Pingback: Meet The New Boss. Same As The Old Boss. « The Tap, Tap, Tap

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