For many brands, Facebook has become about acquiring fans, maintaining high engagement rates and, of course, doing one up on competitors to secure bragging rights.
Running impersonal competitions and giveaways are a sure fire tactic to tick the fan growth and engagement boxes. They are also a sure fire way to attract the lesser-spotted Facebooker sub-species, known to embattled community managers as 'serial competition enterers' or less subtly as 'competition trolls'.
Facebook and community managers alike want people to like a page because they actually like that particular brand and its content. This is a major reason behind Facebook's decision to put a stop to incentivising page likes by forcing fans to like a page to enter a competition or use an app.
As Facebook explains it, "To ensure quality connections and help businesses reach the people who matter to them, we want people to like Pages because they want to connect and hear from the business, not because of artificial incentives. We believe this update will benefit people and advertisers alike."
Gaming the system
The sentiment is good, but it doesn't fully eliminate the problem of poor-quality fan growth. The more advanced the serial competition enterer, the more difficult it is to spot them.
They know how to use the system to their advantage and play the 'quality' engagement game. They know what you want to hear and see from a real fan. They engage with all of your posts - even the ones where they can't win anything, because they know brands are looking for that 'authentic' engagement.
You'd be forgiven for believing these Facebookers were truly huge fans of your brand. They may even go so far as to post daily messages to your wall - with the purpose of appearing to be genuinely engaged with your page. The amount of time they seem to spend engaging with your every utterance might also fool you into thinking that they simply can't be doing anything else with any other brands behind your back.
Yet, if you happened to just pop across to a competitor page - or any other page that gives away prizes in any shape or form - you'll find those self-same 'devoted' fans posting variations of the same comments they just posted on your wall a few hours before, just with a different brand name inserted where yours used to be.
Dig a little deeper by exploring the profiles of these serial competition enterers and you're likely to see a couple of tell-tale characteristics. The first is a low number of Facebook friends. Their friend list is also very likely to feature the names of other suspected serial competition enterers.
Their wall, if visible, is filled with posts about competitions - from fabric softener and coupons right to exotic holidays and exorbitant cash prizes, if it's potentially free, this Facebooker is all over it.
For some brands, having this type of Facebooker account for the majority of their page engagement is a non-issue. As long as they're getting the growth and engagement stats they want, a deeper analysis of the quality of engagement is irrelevant.
Real people, real engagement
The flip side of the argument involves interrogating the purpose of a brand investing in a social media presence from the outset. If your goal is merely to get the desired KPIs as stats that can be reported against in status meetings, then by all means, embrace the serial competition entering subculture.
However, if your goal is to have real engagement with real people who have a genuine interest in your brand that will translate into real conversions, then you may need to reconsider some of your social media tactics.
Protect your community by carefully considering your competition and page terms and conditions.
- Stop placing the emphasis on the sheer quantity of fans, likes and comments over the quality of these elements. Interrogate who is engaging with your page. If you are not happy with the quality of your fan base, relook your targeting strategy when investing in sponsored posts and Facebook advertising.
- Stop running impersonal competitions. If every second post on your page involves giving away free stuff, you will attract the type of people who are only on Facebook for that purpose and that purpose alone.
- Craft your content around attracting the type of fans and conversations you want to have on your page. In so doing, you will find you are far more likely to see real return on investment in the form of trial and sales.
- Design competitions with real fans in mind. Competitions should be about rewarding fans of your brand for their loyalty - not about rewarding serial competition enterers for their persistence. Carefully consider your entry mechanism and how you can best ensure it speaks to brand loyalists rather than competition opportunists.
Empower your community manager to use their discretion when selecting a deserving winner. Concrete T&Cs can be a red flag for Facebookers who are there for the wrong reasons.