Brand Passion Beats Brand “Liking”

People look at Facebook “likes” today much the same way we used to look at the McDonald’s highway sign that once declared “Over 20 million sold”. Today, in a similar way, social media numbers appear to be both a popularity contest and approval score.

But it’s time to do some basic accounting. Dissect the over 20 million people “liking” your site (if you’re as popular as Starbucks), and you might find that less than 10% of them are spending anything more than a few seconds in your backyard.

While millions seem to be “liking” you, it’s not love. In fact, the vast majority are usually just casual acquaintances, clicking through on their way to a more serious relationship. (Sure, just like the old 20/80 rule: twenty percent of your customers provide the majority of your business. But that’s not the news here.)

The wonderful news is that the 10 percent who linger on your site are staying for three minutes or more (that’s eons in Internet time). Calculating the numbers from the 20 million mark, that’s approximately 2 million who are hanging out, getting to know you, and starting to really care about your brand.

Know who these people are? They’re your brand zealots. Your advocates. The people with the buzz muscle to help turn potential zealots on to your brand.

Your new objective? Think of your brand as a network. Use as many social media tools as budgets allow: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, and apps, to develop a brand narrative that moves social citizens to your site.

Be exciting. Be interesting. Be entertaining. Match crazy YouTube videos with wild postings and events and other ‘traditional’ paid media that move social citizens from their backyard to your backyard: your (paid) site. Find ways to engage and re-engage zealots every time they come to you. (But please, no more coupons.)

Example. Best Buy Mobile created a mobile app called “Excuse Clock” that sets the time forward if you’re stuck in a boring meeting. (“Oh! Look at the time! Gotta run!”) Perfect for today’s young mobile-savvy audience.

Starbucks just introduced a gifting app that lets you sit in Manhattan and buy friends in L.A. an iced grande skim latte. Nicely tuned to the trends of random giving and mobile networking

Nike+ offers up not just gear, but running routes posted by social citizens in their local community, music to run to, and more.

Help zealots advocate you and your brand values. Smart companies today understand that there is no dividing line between traditional and social media. They are all vehicles for distributing meaningful content that needs to be mashed, focused, and driven by a strategic brand narrative. Importantly, these are opportunities to create, rather than simply react, Mix up new media with traditional media by using digital outdoor boards where people can read tweets and Facebook posts in real time. Conan O’Brien posted real-time tweets on digital outdoor boards with real-time success. Miller Brewing has done the same.  Domino’s new TV spots flash supposed posts in Times Square.

Once you get your zealots excited and talking, social network theory and the subsequent effects of contagion suggest that they can in turn influence as many as 100 other social citizens.

Now do the math again. Ten percent of your 20 million “likes” equals 2 million brand zealots. If they influence just 10 potential zealots, suddenly you’re back up to 20 million. But these people aren’t just clicking through. Now they’re your zealots, your brand lovers.

And we love that.