Why does every social media strategy seemingly start with a company cajoling people to come “like” their Facebook page? This post will explain why that is usually a bad strategy if you are aiming at creating long-term, loyal customers.

I’ve been honored to be selected to help judge a global company’s internal social media competition.  Entries were submitted from all over the country as their locations put forward their best shots at social media gold.

There were some interesting entries, even some very good ones, but they all had one thing in common. In the “objectives” section, every  single organization stated something like this:

“Our goal is to enter the conversation with our customers and engage with them on our Facebook page.”

Last week I wrote about how our relationships with brands develop over time through many small interactions that create awareness, affection, trust, and eventually a loyal relationship … similar to the way we create friendships in real life.

When I was a kid, it took quite a few interactions at school or on the playground before I was invited to go home after school and play at a friend’s house.  And it would get kind of boring if my friend never came to my house. You expect that kind of reciprocity in a relationship, right?

The one thing missing in almost any social media strategy I see is a plan for company representatives to actually go spend some time at the customer’s “house” — 100 percent of the effort is usually aimed at the very difficult task of drawing those eyes to THEIR page, their home, every day instead of visiting customers where THEY “live.”

If the true goal is customer connection, why does it have to start on your own Facebook page?

Why is the metric for success always the number of comments or likes you have on your page, rather than the number of likes and comments your company gives away on other pages? Shouldn’t the effort be at least equal?

This default position of driving people to your page is easy because it is so much simpler measuring your “likes” and comments as a metric of success.  It’s the popular thing to do, but I’d like you to start questioning if it is the RIGHT thing to do for a long-term strategy.  Check out this diagram and see if this makes sense:

small social media interactions

Relationships start with small interactions — and you probably have to go to where your customers are at first.  As they get interested in you, maybe they will start coming to your site where they may connect in a bigger way, and eventually bring their friends as they turn into fans.

If you’re sincerely trying to drive people up this curve (and not just “check the Facebook box”), why would you have a strategy that only involves buying likes with coupons and contests?  Maybe you need to go visit their house a few times first and get to know them on their terms, too!

(Note: Based on some reader comments, I wanted to clarify that visiting a customer’s “house” may not necessarily be Facebook. It could be their blog, Twitter account, LinkedIn, etc. — it’s where they “spend their time” on the web).

Of course there are many different ways to be successful on the social web and lots of companies are doing great things on their Facebook pages, but I wanted to introduce the idea that it doesn’t necessarily have to start with a “drive for likes”

Have you had similar experiences? Do you ever connect with your customers on their home base Facebook page, blog, or LinkedIn account?

Top illustration courtesy of Toothpaste for Dinner

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