With over 30 million fans, the Obama Facebook page became the front line in supporter engagement for this election race. Here we round up the most ‘liked’ status updates from the campaign and ask is there anything that marketers can learn from this unofficial President of Social Media? Let’s look at the top 10:
1-4. The ‘everyday family’ status update (or why it’s important to blend in)
It might surprise the political pundits that over the entire campaign, Obama’s four most popular status updates featured natural, ‘unplanned’ shots of his wife and family, not posed presidential pictures, snappy campaign messages or wizzy infographics.
That's not to say there isn't a place in social media for this weightier content. But what the stats show is that Facebook still galvanises the highest levels of engagement when used as a person-to-person medium, and that images posted which are in keeping with the rest of someone’s newsfeed (not dissimilar to those being shared by families and friends) tend to do well.
Brand lesson: Personalised content, perhaps using staff or celebrities, is worth exploring. However, brands need to be careful to retain a natural authenticity – customers will know if it’s staged.
5. The ‘like if you like’ image (or why customers need a payback)
Given that ‘liking’ the Obama Facebook page was an exercise in supporter self-selection, the success of this pledge-style post perhaps isn’t surprising, particularly as it was shared the day after the first debate when the Obama buzz was high.
What made this update particularly successful however was the arrow device, which slightly gamified the ‘liking’ process and gave sharers an instant, and fun, payback from clicking their mouse.
That said, ‘like if you likes’ are risky – they can appear to be an obvious marketing stunt with little benefit to the customer, and are therefore prone to a backlash.
Brand lesson: For brands that are loved and play a strong role in people's lives, then ‘like if you like’ posts can work well, but only if they are used at the right time and provide (ideally) some payback to the customer.
6. The ‘funny picture’ status update (or why real people matter)
Obama’s Facebook page is peppered with personal stories and pictures of people encountered during the campaign. This is important, and not just for their highly shareable smile-inducing/heart-wrenching properties. Without them, the page would be a purely broadcast medium; a push for brand Obama rather than a way to amplify the voices of the people the election is ultimately about – the voters.
Brand lesson: Facebook pages relying on wall-to-wall branded messaging are missing an opportunity to build and amplify their fan base – the loyal customers. Dedicating some posts to a customer viewpoint, idea or experience is an easy way of showing that customers matter most.
7-9. The ‘we need you’ status update (or why it's important to link ‘likes’ to actions)
These three updates more than any others have the ring of a battle-cry; a plea for supporters to sway the crucial balance of public opinion on the debates through a single mouse click.
The images and copy are strong, of course, but this content was shared and liked not because of the imagery, but because there was a sense that doing so would potentially make a difference to something supporters cared about.
Brand lesson: ‘Likes’ might sometimes seem frivolous, but they shouldn’t be meaningless. Linking this small action to something of importance to customers in the real world gives brands credibility.
10. The ‘key message’ status update (or why brand values matter more than price deals)
It’s telling that we arrived at point number 10 in this list before we got anywhere near some actual policy content. The fact is that policy messages are often a bit dull. What people tend to engage with isn’t the practical substance of a manifesto but the ‘feel’ of the candidate – their personality; their capabilities; their values.
Brand marketing isn’t really that different. Price deals and functional reviews play an increasingly important role, of course, but when it comes to real engagement and the propensity to ‘join’ or ‘like’ you, brand attributes, values and personality matter as much as they ever did.
Brand lesson: While there is a place for specific deals and offers on Facebook, longer term, positive engagement happens because customers like and trust the brand. By focusing on content that communicates positive values, customers are more likely to ‘like’.