Social Media Promotions Can Backfire

by Vered DeLeeuw

I have a client that was really into running promotions. We offered coupons, did contests and giveaways, offered discounts, all in an effort to get more Facebook fans. We used the popular – and controversial – fan-gating method, to allow only fans access to our promotions, which encouraged people interested in the promotions to like our page.

There was just one small problem: The fans that came through these promotions were often only interested in the promotions, not in the brand. They were impatient, they had an appetite for promotions that we just couldn’t satiate, and they got mad at us whenever a promotion wasn’t managed the way they had envisioned (for example, if they had to wait for coupons for too long). Dealing with them was exhausting!

The new Facebook Timeline for Brands was at first worrying, because we couldn’t fan-gate promotions anymore. But looking back, Facebook did us a huge favor, because our inability to fan-gate caused us to rethink our promotions strategy and cut back. A lot.

We still continued to post engaging content on our Facebook page, not too often (you don’t want to annoy people to the point that they unlike your page), and waited to see what would happen next. We assumed that without new promotions, with no tangible reason to like our page, we would see a drop in our number of fans – maybe even a significant drop.

To our surprise, that did not happen. Our number of fans continued, and still continues, to steadily grow. And the best part? That section for fan postings on our Facebook page, that used to be filled with complaints (“Where’s my coupon? I’ve been waiting for it forever!”) is now filled with “love you guys!” “great product!” as well as customer service-type questions that are asked in a gentle, polite way, in stark contrast to the sense of entitlement that we used to get from fans.

It wasn’t their fault, of course – we got them used to dealing with us as a brand that gives them stuff. But now that we’re focused on building up our brand identity, being interesting and engaging and communicating with fans on a different level, a social level, they are responding accordingly, and they are not punishing us for not giving them as much stuff as we used to give them. On the contrary.

As it turns out, frequent promotions are not necessarily a fool-proof way to gain social media success. They can sometimes backfire, and brands need to be careful about how often they run them.

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