Why Facebook Breakups Can Really Hurt (Your Business)
by Dori Saltzman /

Like it or not, anytime someone can “like” a company or brand on Facebook, they can just as easily “unlike” them. Facebook breakups happen silently and probably more often than you realize.

Jeffrey K. Rohrs

“A social media breakup is when a consumer ends a permission-based communication right with a brand,” explained Jeffrey K. Rohrs, vice president of marketing for ExactTarget, which specializes in interactive marketing.

More than half (55%) of Facebook users have liked a company and later decided they no longer want to see the company’s posts, according to ExactTarget’s research.

Social media breakups can have unexpected – and unwanted – consequences. For companies that don’t have thousands of fans, even a few such breakups can affect how your posts appear – or even whether they appear – on Facebook.

It’s complicated
“A lot of marketers think, ‘If I post something it’s going to get seen by my fans.’ That’s simply not the case,” Rohrs said.

Facebook places posts on users’ walls according to an algorithm. If people are not interacting with your posts, or worse yet hiding them or unliking you, Facebook takes that as a sign that your company isn’t popular, which means fewer of your posts will appear automatically on users’ walls.

(Customers that have liked you and regularly interacted with you will continue to see your posts because Facebook recognizes that they are relevant to that person.)

Ouch, that hurts
Facebook breakups occur three ways. There are de jure breakups – when someone takes the step of unliking a company. And two types of de facto breakups – hiding a brand’s posts on the user’s wall or simply ignoring the posts.

More fans take the proactive step of un-liking a company (43%) than simply hiding a company’s posts from their wall (38%) or just ignoring the posts (19%), according to ExactTarget’s research.

Mixed messages
Consumers’ expectations of how brands will engage with them on Facebook depend on their motivations for liking a brand, according to an ExactTarget report on social media breakups. (See sidebar.)
“Facebook is still wet cement,” Rohrs said. “It is not an environment where people have a singular view of how marketing is supposed to work. It’s still evolving underneath us.”

What do you want from me?
Consumer expectations about the types of messaging that a company they like will send differ as well.

“While many consumers like brands in order to receive discounts and promotions, nearly as many others are turned off by this type of messaging,” according to ExactTarget’s report.
“Fifty-one percent of people, when they liked a company on Facebook, expected to then receive marketing messages from them,” Rohrs told Travel Market Report. “They equated the like with permission to market. However, 40% of people said no, that does not give you the right to market to me.”

Why age and sex matter
Expectations vary by age and sex.

Consumers 24 years old and younger are least likely to expect marketing messages from companies they like on Facebook. In their eyes, liking a company is not the same as giving it permission to market to them. Consumers 35 or older are most likely to expect marketing messages from companies they’ve liked.

And men are less likely to expect marketing messages (44%) than women (55%).

These conflicting motivations and expectations make it difficult for companies to please everyone and inevitably lead some fans to unlike a company when they don’t get what they want – or get too much of what they don’t want.

Why are you leaving me?
Consumers are more united in their reasons for breaking up with a brand. Excessive posting by a company is the deciding factor for many – 63% have unliked a company or brand for this reason.

Boredom is another turnoff. More than a third (38%) of Facebook users said they unliked a company because the posts became too boring or too repetitive.

For 19%, the company’s content wasn’t relevant to them from the start, and 17% are turned off by chitchat posts that aren’t focused on “real value.”

One-night stands
A full one-quarter of consumers said they only liked a company in order to get a one-time offer, and then unliked the company after getting it.

Similarly, 24% said they unliked a brand because the company didn’t offer enough deals.

But – and this is where consumers are sending mixed signals again – the same percentage (24%) said they unliked a company because the posts were too promotional.

Facebook romance advice: take it slowly
With so many mixed messages coming from Facebook users, what is a company looking to market on Facebook to do?

“What it comes down to is testing it,” Rohrs said. “You should go slow and try to build relationships first.”

The fact that many people cite staying informed about a company and/or its products as a reason to like it on Facebook goes to the heart of what Facebook is about, Rohrs said. “It’s not about marketing; it’s about the individual and their relationship with friends.

“Where marketers can do themselves a great deal of good on Facebook is to have a very human interaction. A lot of travel is emotional and experiential, so have those conversations about ‘what do you like most about Hawaii?’

“Tap into the personal level of conversation, akin to what people would have with their friends. That’s going to generate more interaction than posting ‘Trips to Hawaii are 50% off right now.’”

That’s not to say that if you have a great deal you can’t put it out there. “It just means you’re going to have to find the right balance between promotion and interaction.”

Rohrs suggested that agents siphon off Facebook users who are just looking for good deals and promotions by trying to get them to sign up for an email list. That way the people who interact with you on Facebook are truly engaged fans.

Facebook is still wet cement. It is not an environment where people have a singular view of how marketing is supposed to work. It’s still evolving underneath us.

Jeffrey K. Rohrs, ExactTarget