Why copying successful social media strategies does not work

Jan 22, 2014, 10:07 ET from American Marketing Association

CHICAGO, Jan. 22, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Recent research published in the Journal of Marketing suggests differences in Facebook marketing for useful vs. fun-oriented products. As the number of active Facebook users continues to climb, more and more firms look beyond simply establishing a Facebook presence—they seek to "get Facebook marketing right." Certainly, most firms would not mind following in the footsteps of FarmVille or CityVille—products whose hugely successful viral marketing efforts on Facebook resulted in adoption by up to 100 million customers within a few weeks. The prospect of free, yet highly effective recommendations from consumer to consumer is very appealing. Still, many wonder whether FarmVille's social media strategy works equally well for all products.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20111102/DC96044LOGO)

Researchers Christian Schulze from the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management and Lisa Scholer and Bernd Skiera of Goethe University Frankfurt analyze the workings of social sharing mechanisms. Through an analysis of 751 viral marketing campaigns across 22 different product categories on Facebook, they investigate the mechanisms that encourage consumers to share information about a product with their friends. Their findings are a wake-up call for many firms: copying FarmVille's social media strategy might not only be ineffective, it has the potential to ruin their Facebook marketing efforts.

The study appears as the lead article in the January issue of the American Marketing Association's Journal of Marketing. It confirms that the success of games such as FarmVille was not an accident. Broadcast messages from friends that contain incentives to use the product—the social sharing mechanism popularized by Farmville—is indeed the most effective social sharing mechanism for games and other fun-oriented products on Facebook, with the potential to increase average product success by a factor of 19. At the same time, however, the approach is the least effective for marketing primarily useful products, such as legal advice, job search, or financial services. For useful products, FarmVille's social media strategy will even reduce their social media success by 75% on average. Instead of copying FarmVille, firms promoting these products should rely on less aggressive and more personal recommendations, and even avoid incentives in order to increase the relevance of their marketing message and decrease consumer skepticism.

The impact of social sharing mechanisms on the success of Facebook marketing is tremendous. To get it right, however, firms promoting useful products must stop copying FarmVille.

About the AMA

About the American Marketing Association:
The American Marketing Association (AMA) is the professional association for individuals and organizations who are leading the practice, teaching, and development of marketing worldwide. Learn more at ama.org.

Contact: Christopher Bartone – 312.542.9029 – cbartone@ama.org

SOURCE American Marketing Association