A Brand And Person Offer The Same Post With Very Different Results

by · April 28, 201420 comments

My social media hippie friends have their collective organic panties in a tofu wad over my recent rants about how brands can’t really be human. Hey? The truth hurts, especially when you’ve been telling your clients the opposite for 8-10 years.

Sorry. They don’t call me an “instigator” for nothing, I guess.

While the recent news that Facebook will allegedly be dialing down organic reach for brand page content certainly inspired my thinking, this goes well beyond Facebook. Think about it in your own life. Would you trust the recommendation of a company to use their product or the recommendation of a person who used the product? Would you trust the company salesperson (who we assume is human) over the product user? Would you trust any of them over a trusted friend?

No, you wouldn’t. So why do we think brands can suddenly become our friends and influence our buying decisions?

Granted, it is a grey area. A brand you know, like and trust is one you’ll believe, perhaps even more so than a stranger (who is human). But let’s look at an example of how this brand-human difference comes to life. To keep the environmental considerations clean, we’ll look at Facebook.

On April 9, Quaker (a brand with solid social media content and engagement) posted the following on its Facebook page:

 

Quaker's Post

As of yesterday, that post garnered 165 likes, 18 comments (not including 11 of their own) and two shares.

I was one of those shares. That same day, I posted this

Jason Falls's Quaker Post

As of yesterday, that post earned one like, 38 comments (not including one from me) and zero shares.

Before the hippies go nuts (nay, granola) saying Quaker’s metrics were better, consider this:

  1. Both Quaker and I asked a question
  2. Personal content is less likely to be Liked or Shared if it’s an engagement piece (a question). The call-to-action is to answer the question, which xx people did.
  3. Quaker’s Facebook audience is 1,187,000+ people. Mine is 1,800 (friends) plus 2,700 followers — oughly 0.004 percent of theirs.

Looking at the metric the post was trying to elicit — comments — the personal posts wins. And would likely win every time, especially when you take into account the size of the audience.

Why is this so?

First, look at the posts. If you saw something in your feed posted by Quaker, you might look at it, like it and move on. If you saw the same thing posted by a human being and friend of yours (because they Shared Quaker’s original post), you’re going to pay more attention to it. Your trusted friend/connection has recommended you pay attention to this content.

How else could one (admittedly well-followed) human being out-perform a million-plus person audience brand?

And don’t get me wrong — I love what Quaker does. This isn’t about them doing anything wrong. It’s about the limitations of even a great, engaging brand compared to interactions with people, not companies or buildings.

It’s about trust. We trust humans more than we trust logos. Even if they have a cute name. (Quaker’s is Larry The Quaker Guy. Git ‘er done. Heh.)

This is why I feel strongly that the Facebook share, and more widely stated, loyalty and reward program that encourage brand advocacy and ambassadorship are where marketers need to focus their attention in the coming months or even years.

If the social media platforms are going to make us pay to play … and Facebook won’t be the last to do so … then organic reach is only going to be accomplished at meaningful levels by our most passionate fans.

Agree? Disagree? Wish to complain about me calling you a hippie? The comments are yours.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • MaiColombo

    Excellent post! Congratulations!

  • http://www.socialidentities.com/ Hugh Briss

    I agree with you in general but you’re assuming that even though Quaker has millions of fans and you only have a few in comparison, that the lack of engagement on their post proves that it works better when a human posts it. What your example doesn’t take into account is the potential hundreds of thousands of people who didn’t take the time to engage with Quaker’s post but still saw it and subconsciously recorded what they saw and that’s good branding. The next time they’re at the grocery store there’s a good chance that little meme may make them more likely to purchase a Quaker product whether they took the time to like, comment or share.

    To your point about building brand advocates, I’m pretty sure that’s what they’re attempting to do with memes like that and unfortunately it just didn’t get the engagement they were looking for and that’s just because it’s not shareable. On the other side of the spectrum we have Oreo, that is killing it on social and has found a way to use humorous memes that do get shared, by the thousands. Their timing and quick thinking during the Super Bowl blackout was brilliant, a picture of a bowl of oatmeal asking what toppings you would pick is not.

  • http://redplatypuscreative.com Red Platypus

    Very interesting post. How can you avoid this as a brand though? Could you get someone in your company to operate all the social media under their name if you are a small business? I’m thinking this is dangerous to do…

  • Ravi Shukle

    It’s an interesting post for sure. After reading the post yes it’s important to have a human side to your brand but saying a person is more effective than a brand representing the page in my opinion isn’t true at all. Look at Disney as an example who do a great job of engaging their audience as just a logo. You can still build a personality through a brand and engage your audience that way rather than having a human face to front the brand. There’s nothing wrong with humanizing a brand but even as a corporate logo you can still build up the loyalty and trust just the same as a person.

  • Matt Hames

    Like you and other social media hippies, what we’re all watching is a space made up of content creators who don’t understand marketing, but are good content creators. Heck, I remember the day I did a post on Facebook for a fast-food joint in the south that read “Basketball or Football.” That post received over 4,000 likes and over 1,000 comments. At the time, the brand had 100K fans.

    It was easy. It is still somewhat easy to get comments from my Facebook friends. Indeed, I did a post on Saturday asking for people to define Facebook, and the almost exclusive lack of hippie answers was informative. But I rarely get 20 comments on any post anymore.

    What’s missing from our thoughts is why people care and share. The behavior. If you understand the behavior of your audience, what motivates them, what their pain points are, then you can post as the logo, a person, or the tooth fairy. It becomes inconsequential.

  • http://www.thesocialexec.com Ryon Harms

    Ok so I don’t think that a brand can be human (http://wp.me/p4wF60-fA), but I am a bit of a hippie. That said, your post here is sort of silly. How could you possibly compare your post to Quaker when you know that Facebook scores the EdgeRank so differently for big brand pages? Sure you could beat Usain Bolt at a race if you were running and he was jumping in a potato sack, but would you really be beating him?

    • Guest

      That’s exactly his point…brands automatically receive a lower EdgeRank than human profiles. He is suggesting brands post content that can be shared by passionate fans and to focus on brand advocacy.

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  • Kelli Pettigrew

    i agree with you Jason and once again, you travel the less popular road. Keep it up!

  • http://rachelanjali.wix.com/prperspectives Rachel Brown

    Hi Jason! I really
    loved your post. I am an upcoming graduate majoring in public relations and
    most definitely agree with this post and your previous post about how brands
    cannot be “human”. While the landscape is still changing, and more brands are
    trying to act as though they are people, I still 100% agree that a brand will
    never be more trustworthy than a person. For those who think that there will
    ever be swap in those roles are sadly mistaken. I especially thought that your
    use of metrics and measuring your post and a brands post really helped solidify
    your point. I am curious to try out the same method you used, and see what my
    results are after sharing a brand’s post. I also believe this could be a great
    teaching tool for professors in communications. To back you up, at Penn State
    we still learn brands are not human (we use the pronoun ‘its’ not ‘their’ to
    refer to a brand’s products and campaigns) and that recommendation from another
    human is always more valuable and trusted than one from an advertisement or
    company. Great post!

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  • http://cashwithatrueconscience.com/rbblog Ryan Biddulph

    Jason, a thing can’t trump a person in the human connections ;) Love the experiment, and it drills home a point. Until your brand becomes other worldly, it’s better to be a person, instead of a brand. Coca Cola has a gazillion people working under their brand, including monster marketing teams, and other iconic brands have a similar work force….and as proven above, even a brand like Quaker lacks the human-ness to get people to chat, and engage, like you did. People may trust brands, but respond better to people :)

    I found this post on kingged(dot)com and will vote it up to boost your already monster traffic. Thanks!

  • http://metzmiranda.wordpress.com/ Metz

    Of course! These two will have their own different results.

    The sample showed that the brand is more powerful. Well
    Quaker is a well-known brand world wide so typically; they will dive to the
    comment box or hit like and share. If you are a celebrity sharing this post,
    surely you will gain more notifications.

    So I agree with the post. I found this post shared on Kingged.com, the Internet marketing social site, and I “kingged” it and left this comment.

  • http://jameshalloran.net/ James R. Halloran

    But if people take on the “brand ambassador” mask, other real people won’t trust them either. So, how is that a solution for brands? I’m curious. A salesman is a salesman no matter what cutesy title you give them.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on that, Jason! Thanks for writing another good post, sir!

    • http://www.chelsearhane.com Chelsea Hickey

      I agree, to an extent about ambassadors, though I think ambassadors can be trusted a tad bit more than, say, influencers. I will preach about brand advocacy all day long, because that’s authentic. Leveraging a brand’s advocates might be the best possible thing you can do — they’ll post content without the brand asking, but if the brand happens to prompt them with certain content, it can be really powerful.

  • http://www.likebulbs.com/ Eugene Than

    A post by person gain more interaction, people feel more connected with people compare with brand.

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  • http://www.bevisibleassoc.com/ Betsy Kent

    Jason, great post. I have been considering the same issues lately and working it out in my head how I will tweak my biz profiles to be more of a person than a business. I am going to test a few things, such as changing one of my Twitter handles from “Be Visible” to “Be Visible Betsy.” I’ll let you know what happens!

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