Incentive Based Social Media Followings: Fair or Foul ?

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Many companies are turning to incentives such as discounts and product giveaways with the hopes of increasing their social media presence, via a new Facebook like or Twitter follow. Pepsi recently debuted a Pepsi Like Machine in Antwerp, Belgium at a Beyoncé concert. The machine dispenses a can of Pepsi or Pepsi product of the user’s choice after he or she likes Pepsi’s Facebook page. Users were given the option to like the page using a touch screen on the machine or by liking the page on their mobile devices.

See the machine in action here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=O4YrQpupEO8

We are now living in a time in which we value a company based on the number of followers or likes it has. Is a business that has 1 million Facebook likes better than a business that has only 100 Facebook likes? Not necessarily, but when a company’s social media following is being used as leverage in business meetings it’s not hard to see why they are clamoring to get their next social media follower no matter how disingenuous it may be.

This was Pepsi’s first test with such a machine, and according to the company it was a success. While a novel idea, the Pepsi Like Machine and other incentives poses a few questions regarding the way businesses use social media. Is the incentive-based like, follow, or retweet an effective entry point to engagement with consumers? How many of the users who liked the Pepsi Facebook page will remain actively engaged after receiving their free can of soda? This type of incentive-based following also poses a question about measurement. Do we count this effort a success because the company gained new Facebook likes, or do we measure on the number of users who remain active on the Pepsi Facebook page after there is no longer an incentive to do so?

For various reasons, many users will not return - no matter how great your content is. To combat fleeting, incentive based users, businesses must understand that a new Facebook like or Twitter follower is only the beginning of the conversation. Your coupon or giveaway got the consumer in the door, now it’s your job to make them life-long visitors. An incentive based Facebook like with no follow-up is no different than a perceived great first date that never leads to a second. Be just as engaging to keep the consumer around.

 How do you feel about incentive based social media followings?