Is social networking hurting sales?

I got an email blast for a Broadway show the other day that made me wonder whether or not we’re putting too much emphasis on the “like” or the “follow” call to action that is appearing on every piece of marketing material known to man these days.

Here’s what concerns me:

In direct response advertising, what we want the person to do is buy a ticket. Period.  And any great salesperson will tell you that when you make the “ask,” you offer your customers only what you want them to buy.  If you offer something else to them at the same time, they just may take it.  And then you lose, or diminish your returns.  Make the ask, and if your customer rejects your first and best option, then you can reduce your ask.

By pushing the “Like us on Facebook” or “Follow us on Twitter” we’re actually giving our customers a free way to show their support and love for a product without spending any money.

Yes, obviously there is a big difference between seeing a show and liking it, and the customer is missing a big part of the experience . . . so let me give you another example.

I got an email asking for a Kickstarter donation yesterday. I signed on and was ready to make my pledge when I noticed something.  The project had only raised money from 5 people.  But the project had almost 40 “likes.”

Obviously those 35 other people didn’t “like” the project that much, right?

Could it be that some of those 35 people were on the fence about giving and then clicked the like button and said, “Ok, now I don’t have to feel so guilty for not doing anything”?  They had an out that could show their support, albeit in a small way, without buying.

Now, you could argue that these people are warmer leads for conversion later on down the road (as long as a good social media strategy backed it up), but we could be letting some people off the hook by pushing liking and following too much.  (Hopefully someone will do a study to see whether this theory bears fruit or not.)

But whatever the answer to the question is . . . the message is the same.

Be careful what you ask for . . . because you just might get it . . . or worse, you might not get it.


(Got a comment?  I love ’em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)

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  • Amyleigh1982 says:

    Facebook – some people are just chronic ‘Likers’ who will click on anything and never think about it again. (Chronic Frienders too, but that’s another rant.) Isn’t it supposed to be a numbers game? Say something got 2,000 likes but only one-eighth of those people contributed. Isn’t that STILL a lot of people? 250 is still one-eighth but it seems much larger than 5 out of 40. The solution? GET MORE FANS!
    And those other Kickstarter people were probably ‘Liking’ people like YOU that actually contribute.

  • Jeff says:

    This is something I’ve thought about a lot, though not in terms of sales, and even had the dreaded Facebook Fight over (despite promising myself I would stop doing that…)
    For me, it revolved around altruism. When you do somwthing good, you feel good. That’s why people donate money, time, or objects, or speak out loudly and constantly on issues they feel strongly about. Now there’s this trend toward things like “change your picture to a cartoon character to show you’re against child abuse” (which caused the fight in question). In my opinion, people are “stealing” their altruistic feeling. Because, rather than doing something (anything!) tangible, they are doing something that makes literally no difference.
    Same with what you said: if I “Like” your show, because I like that it exists (because maybe it’s innovative or original, or has a cast member I like), I don’t feel guilty for not buying a ticket (maybe because I’ve heard that, as innovative as it is, it’s *really* boring). I’ve “stolen” the satisfaction of supporting innovative theatre without actually supporting it.
    Of course, the argument is always “my action might help someone else 2 or 3 degrees of separation down the line.” Isn’t this the same logic people who steal music or movies (or sheet music!) use? That they’re exposing other people to the piece, so that’s their “payment”?
    I know my argument has drifted a little, but I think you get my point. Social networking, like you say, makes it easy for us to feel like we’re participating without doing so.

  • Michael Dale says:

    Liking something is the Facebook version of spreading word of mouth. I may not have the money to give, but by liking the page I’ve notified all of my Facebook friends that this is something I think is worth looking into.

  • Laurent says:

    I am in agreement with those that have posted before me. I’d like to add that I’m of the mind that the idea of “liking” a show on Facebook for the producers is showing that the “liker” is a fan of the show and has already probably seen it. There may be those that “like” it without seeing it, but I’d think the majority had already….or am I being naive?

  • Bert says:

    Ken, I’m hoping you will reconsider and back my Kickstarter project, “Cinderella Skeleton, the Musical.” After reading your post, I checked my project…107 likes and 20 backers. Of course, I still have another 40 days to convert those likes to backers and I am confident that I can do it. Hoping you will lead the way!
    And for the record, after just over 2 weeks I am 44% funded. I think that’s pretty good (He said, patting himself on the back)! : )

  • MomsThoughts says:

    I know I have donated to several causes that I never would have even known about if it were not for social networking. I have also seen and not seen shows b/c of feedback or direct interaction with supportors or cast on social network sites. I sometimes “like” something to remind me to contribute when I have my credit card handy…lol sometimes its just that simple. I think it is all good. <3

  • Elisa Clayton says:

    Sometimes I “Like” something because I want to show support when I can’t afford to do more, in the hope that someone else seeing that I liked it, who can do more, will.

  • Paul Mendenhall says:

    I think you are exactly right about this Ken. I am the world’s worst salesman, and one of the reasons is, I can’t help blurting out all the options upfront, and actually encouraging people to go for the one that will cost them less! It makes much more sense to present the option you want them to take, and not give them any “out” unless you see they will not bite.

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