Counting “Fans” And “Followers” Is The HFCS Of Social Engagement

Earlier this month, the NYTimes took a deeper dive into the idea of “good attention vs. bad attention.” I wanted to keep the ball rolling on this idea, as it’s fundamental to thinking about social engagement with (and as) customers.

Although many of us are working in or with enterprises in a role related to connecting with customers, we need to do a shift in perspective. For right now, put on your “customer” hat; we all are customers, in addition to trying to connect with them. Through that lens, “good attention” is the type of attention you pay when something connects with you. It’s the type of attention to things you find interesting or engaging or intelligent or emotional. Conversely, “bad attention” is the attention that you pay, but you wouldn’t choose to if you had a better (or any) option.

Here are some examples of “good attention”

  • The attention you pay to any experience that you eventually tell a friend about
  • Ads that you want to watch more than once
  • Blog posts that makes you smile
  • Thoughtful Twitter followers
  • Thoughtful comments
  • Fiero!

Here are some examples of “bad attention”

  • Unsolicited email newsletters
  • Popup and pop-under ads
  • Any “interruptive” ads
  • Most display ads
  • Impressions
  • Page views
  • Spam

I struggled where to put the attention acts of “becoming a Fan” and “becoming a Follower” on this list. If you become a fan of a brand on Facebook because you like the brand, I think it’s at best a neutral. On the other hand, if you are forced to click “Like” in order to see a page’s content or to enter a one-shot contest as part of a campaign, that’s bad attention. It distorts and overloads the meaning of the word “Like” in such as way that is ultimately detrimental to an enterprise. The focus on “counting metrics” is almost always used as the starting point at measuring the impact of social engagement. But it can’t stop there.

Counting metrics are frequently used by enterprises at Stage 2 on the Social Engagement Journey. This is normal. Unfortunately, like high fructose corn syrup, counting fans and followers are the empty calories of customer engagement. They taste great at the time, but in the long run have a strong likelihood of causing damage. A focus on fan and follower counts ultimately leads to being caught in a bad attention trap.

So what can you do to move along the Journey?

  1. Think about whether you are attracting good attention or bad attention from your engagement activities
  2. Begin the transition from counting metrics to metrics that matter to both customers and your brand (like NPS)
  3. Don’t be complacent, thinking that having two million fans on your Facebook page means that you’re doing a good job at building long-lasting customer relationships with those two million individuals. It doesn’t. (Do you know how many of those two million fans are current customers of your brand? If the answer is “no, we don’t know,” then recognize that you’re likely falling into the trap of bad attention.)

Good Attention vs. Bad Attention

The confluence of the Super Bowl and its focus on immense ad spend, coupled with speaking at last week’s NetPromoter conference triggered a thought. Are there two kinds of attention (let’s call them “Good Attention” and “Bad Attention”), in the same way that there are two kinds of profits?

We know that there are two kinds of profits. Good profits are profits that fuel growth, and come from serving customers in such a way that they are willing to recommend your organization to others. Bad profits, conversely, are the types of profits where the customer feels extorted. Bad profits help make the quarterly number in the short run, but are unsustainable. Bad profits eventually eat away at the fabric of the company, by alienating its customers and demotivating its employees. An income statement can’t tell the difference between these two types of profits. But customers can.

Therefore, are there also two kinds of attention as well? It seems to me there are. “Bad attention” is interruptive. It’s the type of attention that is so costly, because it is so bad and inefficient. Think about popover ads, think about the Flash ads you block with AdBlocker, think about the “attention” you pay to the ad that starts blasting a tune as soon as you land on a page. Those are all ways of getting attention, but it’s bad attention.

Good attention is its opposite. Good attention is the attention you garner by virtue of going above and beyond. It’s the attention you earn by delighting someone, surprising them, amusing them, or triggering an empathetic emotion.

The ROI of good attention is orders of magnitude better than the ROI of bad attention. (In fact, it approaches infinity, if you really think about it.) Good attention is the attention that results in positive word of mouth, advocates, and the creation of promoters and defenders of your brand.

Good attention and bad attention are not functions of the communication channels being used between an organization and its customers. There are huge Super Bowl ads that attract good attention (think about last year’s Darth Vader commercial from VW – that was great). Similarly, there are 1:1 conversations that attract bad attention (and there is now an increasing amount of research on how to identify fake word-of-mouth).

Maybe we can classify some of these things. Are there examples of “good attention” and “bad attention” that you’ve seen recently?