Facebook now has over 400 million accounts with 50 million of those created since last fall. We know people are on Facebook. And marketers are experimenting with ways to utilize it to their advantage. But is Facebook effective for marketing your business?
At least one study indicates that indeed it is. A recent study conducted by Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business indicates Facebook fan pages can be very effective in driving business. The study used a poplar Houston based bakery and café chain. The study initially included surveys of 689 customers. Then the café launched a Facebook fan page and invited customers to become a fan. The company updated the pages several times a week with product photos, contests, reviews, promotions and employee information.
Three months later the survey was conducted again with 1067 participants. The results found that Facebook fans increased their number of visits to the store by 36% and increased their percentage of dollars spent dining out with the café by 45%. The study also showed that Facebook fans were more likely to recommend the café to others. And the level of emotional attachment to the store for Facebook fans increased 14% and psychological loyalty to the brand increased 41%.
Although this is just one isolated study, it certainly indicates the potential value and usefulness of Facebook pages in building business and creating customer loyalty. The results are strong enough that they cannot be ignored.
Utpal M. Dholakia, associate professor of marketing, conducted the research and was quick to caution, saying, “We must be cautious in interpreting the study’s results. The fact that only about 5 percent of the firm’s 13,000 customers became Facebook fans within three months indicates that Facebook fan pages may work best as niche marketing programs targeted to customers who regularly use Facebook. Social-media marketing must be employed judiciously with other types of marketing programs.”
Facebook and social media are not marketing utopia but are becoming more significant in marketing effectiveness. The challenge for hospital marketers is to learn from research and success stories to discover how social networking can be used to increase business and increase consumer loyalty.