Revealed: How one brand calculated the value of a Facebook fan

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Bulmers is a cider brand owned by Heineken, the UK’s leading producer of cider and beer, who have company headquarters in Edinburgh and London and a number of production sites across the country.

Their brand director is Michael Gillane and he has 15 years’ experience within FMCG, starting his career at P&G and later at Premier Foods. He joined Heineken UK in January 2012 and manages the fastest-growing area of the business, the cider portfolio.

Bulmers is currently in the process of implementing a three-year social media strategy, the objectives of which are building share of voice, engagement rates and advocacy scores among cider drinkers in social. This social strategy also needs to be able to align and integrate with all brand communication and campaign activations as much as possible in order to establish exactly what the brand stands for in the consumer’s mind: the start of great times with friends.

Market-leading research underpins their social media strategy. With the allocation of marketing budgets constantly a topic of boardroom discussion, being able to prove ROI had become increasingly important. So working with their social media agency, We Are Social, they set about demonstrating the benefit of investing in their Facebook community.

The agency and market researcher TNS developed an online panel survey to model the incremental value of a fan of Bulmers on Facebook versus a normal UK cider drinker. The survey asked questions about a range of cider brands, including Bulmers, and 241 fans of the Bulmers Facebook page completed it. This data was compared to a control sample of 198 general cider drinkers gathered by TNS, who answered the same set of questions.

Tangible value

The study showed that fans of the brand felt more favourably towards Bulmers versus the competition and, more importantly, consumed more of the brand than non-fans. Using this data, combined with the average retail value of their products, they calculated the weekly spend for both Bulmers’ fans and the sample group. The statistics showed that Facebook fans were worth £3.82 more a week, or £200 per year; around 38 per cent more than the control sample.

The study wasn’t limited to purchase behaviour. It showed that on average, 75% of their fans were likely to share good brand experiences, promotions and discounts with their Facebook friends. It also gave them better insights into a range of behavioural questions, such as their consumers’ attitudes towards different variants and flavours (Pear versus Original, for example), all more clearly put into context by comparing with the control panel.

Of course, there are some caveats to research like this. Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm will have exposed their survey to fans with a higher affinity to Bulmers and as interviews were done in a single day, it’s unlikely the opinion of those irregular Facebook users who are Bulmers fans was captured.

It also doesn’t distinguish between correlation and causation, but it does show that Bulmers’ Facebook fans have a tangible value to the brand, and that the Facebook community is one worth investing in. In addition, defining fan value allows them to measure this over time and detect longer-term trends in the health of their online community.

Understanding the monetary value of Facebook fans enabled them to invest proportionately behind digital media. The insight gained from the research such as fans sharing good brand experiences resulted in the successful #BEGINWITHABULMERS campaign, engaging fans to share how they began their weekend with a Bulmers. This resulted in Bulmers becoming the most talked about cider brand on social media over summer 2013.

This is an edited extract from The Social Media MBA Guide to ROI: How to Measure and Improve your Return on Investment by Christer Holloman, due to be published by Wiley in May 2014.

About Jessica Carter

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