Forget about the number of fans or “likes” your organization’s Facebook page has. It’s what the organization is doing to keep those fans engaged that is important, especially if those fans comprise the “Millennials” – individuals who are 18 to 29 years old.
That’s according to Dr. Tina McCorkindale, an assistant professor in Appalachian State University’s Department of Communication, who is quickly becoming a social media expert. Her research of individuals’ and corporations’ use of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube has been published in the Journal of New Communications Research, Public Relations Journal and Public Relations Review, and she has a chapter published in the book “New Media and Public Relations” and a chapter in the forthcoming book “Handbook of Corporate Reputation and Communication.”
“We wanted to find out what the younger generation, those 18- to 29-year-olds are doing on those sites. They are the Facebook generation,” McCorkindale said.
McCorkindale and colleagues Dr. Marcia DiStaso from Pennsylvania State University and Dr. Hilary Fussell-Sisco from Quinnipiac University surveyed 414 individuals between ages 18 and 29 about their interaction with organizations Facebook pages.
“With so many companies spending so much time and money on social media, we need to understand not only social media tools but the strategies of how to use it,” McCorkindale said.
They found that while 75 percent said they had “liked” a profit or non-profit organization on Facebook, 69 percent said that once they “liked” the organization, they rarely or never returned to the fan page. Only 15 percent of the respondents said they visited organizations’ fan pages weekly. Most respondents (44 percent) spent less than 30 minutes a day on Facebook.
The reason so few Millennials frequent an organization’s Facebook page may be as simple as a failure to follow standard public relations practices, McCorkindale said.
“In public relations, one of the basics of what we do is build relationships to hopefully get individuals to engage in some sort of behavior,” she said. “It’s clear that the 18- to 29-year-olds are not as invested in an organization as the organization may think they are when they click the ‘like’ button or click ‘follow.’ It’s fairly consistent in the research that Millennials like organizations that give something back to them.”
Those enticements to return to a Facebook page include discounts, coupons, sample products or information that a person might not receive elsewhere. “But there is a threshold where Millennials will disconnect from an organization or group if they become too annoyed with the volume of emails or updates they are receiving,” McCorkindale added. Forty-two percent of those surveyed said they left a Facebook page when it became to annoying.
McCorkindale and her colleagues found that the Millennials age group learned of fan pages through friends or by stumbling on the page. Only 28 percent said they had actively searched for an organization’s page.
Those surveyed tended to “like” nonprofit organizations they had worked with or with whom friends had a relationship. They typically “liked” fan pages of sororities or fraternities, sports teams, college organizations and bands.
“It’s not about the number of people that like your page, because they may not be the right people, and they may not really like you, they may just do it because of pressure from friends,” McCorkindale said.
“Instead of organizations trying to superficially push these relationships and superficially push ‘likes,’ they really need to understand the audience, build the relationship and engage the audience. If you are going to be out there in the social media sphere, you need to be listening, you have to answer the questions people ask of you through social media. If issues or questions go unanswered, that breaks the relationship,” she said. “If they can’t manage the space, they really shouldn’t be using the space.”