While Facebook and Twitter certainly represent an enormous potential audience, how effective have they really been as a marketing platform for businesses?
by Michael Magnuson, www.goodbed.com
How are mattress companies doing on Facebook and Twitter? With all the talk about the role of social media in marketing these days, many brands are turning to Facebook and Twitter in an effort to connect with today’s consumers. Adding further fuel to this trend, there seems to be no shortage of experts proclaiming Facebook and Twitter “must-use” marketing tools for businesses.
But while Facebook and Twitter certainly represent an enormous potential audience, how effective have they really been as a marketing platform for businesses? More specifically, can we really expect them to be equally useful across all industries, or equally practical for businesses of all sizes?
To address some of these questions, we thought it would be useful to take a closer look at our unique corner of the world -- the mattress industry -- to see how mattress companies in particular are using these platforms and what successes are being achieved. As a starting point, we focused our research on our industry’s five largest mattress manufacturers and five largest specialty retailers. This gave us a more manageable scope, and the success of this group seems like a useful leading indicator, since these are generally the mattress brands investing the most money and effort in Facebook and Twitter. Following is a summary of our findings and conclusions, but a more wonky and detailed treatment can be found on the mattress blog at www.goodbed.com.
Since social media marketing is supposed to be all about “engagement,” www.goodbed.com looked at how much consumer engagement is being generated by the Facebook efforts of the five largest furniture manufacturers and five largest specialty bedding retailers. To evaluate this, they used the statistics that Facebook provides for “People Talking About This” — which give a total of any and all interactions that Facebook users have with this company through Facebook in the past week. “New Likes” — which are included in the “People Talking About” number were separated out to get a sense for how much existing fans actually engage with the company after the initial “Like.”
Getting consumers to spread the word about things that may be of acute interest to other consumers — such as special promotions and events — turns out to be by far the best way for most mattress companies to use Facebook and Twitter. As any marketer knows, reach is a numbers game, so let’s take a closer look at some of the social media numbers in the mattress industry.
Overall: In aggregate, the 10 largest mattress brands have accumulated a total of over 400,000 Facebook Likes and nearly 30,000 Twitter Followers. Facebook Likes are highly concentrated, with about 60% of the Likes coming from one manufacturer, while Twitter Followers are more evenly distributed. It is very difficult to put industry-level social media numbers in context, but to get a sense for the size of the overall customer base, one can consider that there are probably about 200-250 million mattresses currently in use in the US, of which roughly 75% were likely made and/or sold by one of these companies.
Manufacturers: The 5 largest mattress manufacturers have an average of about 80,000 Facebook Likes each. By comparison, the world’s largest company by revenue — Exxon Mobil — has only 8,000 Facebook Likes. On the other hand, successful companies in other industries have been able to amass upwards of 10,000,000 Facebook Likes.
Retailers: The 5 largest mattress specialty retailers have an average of about 3,000 Facebook Likes. Each of these companies has total annual sales that approach or exceed $100 million, putting them amongst the largest 25,000 companies in the US. So, does that mean they are also among the largest 25,000 companies on Facebook? Probably not. It turns out there are over 1,800,000 Facebook brand pages in the world that have more than 1,000 Likes.
Much of the buzz around social media comes from the potential to “engage” our customers and prospects in a meaningful way. However, this is much easier said than done. Here’s what we found in terms of the success that mattress companies are having in engaging consumers using Facebook and Twitter:
Facebook engagement: On average, only 0.3% of mattress company Facebook Fans engage with that brand or its posts in a given week. While this probably seems very low, the bad news is that the real level of consumer engagement is probably even smaller, since this number includes disproportionately high engagement from employees, vendors, dealers, suppliers, and the like.
The good news is that most companies outside the mattress industry aren’t realizing sustained consumer engagement on Facebook either — it turns out that the average weekly engagement for all Facebook brand pages is only 0.45% and even the best brands on Facebook only have an engagement rate of 0.03% for any given post (that means that for every 10,000 fans, each post results in only 3 likes, comments or shares). This could be partly due to the fact that 4 out of 5 consumers simply don’t want to have a “relationship” with any brand, other than to get discounts from that brand.
Bottom line: consumers are on Facebook first and foremost to engage with their real-life friends, so even when they “Like” us, they are unlikely to engage with us. In fact, only about three to seven percent of a brand’s Fans even see that brand’s posts.
To estimate Twitter engagements, goodbed.com used stats on the number of @mentions of each brand over the past 30 days (as provided by Topsy) to get a sense for the frequency with which people are talking about that brand on Twitter. Comparing this with the number of Followers they have gives us a (rough, and probably overstated) approximation of how engaged these Followers are.
Note that these @mentions do not necessarily represent unique users Relative to the Facebook engagement statistics based on unique users (shown previously), the Twitter statistics will appear misleadingly larger. So, in an effort to make a more apples-to-apples comparison with Facebook, goodbed.com assumed that each “mentioner” mentioned that brand two times in the past 30 days.
Twitter engagement: On average, 0.6% of mattress company Twitter Followers engage with that brand or its posts in a given week. In some ways, it is not surprising that this number would be slightly higher than Facebook, especially when one considers the more “broadcast” nature of Twitter relative to Facebook. People are not following us on Twitter to see pictures of our kids — they follow us because they WANT us to forward them things we think are interesting, and for the same reason they are more likely to forward our things to others.
What happens to engagement as we get more fans? The more Likes we have, the less engagement we get. This inverse relationship has been found true across all industries on Facebook. In the mattress industry, our limited data bears this out as well, seeing that the manufacturer with the highest number of Likes (Manufacturer A) also has the lowest engagement percent, while the manufacturer with the lowest amount of Likes (Manufacturer E) has the highest engagement percent. Of course, Likes can be accumulated in a lot of different ways, which means that not all Likes are created equally — especially when they have been obtained in large numbers.
Conclusion: The real take-away here is that the way mattress companies truly stand to benefit from social media is as a “reach and awareness” medium, NOT as an “engagement and conversion” medium. The engagement that is happening on social media involves only a tiny portion of any given brand’s followers. One can certainly hope that this tiny group of fans can and will have a huge impact — but their impact will be measured in the number of other consumers they reach on our behalf, NOT in the number of fans that we convert into actual customers.
As for how the mattress industry is doing in generating reach and awareness through Facebook and Twitter, it would be fair to say that we are doing about as well as could be expected — maybe even better. Of course, this is another way of saying that we should temper our expectations from Facebook and Twitter in the first place. The key to getting “reach” via social media is in compelling consumers to share our message with other consumers, which is a tall order for companies that historically have only engaged with consumers once every 10 years. However, there is now clear proof that some consumers are willing to engage with mattress companies, at least to some degree.
The question that remains for mattress companies using social media is how cost-effective it will ultimately prove to be for the mattress industry, relative to other available tools for building awareness amongst consumers. While it is tempting to think of social media as “free,” this would ignore the very real resources that are required to design, promote and manage a successful social media presence. For industries that have naturally high levels of consumer engagement, the economics of social media are likely to be compelling relative to other alternatives. But for the mattress industry, the jury is still out.
About Michael Magnuson: Michael Magnuson is the founder and CEO of GoodBed.com, the leading online research destination for mattress shoppers. He has nearly 15 years of experience in the digital media industry, as both an entrepreneur and a private equity investor. Michael graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, and received his MBA from Stanford University. Questions about this article or any topic related to bedding sales and marketing can be directed to him at www.goodbed.com/contact or call 415 738-9500.