We've been saying it for a long time. Our clients have privately admitted to us that they feel the same way. But, finally, Philippa Snare, Microsoft UK's chief marketing officer, has publicly said what everyone secretly thinks about brands who hoard Facebook Likes in the same way that old people on that cable show hoard junk and filth and slimy stuff that makes you go: 'Groooooo!"
Rather charmingly reviving the spectre of old-school Facebook pokes (of course, the word has recently been co-opted by Zuck's Snapchat rival), Snare told this week's Direct Marketing Association Integration Summit: "I'm hearing about how many 'likes' you get, how many pokes you get. I don’t care how many pokes I’ve got if it’s from people I don’t want to talk to, but I really care if I’ve got four or five high quality likes from significant influencers."
She added that her board share her utter lack of desire to chase Likes, and went on to say that Microsoft were busy trying to identify metrics which truly measure social engagement, with an emphasis on "rewarding quality over volume".
And that's the interesting bit. Because Snare and Microsoft are by no means the first people to find Like-farming a daft pursuit, but they're markedly not just blindly accepting Facebook's alternative definition of engagement - ie, interaction with content (cumulatively: shares, comments and, yes, Likes). As we've written about before, that's still not the answer. It's easy to get Fans engaging with your content - just post something a) contentious, b) topical or c) kitten-based. People love sharing and commenting on that stuff. Or encourage people to flood your Facebook Page with complaints about your brand. That'll send your 'engagement' metrics sky-high!
No, what Snare has carefully - and cleverly - done here is emphasised quality over volume. That's not just the volume of Likes, but it's the volume of traffic, shares, comments - ALL the current, accepted social media KPIs. So it might not seem as though she's saying anything new, but this is actually radical thinking.
What Microsoft appear to be doing is starting a new debate - a debate about where true value is to be found in social. We would argue that, to extract value, you need to give value. We would argue that by empowering your social audience, by giving them a say in the products you sell and the way in which you sell them, you can convert that audience into a passionate community. We would argue that, when your Fans have skin in the game - when they actually buy things from you socially - that's when the relationship becomes infinitely more real. We would argue that social commerce drives and measures the latent value which is untapped by social media. And we've demonstrated this value time and time again.
Expect to see exciting things from Microsoft. If they can be among the first movers in this space, they could end up redefining what social means forever.