Should You Be Ditching A Ton Of Your Facebook Fans? Here's Why Burger King Did Just That

Burger King Norway tried to separate fan wheat from chaff with a free Big Mac bribe. The resulting exodus from the brand's page raises a question of social quantity versus quality. A BK marketer weighs in.

Brand engagement on social media is a strange animal. Sure, some get it right. Others, less so. In between is a newsfeed-full of mediocrity that amounts to blatant panhandling for fans and followers. Have you ever thought about why you "Like" that yogurt? And is that relationship meaningful in any way? Probably not.

Recently, Burger King Norway gained attention for trying a drastic change of tactics when it comes to Facebook fan management. The brand and its agency DIST Creative decided to find out just how many of its 38,000 Facebook fans actually were fans of the brand. Back in April, the fast feeder was re-launching its Facebook page and in an effort to get a fresh start, offered all of the followers of its previous page a free Big Mac to not join the new page (giving away up to 1,000 Big Macs). The rationale: the brand had low engagement and a lot of fans whose activity consisted of making negative cracks and asking for discounts. In the wake of the stunt, about two-thirds, or 28,000, of its Facebook fans took up the offer, leaving just 8,000 fans on the new page. In a world where quantity often trumps all for brands, was this social media seppuku? A stunt gone wrong? Or a display of vulpine craziness?

Some observers called the whole business a misguided bid for publicity, and total overkill. After all, "engagement" is an imprecise term—fans are fans for all sorts of reasons, so it could be argued that all fans are good fans.

But Burger King Scandinavia marketing director Sven Hars stands by the decision to prioritize quality over quantity. "This campaign gave us the opportunity to get rid of all the fans that just liked us because of freebies," says Hars. "We stopped focusing on how many likes we had, and put time and resources into finding out what to talk about and how to engage our fans."

Before making the move, the brand enlisted its PR agency MSL Group to evaluate all previous activity on the page in order to come up with a more effective strategy, in terms of what to communicate, tone of voice, the use of visuals and frequency. "Now that we have been working with this strategy for a couple of months, the brand has a much clearer personality and presence on Facebook," says Hars. "It's much easier now to respond to different request and complaints, and for everyone who works with the page to know who we are and what kind of things we do and don’t say."

Hars says the plummet in Facebook fans was expected, and before making the move the brand estimated it would have about 10,000 by the end of the year. Despite its smaller size, Hars says the new page boasts a much more active audience. "There are so many more conversations going on between both us and the fans, and the fans in general," he says. "Focus on quality for us has led to a dedicated and loyal fan base, and has also made it easier for our fans to connect to the brand."

A culling strategy didn't spark much of a backlash internally, according to Hars, who says the campaign and change of activity level led to more interest across the organization in what’s going on with its Facebook page.

Less social suicide, and more Sally Field. So, which is it? Is it ever justifiable to tell a huge chunk of your fans to take a hike? Is a (much, much) smaller but more uniformly "engaged" fan base better? Weigh in in the comments.

[Video courtesy of MSL Group]

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  • I can't decide if this is the right thing. You can't make everyone happy, right? I guess the problem is not having too many followers.. somewhat I think the problem is depicting what Facebook is truly for. Which is its role in your company? Is it an extension of your marketing division? Is it another tool for your customer service? What does it mean it is a way to "deepen the relationship with your true fans?" When did business stop having customers to have fans? when did aware customers become fans? Is this FB's fault? The problem is if you only want your FB page to make "true fans" of burgers drool over their keypads or if you want it to give more potential to your business. I guess many haven't figured out how to exploit the social media potential and had it all wrong. It actually seems to work differently for each kind of business.

  • ricardo

    These comments shows another study... You can see most of the comments come from Marketeers and they all agree increasing sales results were not the point. Go and tell that to your boss and ask his opinion about your view...

  • burgerqueen

    I'm the marketing brain AND the boss for my burger truck business (and well-skilled at both in case you want to cross that bridge) and I think that this is brilliant. Why bother with people who aren't contributing anything to your brand image or social media interactions when you can solidify your position with those that are your core followers? Especially with a dying medium like Facebook? It's a safe risk to take when you know that Facebook isn't showing 75% of those people what you're posting anyway. TRIM. THE. FAT.

  • John Leary

    I suspect we'll be seeing more and more creative ways of culling fans from FB pages. Having "too many fans" -- or rather too many of the wrong fans -- can have negative consequences and cost your company money. Here's how:

  • sherry.k.delaney

    A recent blog post from Dominion Strategies explains exactly why this makes sense. Likes are easy to generate - a twelve year old with a credit card can do it. Engagement takes some skill and a committed fan base. Too many likes can hurt a brand's exposure in News Feed, reduce ROI on ad placement and hide a potentially winning campaign from Fans and followers who can be compelled to action.

  • Omar

    Last time I checked you could be an authentic fan of both brands. These are burgers people - not football teams. There're very very few people out there who really give a damn enough to be 100% loyal to 1.

  • Rick Major [Crowne Major]

    I think that Burger King Norway, rather DIST Creative, are illogical in their Brand Engagement process. For example, as a fan of my hometown baseball team (HTBT), my HTBT couldn't logically expect me to commit to only going to see them play only. Also, if I choose to go see another competitive team of my HTBT play (hey THEY offered me the tickets the go!) - I am then self- banned to ever see my HTBT play again at said stadium again? Not! It anything would turn me into a naysayer concerning my team's sanity, and THAT would be the story that goes "Social Godzilla". Bad move BK Norway...

  • Shefly

    Shows how superficial people are, from 38, 000 fans to 8, 000 real fans. Social media is an interesting tool. If you are looking for more people to buy your products for the brand name yhen this is a good strategy to weed out non helpful sources. If you are looking for numbers or people who only impulse buy- this would have killed campaigns. Here it seems they wanted to reach a target audience and they did just that. The have a great number of fans to get feedback from and improve their market shares. Haters will hate, changing their minds is not the job of campaigns.

  • Robert Nava

    They don't have much to gain from this. What they pretty much did was say "if you don't like us now, we don't want you to ever like us." Sure they found their true fans, but what can bk do with that? Are these super fans going to buy the number 8 now instead of the number 3? They should have did the opposite. "For all of you who don't like us, come in and order what you want. If you don't want it after a few bites, meals on us."

  • Mark Burdon

    That wouldn't help because people would have just kept complaining and the cycle would continue. Get rid of the toxic haters eroding your brand that might be shunning your true fans with their venom. Make the page a positive place to engage without trolls and they win in the long run

  • Ritika Verma

    I agree quality wins over quantity. So it was a unique move, but I'm wondering if the Sales went up? Also - when these ex-fans got a taste of the free burger - did anyone of them become a fan again? Was this tracked?

  • klear1

    Brilliant on two levels. 1. The remaining fans are much more positively engaged. Results in more frequent visits and a feeling of partnership with BK. 2. Higher engagement hopefully will translate in higher chatter in their private lives and more importantly on other social media sites.

  • Anthony Reardon

    Absolutely. I've been talking about this kind of thing for years. Quantity is the purview of those brands that think social media is just an alternative to traditional media. It's primarily about brand exposure, captive audiences, and one directional engagement. It might help your business for a moment, say for a given promotion, but from there on out it's usually one and done.

    Quality is the domain of brands that realize you actually need to develop a meaningful ongoing relationship with people. It's more about authentic connection to brands, respecting people as more than a mere audience, and two-way engagement. This is how brands can differentiate themselves, get better data, and grow viral social loyalty. The business argument is an easy one.

    I don't think they even needed to provide incentive not to join their new page. Most people would not have re"liked" it anyway, which is evident in itself, but makes the point the supposed base of fans/ followers was mostly superficial anyway.

    Purging inactive users has become a big deal for social networking platforms. For the corporate driven communities, it becomes a big source of criticism for inflation, and that scares away investors and advertisers. For communities on private platforms, companies that host networks are turning more toward a per member fee structure, so you end up paying for a lot of utilization that isn't happening when someone signs up and never comes back.

    You've got to shoot for "superior market intimacy" because once people find an online home in this increasingly competitive market, they essentially remove themselves that much more from the total market available. This becomes increasingly clear as you compete for more of people's time when they have less to offer given all alternatives. If you go for superficial connection, you're wasting your time/ money, and most significantly wasting the one good opportunity you have to engage people qualitatively.



  • Holly@ Gmail

    I would have surprized the Real BK Fans with 2 burgers. Joke's on the Fake Fans. THAT would have been a brilliant marketing strategy!

  • Mark Burdon

    Interesting idea but that would have likely spread to the trolls and the cycle would repeat. Ot's like real life if someone isn't interested in you without bribery or gifts it isn't worth the friendship

  • Doug S

    Quality trumps quantity. That sounds great but did sales go up? This is business, after all. If sales went down it was a flop. If sales went up it was a winner. If sales stayed flat it was a waste of both time and the money paid to the consulting company that came up with the "brilliant" idea.

  • sherry.k.delaney

    I suspect they are taking the long view here, trying to improve Facebook engagement with an eye toward better ROI on future digital campaigns. It's all about the Facebook News Feed formula. A recent blog from Dominion Strategies explains how too many Facebook likes reduce brand placements in fan news feeds and fan engagement.