• 12.06.13

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.

Should You Be Ditching A Ton Of Your Facebook Fans? Here’s Why Burger King Did Just That
[Video courtesy of MSL Group]


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.

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.