How Converse Got 16 Million Facebook Fans By Doing “Nothing Special”

When it comes to athletic shoes, Converse has run away with the title as the biggest sneaker brand on Facebook. As of today, it has more than 16 million fans, four times as many as Nike.  And that’s a huge increase from the less than 10 million fans it had as recently as November, when Inside Facebook named it one of the fastest-growing brands on Facebook.

Yet in a wide-ranging interview with Mashable, Converse Chief Marketing Officer Geoff Cottrill says his advice to his company was to “do nothing special” when he first learned of its huge Facebook fan base. His directive was for his team to listen more than it talks on the social media site and to absolutely not bring its ad campaigns from other channels there.

Instead, he says, marketers should remember that this is a conversational medium, one that’s very different from the old format of one-way communication. That means brands have to let go, to respect and trust their consumers and their love for your brand.

Of course, that doesn’t really mean do nothing at all. Converse does post information about its products, conducts contests (such as a design-your-own shoe) and talks about lots of topics besides its own brand.

Cottrill measures success in social media by engagement. The hope, of course, is that engagement leads to brand affinity and that leads to sales of products.

But the initial engagement often is a long, long distance from actual products. For example, Converse has made videos for kids to use to ask out their prom dates because that’s a timely topic at this time of year. Presumably, the mind share the videos generate may lead to sales down the road.

Cottrill says it’s important to modify messages for various social media platforms. For example, on Facebook and YouTube, Converse might feature video of new bands. But on Twitter, the brand will ask fans to submit interview questions for those bands.

Converse has taken a core brand asset–passionate fans– and nurtured that community.  Ultimately, according to Cottrill, the real pay-off is when the fans become your brand advocates.