If you haven’t heard by now, dumping your website’s e-commerce experience into a tab on your brand’s Facebook page doesn’t work so well. I’m glad for those of you who figured this out a long time ago, but some people are just now getting the memo.

But just because commerce on Facebook hasn’t worked for you in the past, it hardly means that there isn’t a place for selling goods on Facebook itself. In fact, the lack of selling is likely the one thing preventing most brands from getting the full value out of their Facebook presence. Why? Because it’s the thing fans want most from them on Facebook.

You may be saying: “You’re crazy. Social Media is not about selling things. It’s about content and conversation. Our fans want to be closer to our brand and show how much they love it.” If that’s your reaction, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Plenty of really smart marketers believe that exact line of logic. The only problem is, it’s wrong.

Having worked with some the biggest affinity brands around (that also happen to be pioneers in social engagement), I’ve learned that the most important measurement to focus on is not just how many dollars a Facebook “like” is worth to a particular brand, but rather what the return is on the impact each fan has — both quantitatively and qualitatively. At my company Moontoast, we call this the “Return On Fan” metric, which can be maximized by building loyalty through social channels, growing relationships with fans, delivering relevant offers, and analyzing the results for improvement.

A recent study from the CMO Council in February illuminated the wide divide between what marketers think a fan’s “like” means to a brand. The top two thoughts from marketers were: (1) The content is agreeable and (2) They want to be heard.

The study also showed that fans wanted two very different things when they click the “like” button: (1) Participation for games, contests and promotions and (2) To learn about new products.

That’s pretty off-target if you ask me. Marketers think fans want “content” and to “be heard” while fans are saying what they really want is a preferred consumer relationship with the brand. So how can we close the divide between what marketers think and what fans want without turning our programs upside down and inside out? It’s simple…

As marketers, we must add a loyalty component to our Facebook content, and be responsive to the fan feedback from offers we make to our Facebook fans. In so doing, we can hold true to the ideals of producing high-quality content and listening to fans, both of which are in fact very important. But now, we don’t miss the mark on the core value that fans are looking for, special treatment as a consumer.

This is where social shopping psychology comes in, and where selling things on Facebook wins by a landslide when it comes to what fans want. With a few simple tweaks to our thinking, we can sell more things through Facebook while also adding value to the dialogue between fans and brands. Those tweaks include:

  1. Make any offer to your Facebook fans “exclusive” to them. Exclusiveness adds instant value to each fan’s like and makes the content more share-worthy.
  2. Weave the offer into your content plan. Build anticipation, deliver in Facebook in a sharable way, and respond to the feedback on the offer.
  3. Curate your offer so that it is the star of the show. Each offer is an event. And if it’s cluttered with too many products or deals, it becomes less compelling and less share-worthy.

That’s really it. If you take this simple and novel approach, your investment in selling things via Facebook will be much more manageable and much more effective. You will instantly see metrics like new customer acquisition, post engagement, fan page growth and revenue grow as you improve the value of your consumer relationships on Facebook.

Futurama image via 20th Century Fox

Marcus-WhitneyMarcus Whitney is currently the CTO of Boston-based social commerce platform Moontoast, which offers musicians, celebrities, brands and companies a way to turn their social media presence into a source of revenue. He’s founded four startups to date and somehow managed to maintain a love affair with his family, friends and hip-hop. He is a cyborg innovator in Social and Music Startups and a student of Founder Happiness.