This week, The New Yorker online put up a very thin wall for its Facebook fans to break through with a click of a button. Their reward? Exclusive content from award-winning novelist Jonathan Franzen. While this description of a “Like Wall” sounds like a BF Skinner experiment, the magazine’s online strategy made waves in social media circles by rounding up hundreds of thousands of “likes” in a matter of hours and signifying a trend in social media and branding: the curated microsite.

In the past 2-4 years, most brands and businesses who have an online presence have jumped on the social media bandwagon (Facebook pages, Twitter accounts), with the hopes of generating a deeper relationship with clients and prospective clients. But turning those relationships into profits is a skill that most companies have yet to acquire.

Having 4,000 fans/friends on your Facebook page may indicate that you have accumulated a significant amount of traffic, but what keeps those friends coming back and clicking through to actually purchase your wares and services can still be a mystery to most folks. The answer to this riddle might be found in an age-old sales technique, and begs the question, does making clients feel like they are the members of an exclusive club of brand loyalists drive them to spending actual dollars? Those that have been actively using social media to market and promote their products seem to have answered, “yes”.

Being “in the know” and ahead of one’s peers has always been a driving force for social media. Some of the choicest social media rewards (freebies, deals, access to the latest would-be viral videos) go to the speedy users who click though their favorite sites several times/day. In order to distinguish their brand while simultaneously reward their friends/fans for being consistent visitors to their social media sites, companies and brands have created the next step in brand loyalty and exclusivity: the curated content site and social media page.

Everyone knows how great it feels to be recognized as a loyal customer, either through a “rewards” program where as you spend money, you accumulate points towards a free product or gift.  But these days, sifting through the traffic on a Facebook page to find the most consistent contributors is too much work for most companies in the business of selling a product or service. By creating a small, no-cost obstacle that a Facebook fan needs to jump over, and rewarding that person with exclusivity, serves as an instant conversation between the brand and the consumer:
Brand says, “You are so great for checking our Facebook page 3x/day. Would you like to see a preview of our line before the general public and place and order?”

Loyal Consumer replies, “That sounds like an opportunity that my peers may not get. I feel special and appreciated, what would you like me to do?”

Brand instructs, ‘Simply ‘Like’ this micro site and you will be ushered in to this exclusive club.

Loyal Customer, (getting credit cards out), “Thank you so much for letting me spend my money and purchase your goods before anyone else.”

This new relationship, cultivated by a tailored Facebook page is obviously available to anyone in the general public who figures out how to click through to the reward content. But because this valued content is hidden behind a “Like Wall”, the appearance of getting something outside of the general marketplace is a way to distinguish a product, introduce a new line of wares, and create a deeper connection with your social media followers that can turn into dollars.