Congratulations! You’ve attracted 1 million Facebook fans. Now what?
That’s the question clients are asking. They want to know how many of these fans are buying their products, talking up their brands and referring or recruiting friends and family into the franchise. For the most part, we cannot get this data both because Facebook holds a lot of what we consider “our” data close to the vest and because we have no way to export and crosstab Facebook fans with our own databases of opted-in customers or purchase histories.
When budgets get scrutinized, my clients want to know why they should ante into Facebook versus other media choices. Clients want to know if they should continue in the foot race to collect fans or if they should interact more or better with the fans they have. They are uncertain about the value of gathering more fans than the competition primarily because they can’t determine a business value for the fans they already have. Similarly because they don’t really know who are their fans or why they became fans, other than to get freebies, they are reluctant to invest because they can’t forecast a credible ROI.
Once you get to an elite one million fan level, there is a point of diminishing returns. Very few brands need to outpace BMW, Starbucks, Red Bull Lady Gaga or Barack Obama unless there is a genuine business reason to justify the expense. (BTW, we have not calculated a cost to acquire fans.) My best argument is to love the ones you’re with and spend against engagement to activate fans potentially turning them into repeat customers and brand advocates or ambassadors.
Here too, it’s tough to make a persuasive recommendation since there is no common definition of or metrics for engagement; a widely used term whose meaning depends entirely on the user and the context. Generally it means finding ways to get a fan to act or interact with a branded Facebook page in ways that can be measured. The operative assumption is that the more fan activity; the better the relationship.
Some marketers have put forward a hierarchy of engagement actions. They argue a “like” is nothing more than a momentary sentiment since it takes just a moment to click the ubiquitous “like” button and it requires little or no time or emotional investment. The next level of intensity is to comment. This elevates the investment of time and hints that a fan might be truly interested in a topic or have something to say. Highest is an original post by as fan to a brand’s wall. This requires some level of brand affection and a greater commitment of time, thought and energy to compose and post a sentiment. This thinking is being baked into the emerging set of social CRM tools that aim to measure and incent social interactions.
Aiming at engagement requires a benchmark to understand how well you are doing relative to other social marketers. Fortunately some comparative studies have appeared that give us data to work against. Simplify 360, an Indian social media firm, looked at 50 Facebook pages with one million or more fans and measured “likes” and comments for their last 5 postings. According to their calculations, a branded fan page with 1 million fans should provoke 826 “likes” per post and “309” comments per post. This is simply long division. There is no qualitative assessment of content, design, art elements, voice, timing or context. So it’s a rump figure to compare yourself with.
Visibli, a social CRM vendor, looked at branded Facebook pages with 100,000 fans and calculated that the average post should prompt 54 “likes” and 9 comments. They found that as the number of fans increase; the number of interactions decreases. The implication is that there might be an optimal size branded community for maximum engagement.
They also discovered differences in fan interactions between brand, media and artist sites with the latter having the highest order of engagement. Artist pages draw twice as many “likes” as brand pages. Media organizations spark five times more comments than brand pages. Given the ebb and flow of news and events, this makes sense. Half of all “likes” take place with 90 minutes of a posting and within 11 hours, eighty percent of the interactions are completed.
Engagement is the topic of the moment and the direction social media marketers are headed in. Savvy players are beginning to press Facebook for greater access to fan activity and wall click data and are collecting as much data as they can to actively assess comparative performance and manage growing fan communities.