March 18, 2011

5 reasons not to count fans on Facebook

Coca-Cola has nearly 24 million fans on Facebook. That’s 600k more than Justin Bieber and 7 million fewer than Michael Jackson. Wow ! Want to compare other celebrities on Facebook ? AllFacebook has released a page that does just that:

Measuring Facebook Fans

What does that tell you about these brands/artists ?

Nothing !

Don Bartholomew (a.k.a. MetricsMan) describes Facebook Fans and Twitter Followers as Vanity metrics and here are 5 reasons they should not be used to measure social media success:

  • They are not (even) a measure of impressions! Now, measuring impressions has been described as a very old fashion metric but counting fans isn’t even that. Hypebot recently released a study showing that one in a hundred fans at most LIKEd brand updates. Previous studies of the EdgeRank algorithm that filters updates appearing on fan walls showed that 1 in 500 brand updates reached their targets!
  • They are not a measure of advocacy. I wrote about this in a previous post on using Facebook for PR And eMarketer research shows that Facebook fans are generally not more likely to buy from the brand after becoming a fan. In that research, the top two reasons to become a fan are “To receive discounts” and “I am an existing customer”.
  • They are not a measure of engagement. You can buy Twitter followers for about 1$/100. Possibly do the same with Facebook fans. Do you think they will engage? On any given update, Coca Cola receive about 5,000 LIKEs and comments. Justin Bieber, from a roughly equal fan base averages 30,000! Because Facebook’s in-house filtering algorithm uses a fan’s feedback to determine whether new updates from the brand will or not appear on his wall, the feedback level is crucial to marketers.
  • They are not tied to a particular objective The Barcelona Principles of measurement place “Goal Setting and Measurement” at the very top of the list. Unless your business objective is to obtain fans, measuring fans is not the way to go.
  • Your community may be small, but active. Don’t beat yourself down if your page has a small number of fans. Social media have opened up the way for niches. If your fans are engaging with you and responding to your updates in the way you are hoping for, you are doing fine.

What measures for Facebook engagement

This is not to say that a Facebook Fan page is not a good tool for marketing or corporate reputation management. But in 99% of cases, there are better measures out there:

  • Measuring click-through is akin to measuring impressions. If your update links to your online properties (a news release, a landing page, an online brochure, an article), the click-through rate will tell you how many fans read it. No, that isn’t the ultimate in PR measurement, but it at least tells you how many fans did what you expected of them.
  • Measuring on-page feedback is an adequate measure of engagement quality. Not only does it show how many fans saw your update and reacted to it, it also tells you how many are likely to receive future updates from you.
  • Monitoring global discussion volume and sentiment on your page will give you precious information on advocacy and reputation. It will also allow you to detect early warnings of crises or opportunities by showing which keywords are most used and polarised.

If you can measure the direct impact of your Facebook engagement on your bottom line, so much the better. That requires a specific dashboard for every goal you set yourself, which is beyond the financial ability of most companies. The three metrics above are a very good starting point that can be automated.

If you like this post, will you be my friend on Facebook ? 😉


  • What is a nice comment .I like this comment.
    buy likes
    is a good communication system.

    masoniboled - May 20, 2013 at 17:57

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