Facebook Reach – Helping the Dust to Settle

AllFacebook posted a story explaining that only 17% of fans see a page’s Facebook posts. This trend isn’t new – it’s been at least six months that much of the industry has been aware that only some fans will see your posts. Pagelever did a great job of alerting us to this last fall. In fact, this isn’t any different than any other form of marketing or advertising – do you think that everyone who watches a TV show actually watches every 15-second spot during the show? Of course not – but if you’re a brand marketer, you know that those TRPs and GRPs that you’re buying represent everyone watching the show – not only the people watching your 15-second spot.

I appreciate the intent of the AllFacebook post – trying to get people to focus on the quality and impact of their social media engagement instead of the largest gross metrics (like fan count and impressions). That’s great – but they missed a couple of key points:

  1. The EdgeRankChecker numbers cited in the post actually use a solid methodology – comparing like pages over time, controlling for post frequency and size of Fan base. It’s too bad that’s not highlighted by AllFacebook – in the context of AllFacebook’s post the EdgeRankChecker data is a little confusing.
  2. Facebook doesn’t give us the frequency number for posts.” This is misleading at best. It’s true that there isn’t a “Frequency” column in Facebook posts. But Facebook gives us Impressions (number of times a post is seen) and Reach (number of people who see it). And since we know that:
    • Impressions = Reach * Frequency
    • We also know (from straightforward math) that
    • Frequency = Impressions / Reach
    Smart marketers will calculate their own average frequency for Facebook posts using that formula. This works not only for your Page, but for your posts as well, which will give you some insight into whether your best posts reach more people or are just seen more frequently by the same group.
  3. Your page is worth 83 percent less than what you think if, like many business owners or brand executives, you’re only looking at your total fan base count. And whatever you spent to acquire your average fan, multiply that by six, because five out of six of your fans aren’t seeing your posts.” I disagree with this on two counts:
    • What you spent is what you spent, and what you acquired is what you acquired. If you want to calculated cost per engagement activity (how much do you spend to get a comment on your post), that’s a different story.
    • No one knows the value of a fan, because no one has published the necessary research to understand how “fan-dom” improves one’s relationship with a brand.

Need some hints about the value of fans?

  1. You can’t make up a formula and say that that represents the value of a fan if you want that value to be taken seriously.
  2. DDB says that five out six of a Facebook Page’s fans are already customers – . If that’s true for your audience, then that would definitely impact the value of your fans.
  3. Most importantly, don’t confuse cost and value – how much you spent acquiring fans has ZERO relationship to how much they’re worth to you. If you saw what happened to the US housing market between 2007 and 2010 you know what I mean. It’s easy to calculate the cost of fan acquisition; there is much more involved in finding the value of a fan because fans can provide value in many ways. They can like and comment on posts, increasing exposure when their connections see their interactions with your brand. Most importantly, all of those digital activities impact awareness, consideration, interest in – and word of mouth about – the brand, ultimately leading to purchase. To understand all these relationships (instead of just assuming them), you need a lot more than just Facebook Insights or HootSuite.

Your fans are worth the same today as they were yesterday

The most important piece that was left out of the news regarding the “Value of a Facebook Fan” is that your fans are worth the same today as they were yesterday. Whether 17% or 10% or 100% of them see your posts doesn’t change how much impact they have – or have had – on your business. What impact is that? Well, you have to do the work to calculate – with market research or well-designed loyalty programs. You need substantive research combined with predictive analytics to model the interactions of all the complex relationships that influence purchase, loyalty, and advocacy. Facebook Insights, Microsoft Excel, and some formula that somebody made up on the Internet aren’t going to explain how much your fans are worth, no matter how easy they are to use.

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