A few years back, measuring the growth in fan numbers was a viable, if somewhat spurious, strategy. This was partly because growing our community size was what Facebook told us we needed to do, partly because the basic Facebook success formula necessitated a decent number of relevant fans, and partly because it was a tangible metric that those not-in-the-know could understand and latch onto to prove value.
Except that it never did prove value. It didn’t matter whether a brand had 1000 or 1,000,000 Facebook fans; if they never interacted with its content, shared its information, recommended its products or actually purchased anything, fan numbers were completely irrelevant.
That’s still the case now. Except that Facebook has moved on.
That formula no longer completely stands up without the addition of paid media. Organic reach on Facebook is down to around 4% for most Pages. And the new ‘See it First’ feature (which I’ve now had access to on my own profile for several weeks) promises to erode that still further.
The number of Facebook fans is purely a vanity metric and nothing more. It is meaningless.
It’s not even a good vanity metric either. And yet many (most?) senior marketers and management personnel within brands still insist upon measuring fan growth and still seem to be obsessed with increasing the number of Page Likes at all cost. It can be very frustrating going over the same old ground again and again.
A couple of recent discussions about this prompted a thought: what if Facebook removed all data on the number of Page Likes?
- If you had no idea how many fans you or anyone else had, would you change the way you approached Facebook or your activities on the network?
- Would you have to change your strategy?
- Would you struggle to know what to focus on?
- Would it make a difference to how you measured ‘value’?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of those questions, your current Facebook activity is probably ineffective (unless, that is, you’ve worked out a magic formula that says for every X new Facebook fans you obtain, you make £Y).
Once again: it makes no difference whatsoever how many Facebook fans you have.
If your Page has 10,000 fans, any given post will probably only reach around 400 people organically. If you want to reach the other 9600 fans, or anyone else for that matter, you have to pay. And when you pay, you can be very targeted according to the demographics, interests and behaviour of users.
96% of Page administrators boost posts to custom audiences, with only 4% boosting just to current fans (source). So even when fans have signed up, they’re being largely ignored in favour of relevant, interest-based reach. And with good reason.
Just in case you haven’t got the message yet: whether or not people Like your Page is completely irrelevant.
I posed the question of hiding Page Likes to social media marketers on Facebook. I asked them if it would change their approach.
“In my experience it’s usually the client that’s obsessed with this number until they are shown/educated what the real value is”, says Jo Porritt, founder of Crowd Media. “In a meeting today I was asked “how many likes can you get us in a month?”, which typifies the start of every conversation I have with clients about social at the beginning. I have to shift the focus to the metrics that count. It’s better to have 50 highly engaged fans than 500 passive.”
“Not all your fans, no matter how many you have, engage with your Page”, adds Madrid-based independent social media consultant Corina Manea. “Brands should focus on quality engagement and content, creating a great experience for their fans. You have to innovate all the time and find new ways to engage your fans.”
On the subject of content Rebecca Maschke, social media advisor at DGUV in Berlin, says: “It wouldn’t change my activity because my content is for my fans, no matter how many of them there are. It could affect my linking, or tagging, to other Pages, as sometimes it helps me reach a larger number of people by tagging other Pages. But there is a reason I’m linking to another Page and it has more to do with my target group and/or relationship with the other Page than the number of fans it has.”
“It’s never really meant much, and it means even less now people are using Facebook differently to get content in front of users (eg targeted paid)”, says Victoria Coppin, digital account director at Cirkle.
And Rich Hikins, owner of IRepairTech, says: “I’d carry on as I am. It’s great seeing my Page numbers increase, but it wouldn’t change how I approach the management of my Page. It’s all about the results: do people message me and do I convert them.”
Personally, I’d love it if Facebook removed all Page Like numbers. But how would it affect you if Facebook suddenly removed access to that data? And would it help you to pretend that it no longer exists?