As the largest social network to-date, Facebook claims over 800 million users. It’s absolutely beyond huge. Interestingly, there is some squabble over how one defines the difference between registered users and active users. It’s an important distinction. Not all registered users are active users, after all.
80% of Facebook active users are outside North America. The potential market for US-based users is significantly smaller than the big number often thrown about in popular media. One might be forgiven for estimating a round number somewhere north of 100 million active users in the United States.
Now, those Americans who are active users primarily focus their conversations with friends and family, not brands. For those who have followed at least one brand, the majority follow B2C brands and not B2B brands. This can present an additional barrier to organizations whose brands serve B2B audiences.
Anecdotally, when I have surveyed groups, I have found 25-33% of users engage with a brand on Facebook. Other studies suggest 71-77% of users have Liked a brand.
So, where’s the disconnect? It’s in the word choice. Liking a brand’s page does not equal engagement.
A number of marketing campaigns on Facebook require you to Like a brand’s page before you can see the content of the page. It’s called Like-gating, because content is hidden from the user until they’ve clicked the Like button. While this method has been shown to be very effective at getting users to click Like, there’s been some backlash against the practice which can be seen as obnoxious.
However your organization accumulates Likes on your Facebook page, not everyone will see content you share. Many users may have only clicked Like on your page in response to a Like-gated coupon, discount offer, or other contest. While those folks are clearly prospects, you cannot presume they’re all eager to see what your brand has to say.
Facebook introduced the EdgeRank formula after listening to users who wanted to be sure content from friends and family were prioritized over brand content. One needs to appreciate the new challenge inherent in getting your content in front of the people who Liked your page; it’s no longer automatic.
The newsfeed prioritizes conversations (most frequently this is friends & family), photos, and videos. Until you have a substantial following of active commenters, you’re unlikely to reach many of those who have Liked your page.
Understanding this environment should bring us closer to a realistic sense of the challenge brands have in reaching out to audiences who are largely on Facebook for family and friends. You’ll need to offer something of value to get their attention.
Among those who both Liked your page and also saw your content, only a subset will interact by sharing, responding to, or liking your content. Facebook’s EdgeRank system tracks how much interaction your content receives and uses that feedback to determine how you should be prioritized relative to the users’ preferences.
If you can develop content which resonates with a core group of brand champions, then that success will result in your content being seen by more casual fans who may have told Facebook to prioritize friends and family. Engagement, therefore, is critical to your success in reaching your audience.
Let’s recap. The funnel for reaching engaged users on Facebook looks something like this:
It’s easy to get caught up in the hype surrounding Facebook. It is literally changed lives, after all. It is a great tool for keeping in touch with friends & family. It has a huge user base. There is definitely opportunity to use Facebook as a platform to reach constituencies whether internal or external.
Yet one must temper enthusiasm with a realistic view of the practical obstacles. When you’re looking to target your budget for the highest ROI, you must peer steely-eyed into the haze of possibility to discern what is the core range of probability. And then put forward an engagement plan for how to maximize Facebook to achieve your business objectives.
To be clear, no one is suggesting Facebook isn’t worth strong consideration. Facebook is large enough that odds are it will make it onto the list of potential opportunities for your organization. But is Facebook the top priority for effectively spending your marketing budget? Or should you first invest elsewhere before Facebook? And if Facebook does make the cut, then how much effort should you allocate to that one platform?
I hope this stark realism helps you better understand the importance of targeting your social media activities based on research, rather than risk misallocating resources based on hype. Optimize your spend to move the needle on business goals by prioritizing social networks whose users are willing to engage with your content.
(If your organization wants to prioritize its social media efforts, we may be able to help. Get in touch.)