Social Media Tools, Facebook

Social Subscribe – Why Facebook Likes Do Matter

Facebook LikeOne of the questions causing a fair amount of debate around digital marketing circles revolves around whether or not Facebook page “Likes” carry any measurable business value.

Early studies into the question focused on equating the value of a Like to dollars and cents, with some whitepapers making somewhat audacious claims about the monetary value of Likes. In my opinion, the insights that support the cost per acquisition of a Facebook Like seems to be a bit less of a stretch.

Groups of industry thinkers have designed complex formulas that provide a framework for determining the lifetime value of a fan. Some others have figured out how to manipulate Google Analytics in a way that helps determine assisted conversion value, providing an ‘apples to apples’ benchmark against other, more traditional digital marketing activities.

From all of these different approaches, one thing is for certain — trying to place value on a Facebook Like is a slippery slope at best.

An Expression of Intent To Subscribe

As Jay’s Social Pro’s Podcast # 13 with guest Tom Webster pointed out, subscribing to an email is a linear expression of permission from a recipient to a sender. When you leave your email address in the box, you are granting the owner of the site permission to deliver whatever email that they produce directly to your inbox.

On Facebook pages however, the expression of permission changes to become a bit more complex. When a user Likes a page on Facebook, they are only expressing their ‘intent to subscribe’ to the updates that will be published to that page’s Timeline. Expressing intent to subscribe is the first step in a more cyclical process that Facebook uses to score content and ultimately deliver status updates to a the news feeds of page fans.

A study conducted in June of last year by popular Facebook analytics tool PageLever shows that on average, only 7.49% of Facebook fans actually see fan page updates in their profile news feed on a daily basis. What’s even more interesting to consider is that as the size of the page’s fan base increases, the number of impressions created by content distributed to the profile news feeds of fans decreases.

Facebook Fans Who See Daily Posts - PageLeverThis gradual decline in newsfeed impressions seems to support the idea that the expression of ‘Liking’ a page is indeed different than granting explicit permission for delivery as with opt-in email lists.

Transforming Intent to Delivery

Facebook EdgeRankThe magic of intent to subscribe is rooted in Facebook’s Edgerank Algorithm, which is the vehicle that determines what content from a Facebook page is distributed to the profile newsfeed of fans.

In EdgeRank, a Like is seen as an individual fans expression of ‘Affinity‘ for the page and it’s content. This expression is a critical first step that leads to the activating the two remaining factors in an objects EdgeRank score.

The Weight of the object increases by the type of Edge (clicked or typed interaction) created by the fan. The score is determined by how much effort it takes the user to interact. For instance, simply liking a status update carries less weight than leaving a typed comment in that it takes the user more time and brain power to complete the action. If a large number of fans interactions take place within a relatively short time period from the when the update is originally published, the third score of Time Decay for the object is also increased.

The combination of all three scores creates the sum total of EdgeRank for the content object. Objects with higher EdgeRank are in turn distributed by way of the profile newsfeed to a higher percentage of page fans.

Reach GeneratorThus, simply Liking a page in no way guarantees that fans will see the content you share on your page. In fact, some of the data suggests the contrary.

It also appears that Facebook’s pre-IPO development of new in-stream advertising products dubbed as ‘Reach Generator‘ supports these assumptions, promising managed account holders that for a sizable fee, Reach Generator will deliver their page status updates to between of 60-85% of their total fan base.

Converting Delivery to Dollars

A larger study conducted by social media agency SocialCode in the fall of 2011 suggests that Facebook fans are approximately 291% more likely to convert on any of the 7 engagement actions on a Facebook fan page than non-fans, which includes the ability to purchase products and services.

Facebook Study Conducted by SocialCode - 2011Looking at more than 5 million Facebook ads placed by over 50 clients (spanning verticals, but mostly in consumer packaged goods, auto and finance) from between May and September of this year, the study looked at the cost of acquiring new fans, and what it took to get them to perform a desired action.

Unsurprisingly, it found that fans perform desirable actions such as installing an app, voting in a contest and making a purchase at a much higher rate, and it’s significantly cheaper to prompt them to do so through advertising than it is to prompt non-fans.

To couple this, The Social Habit study conducted by Edison Research suggests that approximately 33% of social network users knowingly follow brands, products or services on social networks. Among the respondents surveyed, it was discovered upwards of 80% of those who do indeed follow brands, products or companies indicate that Facebook is the network they use the most to to do so.

Everyone Needs to Be Liked

For marketers looking to leverage Facebook as a tactical weapon in their marketing mix, the data shows that Like’s are critical factor in building an audience with potential to convert.

Without page Likes as an expression of a Facebook user’s intent to subscribe, organic fan base growth becomes inhibited. Measurements present in Facebook Insights and third party tools like PageLever such as the Total Reach, PTAT and Virility that have been designed to show the effectiveness of Facebook’s prized algorithm will be extremely limited.

Likewise, if you do plan to take advantage of any of Facebook’s in-stream advertising features, the size of your total fan base absolutely matters in a big way.

Even though we may not be able to accurately project what the monetary value of a Like, there is value present for each fan that expresses an intent to subscribe to the content shared on the Timeline. It’s a wise move for marketers to focused on generating Likes before experimenting with other Facebook promotions that lead to more traditional business KPI’s.

Facebook Like photo by owenwbrown and EdgeRank graphic by @ladyxtel

Facebook Comments


  1. says

    Nice job, dude. I think this is a really helpful breakdown that makes content type, posting frequency and engagement easier to explain to clients. Many believe that “if we make it, they will come,” which is simply not the case…it’s up to those of us who work in the digital space to not only educate them about how the platform works (and how users behave), but to also help execute tactically in such a way that they get the most “bang for their buck.”

  2. says

    For very small businesses it’s very simple: are your fans purchasing from you? Are they asking for price quotes or consultations?  Are they commenting on your posts? A small business that I own gets quite a chunk of its business from the Business Page we operate; many of the fans are customers in Real Life, but our posts spur them to place orders.
    Obviously it’s much more difficult for larger brands with very large followings to measure sales that come from FB; luckily that’s not a worry for small Biz.

    • nathanielriggs says

       @AmyMccTobin You bring up a good point, Amy.  For smaller businesses who’s customer base is typically confined to a specific niche or geographic area, the idea of ‘Affinity’; (EdgeRank’s first metric) takes on a different meaning and purpose. Audiences like yours have sort fo built in affinity that only locals can posses. I would guess that a lot of your customers frequent your Facebook page to stay up on what’s new because they have a natural interest in staying in the know. Do you feel that’s the case? And if so, how to do take advantage of the customer interest?  What things do you do?

      • says

         @nathanielriggs Not all of them are locals, but lots of them are customers.  I have friends across the US who are reminded of what we do by our posts, so they seek us out for products.  Our rules are: 1) Never sell hard  2) Use lots of cool images 3) Use pictures of our actual work 4) Make it fun.  We post daily 3 – 5 times, and we tend our page like it’s our garden.
        We only have 600 fans, but we quote/receive orders on a weekly basis via Facebook.

        • nathanielriggs says

           @AmyMccTobin That sounds like a really clean formula for staying top of mind and getting conversions.  NICE example :)

  3. nateriggs says

    @tombuchheim @theresoverby @_geauxTigersGo @dwilliamjones @C_M_Review @dena_smith @InIEnterprises – thank you, kindly : )

  4. 4byoung says

    @nateriggs @jaybaer “Trying to place value on a Facebook Like is a slippery slope at best…” //~ Indeed!

    • juliaohso says

      @der_schneider Busy and productive :) Work & bday party yesterday, work & client meeting today, work & a training tomorrow! How’s yours?

      • der_schneider says

        @juliaohso sounds busy and productive indeed. Pretty busy myself but not 100% convinced about the productiveness. But day’s not over, yet 😉

        • der_schneider says

          @juliaohso sounds great. Good luck to both of us! Well, my day is about to end, let’s start with you having a lucky start into your day!

        • juliaohso says

          @der_schneider Elmar,thanks! I actually did have a great day-the training was awesome,really enjoyed it.Must be a start of a new day for u?

  5. benjoseph23 says

    Thanks @nateriggs ! Since FB has begun the new paid advertising I seem to have less response on my typical posts. I have not paid-to-play as yet, and don’t plan to do so soon. I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know. We are not new to business, but we are fairly new the Social Media aspect and trying to learn.We have a small presence on FB (164 Likes, 1251 Reaches, 52 talking at present) and growing.My goal is to provide usable CONTENT as well as a special thrown in every once in a while. I represent a small town print shop and believe that if I can assemble some Marketing, Social Media and Printing advice worth it’s salt, I will have more eyeballs look at the other stuff I put out there.  BTW Nice article @AmyMccTobin , (Facebook is giving Google+ the opening it needs). Insightful and appreciated.

    • says

       @benjoseph23  @nateriggs Thanks, although I’d love some “heavy user’ input.  I was told by many marketers that those images I was complaining about were via Facebook and authorized.  A tech friend says I have some sort of App. infiltrating FB – any ideas??

  6. Twylah says

    @Zeppolis For the most part, though it is also about the intent of the company & level of genuine content & engagement.

    • Zeppolis says

      @Twylah I tend to agree as well. In our honest opinion, it’s about establishing strong relationships first. Some good take-aways though.

  7. NancyCawleyJean says

    @KristenAlbie Thanks for the RT! LOVED that post because everyone always says they don’t. I think they do too. 😉

  8. says

    That’s why everybody has been so generous with their donations. This is the first time I’ve done any fund raising like this but it won’t be the last. I might look to do a sky dive next year or even grow my beard.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *