Facebook Fans: Numbers Aren’t the Story

Bigger seems better when it comes to a brand’s Facebook fan base, but that’s only part of the story. New research shows that brands with large numbers of likes aren’t any more likely to get brand lift.

Millward Brown and Dynamic Logic, in conjunction with the World Advertisers Federation, studied the fan bases of 24 brands. It found it’s much more important for brands to figure out what to do with their fans rather than simply accumulating them. Facebook ad programs can easily bump up the number of fans, for instance, but the hard work is in providing them content and interaction that’s worthwhile, according to Duncan Southgate, global innovation director at Millward Brown.

The number of fans you have doesn’t necessarily reflect whether your Facebook page is doing well,” he said. “There’s a relationship between the two but you can have some big fan pages do less well than you’d expect.”

The report was called “The Value of a Fan,” but it skirted the issue of putting a direct number on it. Southgate said quantifying the value of fan bases remains a difficult endeavor, if only because a large but unengaged group can be less valuable than a smaller but active one.

Southgate has a few rules of thumb for successful pages. They tend to have a clear purpose, engender a strong sense of community among members, and use competitions or events to drive activity.

No doubt, brands are pouring more money into Facebook. A survey of its members found 85 percent think fan pages are a good path to consumer loyalty, with another 80 percent looking to them to increase loyalty. Nearly every respondent (96 percent) said they plan on spending more money on their fan bases.

One area fan bases aren’t paying off is at the cash register. Just 15 percent said they looked to their fan pages to drive short-term sales, although 45 percent expected it to in the long run.

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