Having been in the social media space for over five years, educating brands about the rules and best practices of social media is as much a part of our work as strategy is. One of the common issues that keeps cropping up time and time again is that of Facebook Likes – it seems that many brands put Like count on a pedestal when it really shouldn’t be, which often leads to the temptation to buy Likes or aggressively acquire them at all costs.
But just because Facebook has made that figure prominent on pages, doesn’t mean that you should too – or you might just sacrifice your real social ROI for vanity.
Much of the struggle to figure out the ROI of social is due to this overemphasis on Likes. Not only is the number of fans a page has on Facebook completely irrelevant to the success of an overall social marketing campaign, focusing on this as an advertiser is incredibly detrimental for several reasons….
Like count should not be on a pedestal – look for more worthy metrics
It’s tempting for brands starting off in their social to see their fan count as The metric of success and seek to boost that number because a page with a few thousand Likes appears to be more ‘socially endorsed’ than a page with 40 Likes. We get it. As the number that is the most visible on a Facebook page, it’s understandable that you want it to grow – after all it’s the first thing your investors, your marketing director, your stakeholders etc. will see and immediately gauge you on.
For a new company, a start-up, or a fresh Facebook page, this is the point where most brands buy Facebook likes in an attempt to fake ‘hype’ and a ‘big community’. Don’t do it! Worse still, there are agencies that buy Likes for their clients in order to ‘prove’ social media success (so do be wary of agencies that tell you that they will give you thousands of Likes!)
As the page begins to get some legs and you start to grow a genuine fan community, the rationale for growing Likes may change but the sin remains the same. Before, young brands on social may have itched for fans in order to justify their social media presence, but then a greed for more fans sets in. Brands may continue to make Likes a key metric in Facebook success – manifested in campaigns or competitions that aim to drive fan growth, regardless of quality or interest in the actual brand/product.
But what’s the real reason for having a social media presence? To achieve an audience who doesn’t really care about the product? It’s important to keep going back to your strategic business objectives for social – engagement, community, and to achieve specific goals such as awareness, reach and interest … Like numbers are not necessarily an indication of these.
Why you should never, ever, ever buy Likes
1. It’s wrong
It’s the same thing as clicking your own banner ad over and over again to boost your click through rates. Yes, giving yourself a higher click through rate or a higher fan count will look good in your results and reporting, but that’s where the good stuff ends….
2. It hurts your engagement rates and reach – which hurts your ROI
When you buy Likes, you are bringing in fake accounts, bots, or random people (who may not have a real interest in your offering) into your Facebook audience. Woohoo! Five thousand fans, let’s celebrate!! But hang on, you will never hear from these people or accounts. They will not contribute any value to your page. If they are bots (and it’s likely that they are), they will never be part of your engaged audience or reach. They will not comment, like, or share good things about your brand – online or offline!
Engagement rate should be a key metric you are looking for in gauging your social media success – and similar to click through rates, it shows how many people out of your fanbase engage with or consume your social media content. So if you push up your total audience with meaningless Likes, you are going to be lowering your engagement rates because the vast majority of your fans don’t really exist.
If you administer a page, you may have noticed that even if you have 10,000 genuine Likes , none of your posts actually reach all of them. Most brand pages report an average of 16% of fans see their posts. The visibility of a Facebook post depends on an algorithm called EdgeRank, in which Affinity (the measure of the relationship between an individual user and the brand page) is heavily weighted. The closer the relationship, the higher this score. So if a user has engaged with your posts in the past, your future posts are more likely to be shown to them again. So you can see how Affinity really means engagement, and hence engagement directly affects your reach.
4. You will eventually go down a slope of negative ROI
Related to the dilution of your organic engagement and reach is the issue of paid advertising. Facebook doesn’t let everyone in your fanbase see your posts, and if you want to reach all of them you have to pay for it. The larger your page, the more you have to pay! And if 70% of your 20,000 fan page is fake, you’re going to be paying a lot of money to reach both your fakes and your genuine fans… which is going to really hurt your return on investment. This is applicable to not just promoted posts to fans, but also to sponsored stories, Facebook ads and all the other formats – basing your advertising spend on an empty audience is futile.
5. It’s practically irreversible
Once fake accounts are bought, they aren’t going away. So it’s very likely that your engagement rates, reach, and growth rates are going to be permanently skewed towards very-below-average industry benchmarks, and it will be always more and more expensive and difficult to improve.
Thou shalt not buy Likes
Basically, there is no point in having Likes that aren’t genuine – it hurts all your key social metrics and makes it difficult to gauge your true success, which in turn makes it hard to justify your future plans, tactics and budget to your directors and managers. If you have 50,000 Likes but practically no effect on sales/conversions/hard business goals, your social media strategy isn’t exactly doing what it’s supposed to be, and from then on it will be an uphill battle to achieve worthy return on investment.
Get the right people on your page by knowing your target market and creating a social media strategy that attracts them. Creating genuine awareness, interest, desire and action is what marketing is about, isn’t it?
But most importantly…
Thou shalt not see Likes as the only success metric
Likes don’t always mean someone is interested in your brand and what it has to say, or that they are an existing customer.For example, a huge boost in Likes during your campaign/giveaway does not equate to business value through new prospects or potential customers. It means that people were interested in your prize – it doesn’t mean that they necessarily care about your brand. Marketers need to move away from chasing Likes to chasing interest and desire from the right audience, with a view on spreading positive word of mouth and endorsement, both online and offline.
Get in touch with us if you would like us to help you with a social media strategy that really makes an impact on your business, rather than on the pixels on your screen.