Facebook Likes Don't Matter Anymore

Okay, that title may sound a little extreme, but there is some truth to it. Whilst Facebook likes aren’t completely worthless, their actual value is diminishing at a rate of knots.

Let me explain…

Over the past two years, Facebook has been squeezing the organic reach of content for businesses using the platform. In October 2013, the average post from a Facebook page would organically reach around 11-13% of that page’s followers. Fast forward to today, and you’re lucky to hit 3%. The graph below tells its own story:

Facebook stock price vs organic reach

Image source: http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-tools/this-chart-explains-the-reachpocalypse-and-why-facebook-is-laughing-all-the-way-to-the-bank/

I’ve read loads of posts over the past few months that talk about how this is wrong and that Facebook should be rewarding good content from brands instead of them having to pay for it. There have even been a number of brands and individuals that suggest that you should leave Facebook altogether, including this recent breakup letter from Eat24. And Eat 24 aren’t the only ones; Copyblogger also deleted their Facebook page last month for similar reasons, waving goodbye to over 38,000 fans.

When I first read about these two breakups, I initially thought, “ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MINDS?” If those capital letters didn’t emphasise my disbelief enough, maybe Whoopi Goldberg will do a better job of emulating my emotion…

You Crazy?!

Image source: makeameme.org

Seriously, though, I was pretty mystified.

With that said, it would appear that I will be eating my words because Eat24, after saying goodbye to over 70,000 Facebook fans, have reported a 75% increase in app downloads on the week of deleting the page, and they’ve also doubled their email marketing open rates. The Eat24 team have actually said that deleting their Facebook page was the best marketing move they made all year; even CNN covered the breakup!

Whilst I certainly won’t be recommending that everyone deletes their Facebook page, I would suggest that Facebook may not be the channel for you if you think you can make it work without spending a penny.

Facebook is not a free marketing channel.

If you really want to get anywhere on Facebook, you need to spend money. Let’s use my food blog as an example (make sure you read my social media strategy case study, if you haven’t already). I have over 5,000 fans on Facebook, yet each post that I make (without advertising) will reach around only 150 people. That’s not a lot at all. In fact, I would reach a ton more people through Twitter or Pinterest, and they have much smaller followers.

That to one side, by spending a small sum of around £20, I can reach around 3,000 of these fans. The added engagement that comes from this will often boost the organic reach as well at hit around 500 people who don’t already follow my page.

£20 isn’t a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, and I definitely get a good return on investment from it. Traffic from Facebook tends to get the highest level of engagement across my website as well.

Shifting Your Focus

For a long time, I’ve been dedicating some of my Facebook ad budget to acquiring new likes for my Facebook pages. This used to be a great investment because once I had people on board, engagement levels on my Facebook page(s) would increase, traffic from Facebook would follow and, ultimately, conversions would increase.

Over the past six months in particular, I’ve been reviewing this approach.

I’ve found that once I bring in a new fan to my Facebook page, it’s becoming more and more difficult to reach them. Whilst they engage more than non-fans, I have to spend twice as much just to get my content in front of them in the first place. It begs the question: is the cost of acquiring a fan and getting them to engage less than the cost of getting a non-fan to engage? A year ago, the answer to this question was yes. In most cases now, that answer is no.

Let me explain…

If I pay £0.44 per new page like and roughly £0.03 per post engagement per fan, then that brings my total cost per engagement to £0.47. These are real stats from a current campaign I’m running.

On the other hand, I’m currently running a simultaneous campaign to non-fans that is costing me £0.08 per engagement. That means I get just under six times more engagements from non-fans that I do for the same price of acquiring one new fan plus an engagement.

Cost of a Like

You’re probably wondering why this is. Well, it’s simple.

You don’t need to acquire new fans on your Facebook page to know that they’re a follower of your brand. Something as simple as setting up ads to appear to anyone who has visited your website will give you a good idea that they will have heard of you and possibly have a positive sentiment towards your brand. In fact, this is exactly who I’m targeting my non-fan ads at above.

When you think about it, you can actually deliver more appropriate and relevant content to those people you have within custom Facebook audiences than you can to your actual Facebook fans. Yes, you can segment your Facebook post and send out to people that meet specific criteria, but you’re constrained to targeting who Facebook will allow you to.

Facebook Post Targeting

On the other hand, when you’re tracking website behaviour, you’re able to split up your audience based on the specific pages they’ve viewed and events they’ve triggered in order to display tailored Facebook advertisements. For me, this is a much more effective and powerful way to drive through traffic from Facebook.

The Value of a Like

The value of a like is sinking faster than Twitter’s share price. Facebook has already mentioned that they will be decreasing the number of promotional content that is appearing in the newsfeed, which will have even more of an impact on reach.

Running parallel to this move is the fact that Facebook is also placing further restrictions on ways to acquire new Facebook fans organically. This month saw the end of like-gating, which was a staple tactic for acquiring new Facebook fans without forking out for ads. If you’re not sure what like-gating is, it’s where you restrict access to something until someone likes your Facebook page, for example, if you’re running a competition through Rafflecopter and asking users to enter via becoming a fan of your Facebook page. You can say goodbye to this now (Rafflecopter has been implementing a workaround, but it isn’t anywhere near as effective).

The main takeaway here is that it’s becoming much more difficult (and expensive) to acquire new fans, and it’s becoming much more difficult (and expensive) to reach those fans.

Why, Facebook?!

There’s no need to cry about it, though.

My advice is to focus less on growing vanity metrics and more on generating conversions. If your goal is to generate more traffic from Facebook, you may be better off focusing on spending budget on traffic acquisition as opposed to like acquisition.

Don’t like it? Go find another channel.

TL;DR

  • Facebook likes are a bad investment.
  • Don’t start complaining about Facebook becoming more expensive to get results from. Instead, adapt your approach.
  • Find other ways than someone following you on Facebook to determine if someone follows your brand. For example, track website visitors, mailing list subscribers and competitor pages.
  • Don’t look at Facebook as a free platform.