Why Facebook Likes Don't Matter Anymore

Last Updated: February 21, 2016

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.


  • 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.

About Matthew Barby

Global Head of Growth & SEO at HubSpot, award winning blogger, industry speaker and lecturer for the Digital Marketing Institute.

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42 Responses

Tim Soulo

Hey Matthew.. this whole thing actually reminds me of what Google was doing in the past years..

I mean both companies seem to do everything possible to make people spend more money on advertising.

But at the end of the day.. if the ROI of their advertising is really good – I’m ready to give them some of my marketing money 🙂

Thanks for the awesome article!

Matthew Barby

Yeah, there’s a dilemma that we’re faced here in the sense that it feels like Facebook/Google are taking advantage of their online monopoly and backing marketers into a corner, whilst on the other hand they’re offering a way to reach users that no other platform does and it delivers really good ROI. Am I necessarily happy about having to spend more and more through Facebook to get results? May be not. Will I continue to do so? Yes, I will.


We had the same situation and decided much earlier to resign form FB post promotion or building fan base. When we tried to get some initial exposure to get more followers we noticed that really spammy profiles, from locations out of our interest started to appear. Unacceptable when promoting yourself with money.

FB isn’t a natural content-discovery platform anymore.

Matthew Barby

Interesting. That’s another good point that you’ve raised surrounding the validity of Facebook accounts. Here’s an interesting video that I watched surrounding this a little while back: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVfHeWTKjag

Jimmy Blardenseh

Interesting article, but in regards to the percentages of posts reached, we noticed if we have more engagement per post, the organic reach of followers is higher, so it also seems they reward good content.

Matthew Barby

Hi Jimmy, you’re absolutely right. Posts with more engagement will get rewarded with further organic reach. That said, you often need to seed the post with some paid advertising to achieve the initial engagement!

Boni Satani

Wow, that was an eye opener!

Simon Dunant

Great post Matthew. I have to agree with all the points in your post. Many brands will feel frustrated at losing the organic reach with the recent changes regarding “promotional posts” on Facebook, but I just wonder how many brands took the initiative to work on moving their followers into their owned lists from social to email rather than leaving their community sitting on someone elses land.

I’ve always smiled at the stat of Facebook being the biggest social network with billions of users. You’re not going to have billions of users in your own segmented community so why does it matter on the overall network size. As long as you attract your own like minds on the same journey, it matters not the size of the network’s users.

I’ve found that Facebook has never really worked for community building, personally I’ve had much more success with Twitter. It’s simpler, faster and especially for SMEs it’s easier to manage in my opinion.

Hope to see you at a future BrightonSEO again soon!

Matthew Barby

Hey Simon, I think you’ve touched upon a really important point about the actual size of your community vs social reach. Even though Facebook is the largest social network out there, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Facebook will be the place where they are willing to engage.

Also, I’m speaking at the next BrightonSEO so I’ll see you there 🙂


Another great article. I have been aware of the fb post reach decline for over a year now. This post has given me the motivation to try targeting ads again for non-fans.

My only concern is that posting ads on fb that link to a website usually have a high bounce rate because fb users want to jump right back to FB and keep engaging with friends.

I will have to work on optimizing my landing pages then.

Matthew Barby

Thanks, Jeff.

Like with any channel, driving traffic away from the area in which users were navigating can result in some bounces. It’s all about ensuring that the user is coming through to content that they expect. For example, within my blog, Facebook traffic actually has the lowest bounce rate of all traffic sources.


From the start, I never feel comfortable spending my time on getting more Facebook followers, and I think most people who invests heavily in it are just missing one thing.

Instead of spending your time, energy and resources on that…….why not run advert on Facebook consistently to build your email list?

What do you Matt?

Matthew Barby

Every campaign is different, in the same sense, every business is different. I spend a large chunk of my budget on list building because I get a lot more ROI from my email subscribers. That said, I also use Facebook to remarket through to those that may have stumbled upon my content and then left.

Kapil Jekishan

Well said Matthew. There are too many schools of thought when it comes to Facebook and whether you should actively use this channel or not.

The bottom line is, it’s a ‘pay to play’ platform which SMBs often can’t justify a budget towards.

It’s one thing to pay to acquire targeted fans but then to pay to reach them again for your regular content makes it difficult not to spend more time on other platforms.


Interesting points you make, and I’ve seen a few others sharing a similar view. I have to disagree though. I guess your value perception of a like depends on a few things, one being the actual cost per like, and another the organic reach/interaction you get from fans.

Having recently built a new site, I use FB to grow traffic like crazy and rely on a steady growing base of fans to spread our content. I don’t use ad campaigns for likes however, and simply use paid post engagement ads, which I find drive way more likes, in addition to garnering shares and website visits.

When I did run exclusive “likes” campaigns we got them down to about .02-.10 cents apiece (US targeted, not some third world country nonsense). Our post engagement ads regularly hit .01 cents per engagement, so the costs make it totally worth it.

I still don’t get why companies would shut down their FB page. Even if you don’t want to pay to play, it’s a great platform to connect with fans, carry on a dialogue, and share your content.

Anyways, carry on deleting your FB pages everyone. More fans for me!

Wade McMaster

I’ve been slowly slipping further and further away from even bothering with Facebook. Email and Twitter seem to drive the most traffic for me.

But at the same time, some of my more ‘social’ websites (mainly entertainment based, movies, etc) go off on Facebook. So I guess there’s a use for certain platforms within certain niches. Most ‘businessy’ websites probably don’t do well because they are less social/entertaining in nature… Just a thought 🙂


Not only do Facebook likes mean virtually nothing these days but interaction of the like button is down as well. Facebook usage is in big decline just go to Google Trends and search for Facebook.


Hey Matt,

Thanks for exploring the underlying of Facebook likes and reach. I think you made a few good points. To be fair, I don’t think that the value of a like has decreased, although you’re definitely right in pointing out that the cost of acquiring a fan and then reaching him/her has increased due to lower organic reach. Advertising to non-fans instead of building a fan base and then engaging them sounded like a dangerous plan at first, and I think it’s very (very) important that your readers know that you’re only talking about advertising to reach a highly targeted group of people (which in your case means website vistors). If you view a list of website visitors VS a fan base, then you’re definitely right that the relative importance of a fan base has diminished. But if we’re looking at businesses which are relatively new on the web, a fan base can turn into a crucial source of traffic to their website. All that also lies on the assumption that the only goal u have on Facebook is to drive traffic to your website, where you have a separate marketing funnel that converts visitors. If you also want to achieve other goals, such as gathering consumer feedback, market research, or provide social proof and the like, the value of a fan base immediately increases. That of course, needs to be balanced with the cost of building one, and is up to you to decide if it’s worth it.

Just some thoughts off the too of my mind!

REBEL Internet

I totally agree on your stance towards Facebook, which a lot stilll see as a free marketing channel. It isn’t.

Boni Satani

That’s interesting! I too had the same experience.

However, I know a guy who’s earning a good amount from FB Paid Promotion.

He is working on the case study & would surely update you once that’s live.

Let me know if you would like to check it out.


Hey Matthew, Jon Loomer at jonloomer.com has written an entire post about Copyblogger’s decision to quit FB. Check it out, it’s a good read. Also check out his post “It may be time for you to quit marketing on FB”.
Also, Copyblogger put zero effort in managing their Facebook page, so I don’t think anyone should use them as an example of a brand “wronged” by FB.


Ya know if you look hard enough on the ‘net you can find ways to get likes and not have to pay. Not that I suggest or condone the practice.

Rick Noel

Excellent post Matthew. The size of the network matters in the sense of being able to reach a majority online users. When hyper targeting or remarketing, this size matters for delivery.

Our experience is that Facebook referral traffic is the most engaged of any referral traffic including organic search, as measured by time on site and pages/visit.

Custom audiences and remarketing are great ways to allocate Facebook ad budget. Thanks for sharing the data to help inform these kinds of decisions while not suggesting we throw the baby out with the bath water 🙂

Saijo George

Google did this – it used to be easy to rank organically ( using legit methods ) but not any more, Facebook is doing it, and any other platform that gains traction will do this in the future. Its just how things work.

Like you mentioned I don’t have to be happy about it but I will keep playing by their rules, because if you don’t your competitor will get in there.

Andrea Moro

Nice article Matt, my only concern here (and that’s what you probably missed in the article) is your definition of engagement.

What would you expect a non follower you reached to do? How could they engage with you? Are you expecting them to be loyal just with fb page or to move forward and then ultimately interact with the site?

Matthew Barby

Hey Andrea, good point. My definition of engagement would (in the context of what I’m talking about here) be a click of some sort. This would ideally be through to the website where they would go on and convert in one way or another.

Joseph Ho

You are right, my normal posting on fb the reach was only 5 to 10%. But I noticed if some of my post went viral, FB will reward you with more organic reach.

william T

Hi Mathew,

Firstly I can’t stop myself saying your website is awesome…and yes facebook likes is worthless for me I don’t know how others consider it using for business I never did. For me Google+ is always top priority.


I think you are right, but for selfish people LIKES matter a lot. But talking about the pages which need several likes to show good impression among the crowd.

Andrew Bigwood

I’ve just spent a similar amount £20 on promoting the above page on facebook. I now have 50 more likes, however 46 of those likes have no face and no name, so whatever I post, I will receive zero feedback or have any interaction with them, which facebook are always encouraging people to do? I also feel that facebook is killing itself, and will only come to realise this once it is too late. As well as this ‘like’ issue, people get bored easily these days, and it only takes a minority of ‘influencers’ to cause an exodus.

Mi Muba

Hi Mathew
Very insightful post.
The days to benefit from social media like an amateur have gone. The initial time of very business mainly focus at sales promotion. Every popular social media has already passed one decade of its life so the honeymoon period is over and the regular life sets to begin. This is the biggest reality with regard to social media marketing and those who understand it now will be rule the field in future.

Devin Bisanz

The comments are as intriguing as the article! I’m happy I’m only just starting facebook advertising because it seems to me that facebook is like a casino… the house always wins.
Except there are always people who figure out the system. Hopefully I can learn to play them at their own game.


I agree Matthew,
Even after using facebook ads from last three months, I am still not satisfied. I seriously do not understand that when a page has so many likes, then why not the posts reaches to whole of the audience. It is actually waste of time as well as money.

Avinash S

Yeah, you’re right, Matthew Barby. I’ve personally noticed that if I have more engagement per post, the organic reach of followers will become high!!


Yes I have observed this since this year. When you want to increase your likes you need to get a paid ads from Facebook. I’ve had a lot of pages in FB but when I check my referral signal in our analytics indeed it has a little conversion. Thanks for putting this up here. Hope to see more things about Facebook. It means SEO is still important.


Well,buying facebook likes is one of the biggest mistakes anyone ever does…

Saif Ullah

Hey Matthew, I agree Facebook is no more free. I have faced worst experience on my Business page. Facebook ask businesses now to boost their page posts by investing some money. My Business page with 700k+ Likes nowadays getting only about 500 reach almost for one status and photo post. You wrote about Twitter, but here is qestion, what is the guarantee that Twitter will never kill our organic reach? I am confused now to choose from Twitter or G + now, Whats your suggestion?

Matthew Barby

Hi Saif,

I think that the answer there is that there’s no guarantee at all. It’s important to remember that we have no say over what changes the social networks make. With this in mind, it’s important to hedge your bets and test out which platforms work best for you.


Hello Matthew Barby
This is my first comment on your site. I like your site. It looks professional. Keep sharing good content.. It seems you are doing brilliant work.

Georgette Lee-Magin

I totally agree with you Matthew.. Facebook to me seem to be losing its value as a marketing platform. For me it is definitely not worth it to focus on it alone without investing anything. I used to push my posts for my blog, but seeing that I don’t hit the right target audience, I decided to try all other platforms.. It is really about looking for the one that best works for your niche. Thanks for confirming my thoughts and for the enlightenment!

BJ Henderson

Very informative post Matt. I was doing some research today on FB likes and it’s ironic that I’ve now found your post on it.

I really didn’t think likes really gave as much value to your page anymore like they used to.

I know people who are making thousands a month off FB without really utilizing their fan pages.

What I’ve come to realize is people enjoy seeing who you really are and if you know how to display that you can utilize it to your advantage.

I think a better use of your money could be spent on doing FB ads instead of buying likes.


This still seems wrong in so many ways. We have a site that has about 45k FB likes. We used to do pretty well whenever we posted (to the people that liked our page to see our content!) Now we’re thinking about just scrapping that website. Paying money to reach those same people has done nothing but waste our money consistently.

These companies grew because they were natural organic platforms. They think they’re untouchable right now, but I’m pretty sure Myspace thought they were untouchable as well at one time.