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Do You Really Need More Facebook Likes? The Data Driven Answer

More Facebook likes! This is the driving passion of some social media marketers. They desire it. They dream about it. They crave it. They somehow think that more Facebook likes is the panacea for all of the world’s ills.

But is it that important? Apart from my obvious hyperbole, are more Facebook likes truly going to create massive engagement, viral excitement, and blast revenue to new heights of glory and awesomeness?

Maybe. But maybe not.

We need to look at the data in order to find out if Facebook likes are all they’re cracked up to be.

Why Facebook Matters

First, let me show you a bit of data that paints a rosy picture of the Facebook landscape.

A Contently article featured a graph with the excited headline: “This Chart Reveals Just How Important Facebook Really Is for Content Marketers.”

how important facebook really is for marketers

What is this glorious chart of which they speak? Take a look:

shareaholic social media traffic referrals

Image source

Does that paint a compelling picture or what? Shareaholic derived the data from more than a year of collection that involved 200,000 websites and an estimated audience exceeding 250,000 unique monthly visitors. Yes. That’s a lot of numbers.

But let me make a few observations about that sweet chart:

  • The biggest message of the chart is not Facebook’s referral metrics specifically, but on how it compares to other social media sites. As an early-comer, Facebook is obviously going to squash the competition.
  • Referrals and likes are not correlated in this chart. Based on the data here, we have no idea how likes even play into the equation. Is there a correlation? Maybe, but it’s not evident.

One of the most commonly-cited reasons why Facebook is important is its sheer size. At the time of writing, TheNextWeb reported that Facebook has 1.23 billion monthly active users (MAUs).

That’s a lot of people. But what do Facebook’s MAU stats have to do with your participation in Facebook, let alone the like levels on your business page?

Pretty close to nothing.

Merely being a member of a vast universe like Facebook does not mean that you’re going to form a connection with everyone in that universe.

Why Facebook Likes Don’t Matter

So, let me share with you a few of the reasons why Facebook likes aren’t that big of a deal.

Users who like your page may never engage with the content.

Facebook users rack up likes like Michael Phelps collects gold medals. It’s easy for a Facebook user to like your page, but it’s far less likely that they will see the content you posted, let alone interact with it and visit your business Facebook page.

According to a study cited by SocialSamosa, only 1% of users who like a business page will visit that brand’s Facebook page.

Let’s apply that statistic to a hypothetical situation. Pretend that you acquire 1000 new likes to your business Facebook page! Once you sit down after your happy dance, you wait for the conversions to start rolling in, and revenue to start ramping up.

What do those 1,000 new likers do? 990 of them don’t do anything. Ten of them visit your page. And what do they do on your page? Maybe click around a little bit. Then what?

Is it worth it?

Facebook likes are not correlated with more business or more engagement.

One social media analyst crunched the numbers of Facebook page “fans” vs. “talking about.” You can find out these numbers yourself by going to a business Facebook page and clicking on the number of fans.

teleflora facebook stats

His goal was to determine if more fans automatically meant higher levels engagement.

What he concluded was that the mere number of likes was only a facade. The real metric to pay attention to is not the number of likes, but the number of people “talking about this.” Engagement is more valuable than the off chance of a few impressions (“organic reach” in Facebook parlance).

The good thing about engagement is that it’s free. You can engage with your fans without having to pay more to promote your posts. The real value of a Facebook community is not its actual size, but the value derived from engagement.

Facebook likes don’t mean that you’ll get better quality business.

Facebook fans have a limited possibility of bringing in more business. But if they do, there’s a question as to the quality of their clientele. Not all fans or likes are worth having, believe it or not.

It’s easy to confuse quantity with quality, but as any ecommerce business person knows, the two are not the same. In the world of Facebook likes, one must be especially aware.

Delete your Facebook page and get more fans?

When Eat24 famously deleted their Facebook page, they axed 70,000 fans from their company’s digital presence. What did it do business?

Business grew. The week that they killed the Facebook page, they decided it “was the best marketing move we made all year.” Besides making national headlines, they also saved all that money on wasted Facebook spending. Plus, according to Matthew Barby, they somehow experienced a 75% increase in app downloads.

Experiment: The cost of acquiring a fan and promoting content just isn’t worth it.

Matthew Barby explains how he shifted his Facebook strategy because of the failing impact of more likes.

At one point, he was boosting engagement levels by allocating his Facebook budget towards acquiring new fans. New fans boosted engagement levels and brought in new conversions.

Now? That’s not working for him. I’ll let him explain:

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.

It’s interesting to note that as Facebook’s stock has gone up, average organic reach levels have gone down.

facebook stock price

Image source

Does this indicate some nefarious scheme on the part of Facebook? No. It just tells us that Facebook basically stinks as an engagement channel.

What Should You Do Instead?

Engage, rather than build likes.

While Facebook’s organic reach may have hit the bottom, you can still engage with your audience. The power of Facebook is no longer in its spread, but rather in the way that it provides a platform for interaction.

If the viral power of Facebook has dried up, then work on generating conversation. Talk to your fans. Use it as a communication portal, rather than a way to build up likes. Social Ogilvy put it like this: “The power in Facebook remains its potency to generate earned conversation and engagement.”

Use local Facebook pages.

Local pages have far more engagement potential than a standard business page. According to Authenticity Marketing, local pages have 5 times the reach, 8 times the engagement level, and 40 times the overall impact.

local facebook pages

Image source

The traditional Facebook fan page or business page has less of an overall impact than ever before. Thankfully, there’s still some juice left in the local page.

Don’t use it Facebook as your primary audience.

If you depend on Facebook or any social network as your primary audience, you’re making a mistake.

Contently’s Joe Lazauskas made this point when he wrote, “Building your primary audience on Facebook and Twitter is a fool’s errand.”

Why is it a fool’s errand? Because this:

avg organic reach

Image source

To sum up that chart in seven words: Your organic reach on Facebook is tiny.

What is “organic reach?” Organic reach, as defined by Facebook is “the number of unique people who saw your post in News Feed or on your Page, including people who saw it from a story shared by a friend when they liked, commented on or shared your post, answered a question or responded to an event.”

Any impression of your content, no matter how small, counts as “organic reach.”

Social Ogilvy’s study (see the chart above) analyzed more than 100 Facebook brand pages to measure their organic reach. These were big pages, and the total reach exceeded 48 million fans. How did these brands do pushing out their content?

Not so hot. By February 2014, they were experiencing a 6% organic reach. And what about the little ol’ pages with less than 500,000 likes? A paltry 2.11%! Some of that organic reach may have simply have been seeing in your timeline that a friend (whom you hardly even know) liked a certain brand (that you hardly even care about!).

That second-tier impression hardly qualifies as a reach! But maybe that doesn’t even matter because 2% is hardly enough to qualify as “reach,” either!

Okay, so what about engagement? Maybe engagement is a better metric to track than organic reach?

Or not. As mentioned previously in this article, engagement levels are low — often less than 0.1%! Nate Elliot of Forrester reports that the “top brands” on Facebook get .07% engagement rates.

user interactions with brands posts

Image source

Marshall Mason’s whitepaper went ahead and said what everyone was afraid of: “Organic reach of the content brands publish in Facebook is destined to hit zero. It’s only a matter of time.”

My biggest brand, KISSmetrics, has 19,000, give or take a few, Facebook likes. While that may look like a lot, it’s not anywhere near the half million required to boost my engagement levels upwards of 3%.

people talking about this

Recognize that Facebook is valuable, but may have reached a saturation point.

Facebook has had explosive growth ever since its inception, but the data shows that it may have reached its apex.

According to the Shareaholic numbers, Facebook’s referrals have slipped over the past few months.

shareaholic social media traffic referrals2

Although there’s still a lot of referral traffic coming through Facebook, it may begin to decline

Don’t spend more money on it.

Content and social experts have sunk a lot of cash into Facebook. What has it gotten them?

They’ve gotten disappointment in return.

Data from Forrester reveals that Facebook marketing is at the bottom of the pack when it comes to business value. Forrester’s research team asked 395 marketers and executives “How satisfied are you with the business value your company has achieved by using each of the following marketing channels?”

Guess what came in dead last out of thirteen choices. Yep, Facebook.

how satisfied are you

Hold it with a loose hand.

Facebook has proved how unstable it is. Every social media platform has significant changes, of course. Facebook is so large, however, that the slightest tweak causes global reverberations.

If you use Facebook, you can probably remember each one of these algorithm changes.

facebook algorith chnges

Don’t depend on Facebook. Something may change again that will knock your organic reach even lower!

Instead, consider ways that you could improve your reach without Facebook engagement, audience, and referrals. Sure, you should engage it for all its worth. But at the same time, be aware that things could change quickly. You need to be ready to adapt.

Conclusion

I’m not here to discourage you from using Facebook. Stick with it. Stay on it. Do what you need to do.

What I want to caution against is pursuing more Facebook likes. Likes themselves are fine, but they can be misleading. Is it worth spending that kind of money on a vanity metric?

I’m not sure that it is.

What do you think? Are more Facebook likes valuable?

About the Author: is a lifelong evangelist of Kissmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.

  1. I agree that it’s wasteful to spend money to get fans when you’ll have to pay again to get your posts in front of them. But we have found it very valuable for other objectives. It gets us and our clients leads through leadpages squeeze pages. With email marketing, it is our primary new business generator for both consulting and speaking. It gets us more attendees for our local improv troupe’s shows. It has brought in ecommerce sales for some of our clients too (ecomm is only about 20% of our work), at great cost per sale. The caveat is: you must test a lot of Facebook ads, and you must learn how to resonate with your audience. Most people aren’t willing to work that hard, so they fail at Facebook.

  2. Cendrine Marrouat Feb 24, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    Hello Neil,

    Thank you for this detailed analysis on Facebook.

    I still think FB may work for some industries, but I would hate to launch a social business now. Things have gotten so complicated!

    I will keep my page but stopped worrying about FB a long time ago. I much prefer Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn!

  3. Justine Carrol Feb 24, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    Hey Neil – great job here – someone had to say it! I first new something was fishy when I ran an ad to promote a client’s blog post on Facebook. Was THRILLED when I saw 100 “likes” for that post in the first day…and then went in to Google Analytics and discovered NOT ONE OF THOSE likers actually went to that page and read the bloody post!

  4. Finally the numbers supporting what I’ve been telling my clients all along. A year ago I stopped obsessing over my page and started a local group. My biz grew exponentially almost over night.

    Thank you!

  5. I’ve run marketing organizations several times over my career and I STILL haven’t seen a solution to the core problem all marketers face: What combination and level of investment in marketing tactics will pay the highest return? Every marketing executive must determine what to spend and where to spend it each year–on advertising? PR? E-mail? Events? Where does social media fit? What amount is appropriate? What will result? After all these years, managers continue to rely on hope, fly blind, or waste enormous time and money running experiments that are either misleading or inconclusive.

    The goal of marketing promotion is to produce qualified leads that can be closed by salespeople and do it in the most efficient way possible. If one can’t credibly connect the dots between likes or engagement with revenue, either independently or in combination with other tactics, it’s a colossal waste of money. IMHO, of course…

  6. Matthew Barby Feb 25, 2015 at 8:55 am

    Thanks for the mention here, Neil. I’m finding that we’re having a huge shift away from organic Facebook campaigns for our clients, favouring other social networks for this. Instead we use Facebook as our primary advertising channel for a number of campaigns.

  7. Great post.

    The way I read the socia@ogilvy graph, though, is that sites with over 500k likes actually have the lower reach.

    Doesn’t affect the top level message though — organic reach on FB is terrible no matter what size you are.

  8. I’d have to agree that paying for fans and posts is a bit worthless as far as Facebook is concerned. Facebook isn’t just about buying fans, posting ads, and leaving it at that. Most people want interaction on Facebook so unless someone is interacting on your business page, it’s pointless. I’ve had a Facebook page, not for business but a community page, with over 6700 likes. The truth of the matter though is that out of all of those likes I never saw more than 200-400 people at most in a day or two on a status. I would definitely not focus solely on likes when it comes to Facebook, but instead on interesting and engaging statuses that grabs the reader’s attention.

  9. Jeffrey Bowdoin Feb 25, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    I agree with much of what you are saying, however in some cases it is good to have Facebook likes as a social validation that can potentially increase conversion rates on your website. If people see that your brand has a lot of Facebook likes, they will perceive it as a bigger brand. This is probably more important for newer businesses rather than already established businesses.

    In terms of organic reach, getting traffic and ultimately getting sales, Facebook is not the place to achieve these objectives. SEO, PPC, Email and other methods are much more appropriate to spend time on.

  10. Wow, this article is so bad, I really can’t believe you wrote it. Why didn’t you ask Jon Loomer or Sandi Krawkowski or any number of successful Facebook marketers about the value of their fans? Instead you seem to focus on those who are unsuccessful on Facebook (I’m surprised you didn’t throw in Copyblogger) and draw conclusions from that. Could it be because you and they are still fixated on organic traffic? And citing a report from 2013 about how visits to one’s fan page is proof that Likes don’t matter? Any marketer that doesn’t know by now that the action happens in the feeds not on the page, should retire. Even your conclusion that Likes are just a vanity measure has no supporting “data” to back it up. Guess what the most successful marketers do, they focus on both Likes and Engagement. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Sadly, “the data driven answer” is what one won’t find in this post.

  11. Hey Neil,
    Congrats on a well written and well thought out article. It’s very interesting but I’m not sure I agree with your synopsis. “Likes” on a Facebook page provide at the very minimum a type of social proof of brand acceptance and is just one more small nudge in the psyche of buyers that helps them pull the trigger at the ZMOT. As some of the other posters eluded to earlier (and in your article), feeds and local pages are where the magic happens. That said, I would not recommend spending money on building likes for a brand page but I would to build voice focused local pages where I could build brand loyalty through much stronger engagement practices.

  12. David Pierpont Sep 20, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    I was with you until you got to local pages on Facebook having a better engagement. That claim has not panned out for major brands in the 3-4 years since Facebook rolled them out. Of course you might be able to find a few exceptions, but as a strategic focus, it is a nightmare for most brands.

    Most of the time when I see stats like “local pages have 5 times the reach, 8 times the engagement level, and 40 times the overall impact” – that is not true. An employee or it’s family member liking a post when the average post only gets 1 means it increased 100% for that week/month. That is crap data. I cannot tell you how many brand local pages I’ve gone to that only have a tiny fraction of likes, comments and shares. It is usually the same people who are engaging with it and again and again.

    The following are the main reasons this is flawed logic.

    – Facebook’s move to pay-to-play and it’s targeting capabilities have essentially wiped any reason to have local pages

    – API token issues plague any brand with more than a few hundred pages, this impacts 3rd party tools; not to mention many tools for managing content are expensive as they are tied to number of social channels (pages) your brand is connected too. Sorry if you have 1,000 locations you could be spending tens of thousands of dollars a month just in a tool. Or you find a cheaper tool and then you are plagued with other problems

    – Managing hyper local content across large number of pages at scale? No. it’s not worth the supposed amount of engagement you will get across all those pages

    – Now that Facebook is pay-to-play the need for boosting is critical, that means you now need to manage that spend and all the post performance thinking etc across all of these local pages. Many tools especially budget conscious tools will not help you here, so have fun managing that on Facebook Business Manager

    – Facebook themselves know that managing fully run local pages at scale is not optimal use of resources and they would rather you concentrate on the national brand page and geo-target messages from there (you can target down to the address level with a radius)

    – Finally, I have been studying this issue for years and the data DOES NOT pan out. Even with an organic geo-targted post on the national brand page to a location tends to net better results than on a local page, especially if you do have some level of critical mass with fans (yep having fans on some level does matter); but then when you talk about adding $ to a geo-targted post from that national brand page, the numbers are not even close, the local page is not worth it

    Suggestion:

    Claim all your local pages under Parent-Child, turn off all the comments to the page, turn off the publishing capability. Update all the about us information and find a tool to help you manage all the reviews. Then geo-target all your messaging, sales, grand openings, etc. from your corporate national page. Also do not waste time with brand awareness content to the local pages, the corp page can handle, local is for truly local content that you would not get at the national level.

    Sorry for the rant, but this effort to be hyper local with local pages on Facebook will drive your marketing team and/or it’s agencies crazy at scale and it’s not worth the time, effort or money. Trust me!

  13. This is the driving passion of some social media marketers. They desire it. They dream about it. They crave it. They somehow think that more Facebook likes is the panacea for all of the world’s ills. Now-a-days most of the people are depend on the facebook. Facebook’s move to pay-to-play and it’s targeting capabilities have essentially wiped any reason to have local pages

  14. I think you are totally wrong.. If you offer good stuff to the people on Facebook they will actually engage with the content.. And too many people use facebook, is easy way get fast and huge amount of visitors to your product.

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