Fast Company

Facebook Conversations Don't Achieve The Marketing Boost You Desire

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Facebook Likes and comments are great, but they won't save your brand.

Researcher Dan Zarella (an expert in social media analysis) set out to prove they would at least help. He found the opposite results. Zarella has been looking into all sorts of aspects of social networking and branding, and as part of a study into "engaging in conversation" in social media venues, Zarella looked at Facebook's social interactions with a general expectation that a conversation on Facebook would actually boost subtle factors like brand reach and effective marketing, with customers more inclined to view and interact with more dynamic pages. He was wrong.

Zarella's study looked at the correlation between impressions per post (essentially the number of page views a post gets) and feedback per post (a tacit measure of how interested the public is in the post material, measured in comments and "likes"). Using Facebook Insights data, which is only accessible to page admins, he looked at 12 months of data and found merely a "weak negative correlation." In other words, the posts that get slightly more views actually have fewer likes and comments.

Furthermore, the same gently negative correlation was found when Dan tried to correlate feedback per post and the number of impressions the next post got (a measure of reader's keenness to return to the feed). Meaning: A highly viewed post isn't particularly going to attract readers.

Curious if the data was merely a glitch, Zarella tried to examine a similar relationship between post popularity and feedback using Facebook's own EdgeRank system (the back-room code that helps determine which friend's status/news appears in your feed) and found that "The amount of 'conversation' that happens on your Facebook posts has nothing to do with the number of people who will see it."

So, memo to PR folks busy prepping big-money Facebook promotional campaigns: If you're trying to push brand penetration with a Facebook post, don't worry too much about inciting a comment conversation or "likes" reaction, and don't applaud yourself too loudly on how many comments or "Likes" you do get. They don't, according to this study, translate to return visitors or increased brand penetration.

[Image: Flickr user denisdervisevic]

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3 Comments

  • Mas

    I disagree Lisa. Small, brick and mortar businesses are hurt everyday by going to social media. When you lure customers to your FB and they start searching your page, they are also exposed to advertising for some of your top online competitors who have big money to design ads to draw your customers in. Once they click on your competitor's site, they realize that not only can they often buy the same products you sell cheaper due to volume buying/low overhead...but they often don't have to pay sales tax either. Add to that the bonus of free shipping over X amount and you've probably lost a whole lot of sales as that customer loads his online shopping cart to reach that magic $$$. Of course, once these customers get these wonderful gadgets from the online store, they will have no one to explain their use or how best utiltize them, so these same customers will stop by your store and tie up your paid employees with all the questions they should be asking the online retailer but can't, forcing paying customers to wait their turn and making their experiences less positive. Not only that, but the amount of time I waste each day opening emails from all these social media marketers takes valuable time away from my business. If you are a brick and mortar business, spend the money on a good web designer...have a great site designed and make sure you get that site maximized for the best exposure.

  • Lisa A-M

    Disagree.  For local businesses, Facebook DOES boost a brand.  I'm not just saying this because I have a hand in helping businesses utilize FB Pages, but we've seen the changes in their business.  Smaller communities (and the businesses with them) use FB in a way that's very different.  Would love to see some data on that. 

  • wdatt

    I don't think Facebook is the be-all and end all of marketing, but I do think that having a presence there (depending on the type of site you are promoting) is necessary to inspire some type of customer confidence. If a small business can't even get a few hundred people to follow them on Facebook then it doesn't look good when a prospective customer checks out their page. This is why I think that a bunch of companies (see http://www.buyfacebookfansrevi... for info on some of the good and bad) based around the idea of getting more Facebook fans emerged and is beneficial to some companies that need more of a presence there. Mas brings up some good points, but I think is overthinking things by focusing on the competitors. Yes, you will not be able to get 100% of the people who look you up on Facebook due to other ads, but even a small percentage of people is more than 0. So Facebook is worth putting some effort into, its just not guaranteed to be a panacea and you shouldn't look at it as one.