Let’s talk about ‘likes’ baby. When Facebook first started as a platform getting likes was the beez-neez. It demonstrated success, conveyed influence (which was real) and enabled businesses to communicate with their audience for free – oh what a wonderful world!
Facebook needs to make money
Then in 2012 Facebook listed as a public company, and starting in 2014 (for mine) Facebook became serious about its advertising platform. Having worked in finance for a decade I can tell you that when a company goes public, that is lists on a stock exchange, its goals changes. Making money IS the key goal now and satisfying shareholder’s appetite for growth every three months is a must.
Facebook’s share price has increased +400% increase since listing in 2012. Not too bad…
One of Facebook’s first moves to increase revenue was to dramatically reduce organic reach to fans of business pages. If businesses wanted to reach their fans they had to pay for it. Dick move? Not really – it’s their platform and they can do as they please. Fast forward several years, and this move has rocketed Facebook to one of the most profitable and valuable companies in the world. It is estimated that 65% of every new digital marketing dollar spent goes to either Facebook or Google.
The change in organic reach caught businesses off-guard, and understandably many were very frustrated (it has done the same with Instagram). People had literally built their business on the platform and depended on it for sales. Free sales. Facebook adapted to its new reality, satisfying its shareholders, and businesses had to adapt too.
You can still go viral on Facebook and receive a ton of organic traction however this moonshot approach is not one that we stake our success on or an approach that should form the backbone of a marketing strategy.
No organic reach but you still want likes?
Interestingly, despite the drop off in organic reach, growing Facebook followers still remains discussion point number one in many of our strategy meetings with clients. It can sometimes be the only KPI. Why? For mine it’s optics and ease. Any marketing team anywhere can talk to their boss about the growth of likes and demonstrate ‘success’ of a digital campaign. It looks good and the ‘grey hair’ gets it.
The good news is that likes aren’t completely useless but they also our last priority for any campaign when weighed against other targeting options available on Facebook.
Reach At A Lower Cost
Facebook likes are useful as you can reach your audience (after paying) at a lower cost point than trying to reach or find new customers. This definitely valuable. Additionally you are able to target ‘friends of people that like your page’. This reduces what I call the ‘funnel of randomness’ ie the reason you are seeing an ad in your newsfeed. For example, if 10 of your friends like a page and your see an ad – the ad becomes less random, and may give you a little bit more trust. Useful – but only slightly.
If you are targeting your followers (likes) in a campaign make sure that you create a separate ad set. This will enable you to better gauge value and understand where your results are coming from. In general, we see that clients are able to reach their followers at a materially lower price point than other targeting options.
Additionally, by creating a separate ad set you won’t narrow your audience down ie if you select targeting via custom audiences/detailed targeting, and, then try to target likes Facebook will reduce your audience to find people that are both in the custom audience AND that like your page.
Likes can’t be segmented as well as other audience types
To be successful with any marketing campaign you have to be relevant AND timely. The reason likes are our last priority is because likes, on the whole, fail the timeliness test.
How many pages have you liked on Facebook? I personally have no idea. When did you like them? I have even less of an idea. Did I like this page a week ago? Seven years ago? Is it still relevant to me? It’s so important to be timely. From the perspective of a businesses advertising on Facebook, is messaging timely to what a prospect is looking for NOW? The key pitfall of using Facebook followers in your targeting is that you don’t know when the person started to follow you. Therefore you can’t tailor your message based on timeliness. A campaign to people that liked you several years ago versus a campaign to people that liked you several days ago should be very different. Likes don’t enable you to segment your audience by time.
As the Facebook platform has developed, the plethora of other audience creation options makes targeting likes less and less important.
Likes occur naturally from other ads
Here’s the kicker. Likes occur as a byproduct of other campaigns. If you run other campaign objectives on Facebook (lead ads for example) they automatically come with a ‘like’ option in the ad creative. While you won’t get as many new followers the ability to shoot for multiple objectives for the same marketing dollar, for mine, outweighs the lower number of likes and leaves you with a materially more powerful outcome.
Did you know that when your page gets large enough your competitors can start to target your followers? How large does it need to grow? We really don’t know. Sometimes 20k sometimes more and sometimes less. If you know an actual number please tell us… While the ability to target your followers isn’t a reason to stop growing your page it is food for thought for many small businesses…
Before running a likes campaign maybe consider other options.
– Rukmal Co-founder of The Plus Ones, Rukmal lives and breathes digital marketing.