comScore released a new white paper recently: The power of like. The report is largely based on May 2011 findings from comScore Social EssentialsTM as well as insights from Facebook’s internal analytics platform. The report takes a look at the different forms of online branded content, how branded content is consumed through Facebook, as well as an analysis of the different types of audiences that consume branded content. So – I’ve pulled out the most interesting bits for you here – all within an advocacy / WoM context of course…
At the onset of the report we’re immediately slammed with the statistic that ‘Facebook has an audience of 160million U.S. visitors each month and accounts for 90% of all time spent on social networking sites’. Yikes. Having studied the development of new technologies in London I’m well aware of the rapid diffusion of technology over the last few decades – the mobile phone & the internet have paved the way for a new paradigm where innovations diffuse in a short matter of years rather than decades. Knowing all of this, the rapid growth of Facebook still puts me in a state of awe. I mean it’s pretty insane to think that less than 7 years ago there was no Facebook and pretty much no social network sites for that matter?
But alas – back to the report. comScore diligently note that there is ‘palpable excitement’ about the potential to drive value for businesses via the beast that is Facebook. They state that the key to unlocking the potential of Facebook is to ‘focus on the audience of branded social platforms – namely audience reach and frequency.’ I think they have a point when they reflect that social media metrics have isolated social activity rather than integrated it and this has been a key challenge for maketeers who have struggled to find a way to justify the value of social media spend.
Facebook Audience Segments
What I like about this report is that rather than focussing on the total number of accrued fans as a value indicator, the focus is on measuring audience segments within Facebook and their exposure to brand impressions. Not dissimilar to WoM campaigns where we focus not on the number of influencers that we engage – but the number of people who are exposed to a brand recommendation as a result of the campaign, this is a much more accurate reflection of value.
Facebook Newsfeed Cut-through
So where are people spending most of their time on Facebook? According to comScore, in May 2011 the majority (27%) of engagement occurred on the homepage & newsfeed. What’s interesting about this is that most branded content exposure also occurs in the newsfeed – not on the brands’ fan pages.
So, if the majority of branded content is consumed in the Facebook newsfeed, while this may provide a big opportunity from an ‘opportunity to see’ perspective, what does this mean in terms of cut through? We know that just because a brand has thousands of fans, it doesn’t mean that they all see every published post. The Facebook news feed (edgerank) uses a complex algorithm based on a number of variables including the quality & relevance of the content, frequency of posts and of course level of engagement (post comments & likes). So what percentage of Facebook posts are actually consumed by fans? According to comScore, Facebook insights data has revealed that:
“A given status update from a user will result in approximately 12 % reach among friends.”
So – it’s crucial to bear in mind that only 12% of a fan or advocates networks are likely to see a status update when forecasting reach & the effectiveness of Facebook and WoM campaigns. Taking myself as an example – If I’ve got 588 friends on Facebook –then my status updates are likely to reach 71 people. Still a pretty good result – but bearing in mind the average person has 130 friends on Facebook this is where it’s key to ensure you’re engaging those fans with above-average social networks to fully maximise your reach.
Friends of Fans
Now this section of the report is really interesting from a WoM perspective. comScore go on to state that beyond your Facebook page fans there is a huge opportunity to reach the ‘friends of your fans’. According to the study – a Facebook analysis of the top 100 brand pages suggests that for every fan, there are an additional 34 friends of fans that can be reached and that this multiplier grows larger beyond the top 100 brand pages (81 on average among the top 1,000 fan pages). I wonder if this is based on the average fan having 130 Facebook friends – which would convert to a 26% cut through for the top 100 fan pages and a massive 62% for the top 1000 fan pages? I asked comScore to clarify this for me as well as what they define as ‘can be reached’ – I’m assuming this must be based on Facebook fans engaging with the post in someway – either liking or commenting on the post which would then mean that a percentage of their friends could see the interaction in their own newsfeed. I didn’t get a reply in time for this post, but I’ll update this when I hear back from comScore.
When you think about it the opportunity is huge in terms of both brand building and sales. While existing fans are highly likely to already be purchasing your product, friends of fans are a ripe breeding ground for new acquisition – and this is really where I see the value of WoM & social campaigns:
It’s not just about the advocates who are already purchasing your brand – it’s about the opportunity to reach & convert their friends & social networks into new customers.
What’s the value of a fan?
The report tackles the most asked question relative to Facebook fans – what’s the value of a fan? comScore identify three ways to quantify value:
1. Increasing engagement and loyalty among fans
2. Generating incremental purchases among fans
3. Positively influencing friends of fans
Tackling point number 1 – the report evaluated 3 companies (Starbucks, Bing & Southwest) to measure how much more likely fans & friends of fans were to visit the brand website (i.e. a measurement of ‘brand engagement’). Here’s a snapshot of the results:
Starbucks fans and friends of fans had the highest propensity to visit the brand website with 418% more likely to visit the Starbucks site and friends of fans 230% more likely. So what does this mean? The research clearly illustrates that fans & friends of fans exhibit higher brand engagement than a typical internet user (although they do caveat that “the findings do not illustrate a direct cause & effect relationship between social media exposure and behaviour, as those already associated with the brand might already be more likely to engage with it”).
Moving on to points 2 & 3 – comScore analysed in-store purchase behaviour in May 2011 and found that “Starbucks fans & friends of fans spent 8% more and transacted 11% more frequently than the average internet user who transacted at Starbucks.” So it’s safe to say that advocates (fans of the page) are of value when it comes to incremental sales. You can see the full results across all 3 brands below.
In summary, I found the comScore report to be an insightful analysis into the value of Facebook advocacy. The key points that stood out for me were:
- The majority of branded content is consumed in the newsfeed (not on the branded Facebook pages)
- Brands need to look beyond their existing fans/advocates and to understand the value of their fans/advocates friends when engaging in WoM/Social campaigns
- Cut-through is key when forecasting Facebook reach with status updates being seen by approx 12% of a users network
You don’t have to be Einstein to realise there’s a BIG opportunity on Facebook when it comes to WoM – this report though does give a few fresh perspectives on the value of connecting with your biggest advocates via the Facebook medium.
What did you think of this report? Share your opinion below….