Having a Facebook fan, by itself, has very little value.
Facebook reports that over 85% of all engagement between users and fan pages happens whilst the user is on the Facebook homepage, in the newsfeed. Very few fans will visit your fan page without a call to action in the newsfeed. So, if you're not speaking to your fans, they're pretty much worthless.
That's not the whole story, however. When you post an update from your fan page, on average just 5-8% of your fans will actually see that update. Low number, right? Every update you post goes into your fans 'Recent News' on their home page. Around half of all Facebook users check the Recent News feed daily; but it has so much content coming through it you're very lucky if they check it out just as your update has been posted. If not, it will quickly be lost - the newsfeed is very transient. Some of your fans will see your update in their 'Top News'; the standard Facebook homepage view.
Facebook pick out newsfeed stories to go in Top News based on EdgeRank, their own algorithm to detect how interesting a piece of content is for the user. Primarily, this is based on the relationship between the user and the content producer. That means that your top fans, the ones who check out your page regularly, and always like and comment your updates, will always get your updates straight into Top News. If it doesn't detect a high enough direct relationship, Facebook then looks at the engagement that the particular piece of content receives. The more likes and comments, the higher the EdgeRank - and the more likely it will go into your fans' Top News feed (especially if those comments and likes are from your fan's friends).
What does this mean? It means that the more comments and likes a particular update gets, the more people will see it - and so the more people will read it, engage with it, click on it; allowing you to have more success in your business objectives. Moreover, if you get regular high engagement, more of your fans will have a high direct relationship score with you - so they'll start to get your updates straight into their Top News. This is why, over the last few years, we've noticed that our clients who have high engagement also have more success with their promotions, competitions and applications on Facebook.
Tracking your success
It's all well and good to say you need high engagement. But how do you know if you're succeeding? With a mix of comments and likes, and changing fan numbers, really understanding what content your fans like the most is actually a difficult task; and benchmarking your success against other pages is even more difficult (especially if those pages are controlled by other companies).
We don't believe that Facebook's in-built feedback score is useful. It works by counting the impressions an update receives in the newsfeed, then giving you a % feedback score in terms of interactions compared to impressions. That type of calculation works when you're looking at feedback on an advert with a fixed number of impressions. With newsfeed updates however, this is circular - the more engagement you get, the more impressions you'll get, making it very difficult to know if you're really getting more engagement, or just lower impressions. For example, you could post very late at night, and get very few impressions, but a few hardcore fans post a load of comments without reloading their newsfeed. Facebook will give you a really high feedback score - but that's because hardly anyone saw the content, not because you actually got more engagement compared to other posts you send. It doesn't help you know what type of content works or what time of day is best for your fans.
IPM: Interactions per thousand fans
We set about to create a new, simple metric that would really allow people to understand how well they were engaging with their fans. We set ourselves three essential criteria:
1. It must be simple to understand and calculate
2. It should work for both individual updates and as an average across a fan page
3. It should allow clear comparison of engagement regardless of fan size, allowing you to compare a page over time or compare multiple pages of different sizes
We came up with IPM: Interactions per thousand fans. In Conversocial, whenever you post an update we take a snapshot of how many fans you had at the time the update went out, then look at how many total interactions the update receives (both comments and likes) relative to your fan size (per thousand fans). This gives you a very clear, simple number that you can use to learn what type of content your fans really engage with, and track your success over time.
To help you see how you're doing with your fan pages, and to allow you to compare with your competitors pages, or pages within your industry, we've launched a free tool:Conversocial Profiler. Check it out for yourself here. You can add up to five fan pages at a time, using their URL or Facebook username, and Profiler will look at how many fans the pages have, how many posts, how many comments, and how much engagement the page updates receive - then give an average IPM score for each month it looks at. We've been doing a lot of research on what types of fan pages and content are most engaging, and we'll be releasing a white paper here soon - keep an eye out!
Give us your feedback
We want IPM to become an industry standard as a simple, easy to use metric that can be applied across social platforms. Tell us your feedback about IPM, and about Conversocial profiler by leaving a comment, emailing us, or tweeting us here.