Please Don’t Be The McRib of Facebook Pages

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A study from Facebook analytics provider EdgeRank Checker made the rounds on the tech blogs today.

The most interesting and oft-cited finding was the headline for the post announcing the study: “Comments 4x More Valuable Than Likes.”

And indeed, according to EdgeRank Checker’s research, a comment on a Facebook post is roughly 4 times more valuable (as determined by Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm) than a “like” on the same post. And that seems about right.

I’ve seen as high as 7-8 times (depending on the particular page or pages we’re talking about), but as a general rule 4-5 times feels about right. Basically, it takes more work to write a comment (especially a thoughtful comment…FIRST!) than to simply “like” a post.

…but I think EdgeRank Checker may have buried the lead.

More interesting (to me at least) is something that I’ve observed anecdotally for quite a long time: pages with fewer fans tend to see higher rates of engagement (especially click-throughs and shares, but also comments and likes) than their larger cousins.

EdgeRank Checker has some data from a fairly large sample (5,500+ pages, over 80,000+ link posts over the month of October 2011) to back this up. Here’s the relevant graph from EdgeRank Checker’s study:
chart showing shares and clicks by page size, small pages get more shares and clicks
That’s a remarkable difference between the click-through and share rates for pages under 1,000 fans and even those with 1,000 – 5,000. And the story only gets worse as pages get even larger.

But don’t we WANT and aren’t we often told that we NEED a lot of fans for our pages?

Well…sure. But in most cases I’d rather have a smaller community of highly engaged fans who care about what I’m sharing, than a large number of less engaged fans or followers.

side-by-side comparison of mcdonalds and a local restaurant's Facebook page
Now, I may very well like (but certainly don’t McLove) McDonald’s*. It’s not local, the menu is always the same (except when the McRib rears its ugly head) and it’s hard to get excited about (or “like”) something that is decidedly mediocre (at best). But…man are they popular.

My local sandwich shop is far less popular (by number of “likes”) but makes much better sandwiches. They also offer specials and are far more likely to remember my name. So, in return, I am far more likely to click-through, view their photos and specials and like and comment on their posts.

Even for large brands (as EdgeRank Checker notes) sometimes at least appearing to be small can prove to be a huge advantage.

So congrats to the little guys: it turns out that you don’t necessarily need a lot of fans to make an impact, just make sure you’re sharing content that people want to like, share and further engage with.

If you’re one of the big guys: instead of having a single Facebook page for your brand, are there smaller, more narrowly focused segments you could target with pages that are uniquely tailored to those audiences? Does it perhaps make sense to launch additional pages for particular product lines, geographical regions or topical areas of interest, especially those that your customers are most likely to want to “like” and engage in a conversation with?

What do you think? McRib or Rustic White Anchovy & Egg?

*I don’t really love McDonald’s. Not even a little.

  • Anchovy? No worries about overloading on the Likes around here!

    To me, I’d rather engage with a company/brand that is likely to engage with me. The old “where everybody knows your name” effect is powerful. It’s tribal membership. It’s shared values or experiences. And there’s a chance to link my real world, online world, social world, and work world together. That’s compelling.

    Big brands can only have a deeply impersonal and asymmetric relationship with me for simply mathematical reasons. They can extend the social olive branch, but franky, I wouldn’t trust them if they did (at least initially). There’s also a stronger correlation between big brands and “doing evil” in the world. Scale brings power. Power corrupts.

    Give me the local shop on social media channels any day. For the big brands, they should do as you suggest: socialize pieces of themselves that are more approachable. Don’t socialize P&G, socialize Tide.

  • chickhuber

    As usual, you make some great points, Adam.
    Big brands are starting to take notice that decentralization and localization are the ways to effectively use Facebook.
    For instance, Walmart recently crafted pages for each of their stores. It will be interesting to see if they can pull it off, though since each of the stores will likely have varying levels of SoMe prowess.

  • I’ve been thinking through a similar challenge for a client and I think a number of local pages (in addition to, or perhaps even in place of, one big central brand page) could be the answer. For a lot of big national brands, really.

    The value proposition for larger pages has very rarely been about meaningful interaction (it’s much more transactional, deal based, etc.) and there is also often a huge joiner effect in play where people just sign up or “like” something because a lot of other people have done so before them. 

    But for brands that want to really have conversations with their customers, I think smaller, more narrowly focused communities may be the way to go.

    I think pursuing that strategy echoes (some of our) desire post-globalization to return to the days of smaller, closer-knit communities and brands can definitely take advantage of that impulse if they’re smart about it.

  • The last part is key. There are definitely a great many very un-sexy parts of big brands that no one particularly wants to “like” or interact with. Finding the friendliest parts of these brands as entry points is absolutely the way to incorporate social in a way that doesn’t feel like a weird add-on. Some smart brands seem to get that, but still too many have a Facebook page…because they think they need to, and try to get a lot of fans…because a “social media expert” told them they need to, but I think the Tide (see what I did there?) is slowly turning.