Social media can be a fickle beast. There seems to be a new so-called influencer on my feed every week with their particular hack that’s going to catapult my marketing to new, unfounded levels of success.  

They promise followers and engagement and likes flowing like a waterfall, if only you ‘follow these three simple steps.’ But then, when you try the tactics, strategies and principles they suggest, the results are never quite what was promised. Maybe an extra like here and there, maybe a few shares of your posts. But ultimately, likes of your Facebook page aren’t the same as dollars in the bank – so if it’s not getting people to buy things then what’s the point? 

Maybe we’re missing something that will make a bit of a difference to the whole social situation

I was reading through the Datareportal Facebook Data & Trends Report and one statistic really caught my eye, and I’m sure you’ll see why. It was this: 

The total number of pages that the average Facebook user likes in their lifetime is one 

That’s right. One page. That’s the average.  

At first, I thought this seemed odd. Surely there had to be a mistake, or perhaps the data was incomplete. After all, looking at my own Facebook profile, I have liked over 500 pages in the decade or so that I’ve been using Facebook. Something doesn’t add up there.  

As I’m always on the hunt for a reason to bust out a calculator, I did the math.  

What this means, if you stop and think about it, is that at least half of Facebook’s 2.4 billion users like 1 or fewer pages on Facebook ever. In reality, it’s likely much more than half given that Facebook doesn’t deactivate their users due to inactivity. We have to assume that there are a whole lot of accounts that don’t like any pages, largely because they were setup and then never logged into again. They’re just sitting there, dormant; like a big, metric-fluffing army of the un-dead.  

Zombie jokes aside this has some pretty significant implications for the way we think about Facebook and how it relates to our businesses.  

Pages likes are a vanity metric and they should be treated as such 

As I was looking through the 500 things that I had told Facebook that I liked, it struck me that I could only recall seeing posts from maybe five of those pages on my feed in the last few months. So, for all these pages where I have explicitly indicated that I am a fan of that brand, or product, or musician, or whatever else, Facebook deems about 1% of that content worth my attention.  

It stands to reason that having a huge number of likes on your page really isn’t all that important when it comes to growing your business. You could have thousands of ‘fans’ on Facebook and they could still not be seeing your posts. Does that mean that social media is a waste of time for business? Absolutely not! It just means you need to look a little closer to see how you’re performing.  

Focus your attention of what things are engaging your audience 

Personally, I think the word engagement in a marketing context is getting a bit overused and is losing its meaning. But, as I can’t think of a better alternative, it’s the word we’re going to stick with. Besides, if you really think about what it means, then it really is quite an apt way to describe what you should be aiming for with social media.  

The 1% of those pages that I regularly see content from on my own feed are the ones that actually make good content that I genuinely find entertaining, informative or useful. But here’s the thing about social media: often the actions that users take are more about who they’re interacting with than what they are personally interested in.  

Think about it: how often do you actually like something that you see on social media? Then, of those posts that you actually interact with, how many are brands or businesses?  

The Digital 2020 report tells us that, over a 1-month period, the average Facebook user will like 13 posts, share 1 post, post 5 comments and click on around 12 ads. When you consider these numbers in the context of the hundreds of posts one user would be exposed to in a 30-day period, there really isn’t a whole lot of engagement to go around.  

This demands a holistic approach to measuring your engagement. Just because people aren’t liking your posts doesn’t mean they aren’t looking at them. Take note of metrics such as reach and impressions – sometimes they can tell a much clearer story around what is catching people’s eye than likes or shares. Clicks are another great metric – if you’re getting more clicks and impressions on one post and not another, there’s probably something to learn from that.  

Ultimately, conversions are what counts

We could spend hours unpacking the nuances of different post types, tactics and metrics and it probably still wouldn’t help your social media game all that much. At the end of the day, social media will always be a difficult way to drum up business simply because you’re not really in control. The dreaded algorithm sees all and even the experts are really just guessing at what’s going to work this week.  

The logical opposite to this situation is that any channel which you have direct control over is going to give you a much better idea of how your efforts are working. It’s pretty simple, right? If you’ve got a website that is getting regular traffic, enquiries or sales that means you’re doing something that your customers are resonating with. Sure, you probably need to keep up the effort on social but at least you’ve got a consistent and controllable way to see if you’re doing the right things.  

If you want a solid and consistent way to track how your business is doing, you really can’t go past a good, old fashioned website that is set up to sell stuff. There’s no greater proof that you’re doing the right things than seeing sales flow in. Incidentally, if you don’t have one already, Storbie can help you out with that.  

The moral of this story? Don’t sweat it too much if you’re not at Kardashian levels of likes and engagement. Just remember, Kardashians and vanity go hand-in-hand, and having lots of likes doesn’t mean you’ll be successful. You might not have the biggest following, but you can still create a great online presence by getting the basics right and focusing on engaging with your audience.  

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