Fan or non-fan? That is the question. Luckily, we are beginning to uncover an answer.
Facebook recently added some new stats to Facebook Insights that differentiate user impressions and actions by page fans or non-fans. This is especially exciting for brand marketers and social data nerds like myself, because it gives us further insight into the Facebook algorithm “Edgerank”, and allows us to measure how much of a pages total fan base is reached and engaged when a brand page makes a post.
The first thing we look at is how the average audience of a brand post is split between fans and non-fans. So, who’s seeing the page’s content – fans or non-fans? Next, we’ll look at how that ratio changes when the post is selected for a Facebook ad or sponsored story. I looked at five representative Facebook brand pages, each page’s industry and approximate fan base size is in Table 1 below. The sample data was taken from March 31 – August 15 2012, and each brand had at least 100 posts during this time period.
Below is the audience breakdown of the 5 representative Facebook brand pages.
All of the posts used in Chart 1 got only organic and viral views and did not become sponsored stories or ads. As you can see, over 90% of the average post reach in all 5 pages was from fans of the page.
This tells us that when your brand makes a post, it’s seen almost exclusively by users who are already fans of your page. In order to reach non-fans in any sort of quantity, you must use Facebook ads or sponsored stories. The graph below shows the average audience breakdown in posts that were used in ads or sponsored stories after appearing in the newsfeed.
Notice how the audience split for fans vs. non-fans changes substantially when the post is used in ads or sponsored stories in brands 1, 2, and 5; the average percentage of the post audience that are already fans of the page goes from being ~90% to under 40%. Brands 3 and 4 had a significantly smaller proportion of paid views relative to their total audience, and therefore had a higher proportion of fan views per post in their total audience.
This is interesting in that if you want to reach consumers that are not already part of your fan base, in any kind of quantity, paid advertising is necessary. For all the brands included in this study, on average less than 10% of the users who saw the post in the newsfeed were non-fans. Posts used in ads or sponsored stories with the greatest reach also tended to have the lowest percentage of page fans in their total audience. This finding is also interesting from a content creation perspective. Posts that are to be used in ads or sponsored stories should have content that would engage a wider audience, while posts that are expected to only appear in the newsfeed should be targeted more at fans.
So now that we know the breakdown of who sees post content, lets look at average engagement levels. Do fans that see your pages post engage with it at a higher rate than users that are not yet fans of the page? How is engagement effected depending on whether the impression is organic/viral, or paid?
The chart below shows the average engagement rate per post in page fans vs, non-fans. The data in Table 2 is the average post engagement rate for all posts (whether or not they were used in ads or sponsored stories). The “% Change” shows the increase in engagement of non-fans over page fans.
Four of the five brands in this sample had non-fan engagement rates that were at least twice as high as average fan engagement. Table 3 breaks out the sample from Table 2 above between posts that were only seen in the newsfeed or on the page (Non-Ad Posts) and those used in ads or sponsored stories.
Once we separate out the sample between posts used in advertising and those that were not, we see that the engagement rate for non-fans is much higher only when the post is not used in advertising or sponsored stories. It has long been known that content endorsed by a friend on Facebook is more likely to garner engagement. The comparison in Table 3 backs up this idea, as non-fans engaged with brand content more when it came from a friend (as opposed to being presented as an advertisement). Even with all the changes to the platform, it seems as though Facebook users are still much better at targeting their friends than advertisers. This reminds marketers that in order engage the greatest number of people, making sharable content is key.