Coca-Cola has nearly 24 million fans on Facebook. That’s 600,000 more than Justin Bieber, and 7 million fewer than Michael Jackson.
Want to compare other celebrities on Facebook? AllFacebook has released a page that does just that:
What does that tell you about these brands and artists?
Don Bartholomew (a.k.a. MetricsMan) describes Facebook Fans and Twitter followers as vanity metrics.
Here are five reasons they should not be used to measure social media success:
1. They are not a measure of impressions. Measuring impressions has been described as an old-fashion metric, but counting fans isn’t even that. Hypebot recently released a study showing that one in a hundred fans “liked” brand updates. Worst yet, previous studies showed that 1 in 500 brand updates reached their targets.
2. They are not a measure of advocacy. According to eMarketer, research shows that Facebook fans are not more likely to buy from the brand after becoming a fan. In that research, the top two reasons to become a fan are “to receive discounts” and “I am an existing customer.”
3. They are not a measure of engagement. On any given update, Coca-Cola receives about 5,000 “likes” and comments; Justin Bieber averages 30,000 “likes.” If you’ll recall, Bieber has about 23 million fewer fans than Coke.
4. They are not tied to a particular objective. The Barcelona Principles of Measurement place “Goal Setting and Measurement” at the very top of the list. Unless your business objective is to obtain fans, measuring fans is not the way to go.
5. A small fan base is fine if it’s active. Don’t beat yourself up if your page has a small number of fans. If your fans are engaging with you and responding to your updates in the way you are hoping for, you are doing fine.
This is not to say that a Facebook Fan page is not a good tool for marketing or corporate reputation management. But in 99 percent of cases, there are better ways to measure you’re success on Facebook.
•Measuring click-throughs. If your Facebook updates links to your online properties—for instance, a news release, a landing page, an online brochure, an article—the click-through rate will tell you how many fans read it. While this isn’t the ultimate in PR measurement, it at least tells you how many fans did what you expected of them.
•Measuring feedback. This will tell you the quality of your engagement. Not only does it show how many fans saw your update and reacted to it, but it also tells you how many are likely to receive future updates from you.
•Monitoring global discussion volume and sentiment on your page. This practice will give you valuable information on your brand’s advocacy and reputation. It will also detect crises or opportunities as they emerge.
Pascal Jappy is product manager at Augure, a corporate reputation management firm in Europe. A version of this story first appeared on the blog Reputation in Action.