Your patients may Like you on Facebook but that affection may be worth less than you think. Despite the ubiquity of that familiar “thumb’s up” button, research is giving it “thumb’s down” in terms of its power to engage with consumers and generate business.
The reason is both simple and complicated.
On the simple side, evidence suggests that the number of Likes a page receives is a poor indicator of consumer engagement. According to a January study by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, just 1.3% of fans of the biggest brands on Facebook actually engage with the brand in question.
The number drops even further — to just 0.45% — when you exclude new Likes, which require no further engagement than a single click.
For a doctor with even 5,000 Likes that means that less than 25 could be considered loyal followers, i.e., those that ask questions, sign up for newsletters or respond to special offers. The other 4,975 may have clicked on the button out of habit, because a friend suggested they do or because a particular update resonated. As eMarketer notes:
The link between “likes” and loyalty remains unclear. Although many consumers have opened up to brands that are present on Facebook, brand marketers should not expect they’ve earned consumer loyalty simply because a consumer has clicked the “like” button.
Then there’s the more complicated issue, which boils down to the reality that even your most loyal fans may not be seeing your updates. That’s because, unbeknownst to most of its users, Facebook actively winnows down the flow of stories that make it into people’s newsfeeds.
The challenge for any publisher of content on Facebook is that only 10% of their ‘fans’ will see the updates in their newsfeed, says Tom Seery, CEO of RealSelf.com. This is because Facebook’s newsfeed is based on an algorithm called EdgeRank.
The inner workings of EdgeRank are a closely guarded secret, but Facebook marketing expert Jeff Widman offers an in-depth analysis at EdgeRank.net. Suffice it to say that the Facebook servers analyze your updates, rank them in terms of potential interest and show only the highest-scoring ones to your fans.
It’s possible to optimize your fan page to improve your EdgeRank (see below) but it’s equally important to recognize that even the powers-that-be at Facebook view the site as a service rather than a one-stop shop. As Widman says,
Mark Zuckerberg’s vision is for Facebook to serve as the social layer on the web, not as the destination site.
Better instead to stop worrying about being “liked,” concentrate on making your website your fans’ preferred destination and using your Facebook page as another path to lead them there.
1. People may Like you but not for the reasons you think
According to the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council, the top three reasons people Like brands on Facebook are to be eligible for exclusive offers (67%), to interact with other customers (60%) and to find games, contests and other unique experiences (57%). Exclusive offers aside, it’s unlikely those interactions will generate new business.
2. It’s not the quantity of your fans, it’s the quality
Every action someone takes on your fan page generates data that’s fed into its EdgeRank, but some actions carry more weight than others. According to Chad Wittman of EdgeRankChecker, comments generate, on average, four times as many clicks as Likes do. Hence, a few truly engaged fans are worth more than a whole bunch of ones who simply Like you.
3. If you want to be seen, be interesting
Given that EdgeRank gives more weight to comments than to Likes, it’s important to optimize your fan page to encourage responses to your posts. Asking questions, taking polls and otherwise soliciting input will not only boost engagement; it’ll help ensure your posts show up where they’re supposed to.