From Promise To Performance: Measuring Facebook Success Beyond The Like

For a majority of brand marketers, when it comes to creating Facebook strategies, nine times out of 10, the most popular is the one that generated the largest amount of Facebook likes for brand pages. The conventional wisdom went that the larger the community on Facebook, the greater the chances of promoting whatever the brand wanted to do, whether it was a new product, campaign, etc.

However, the whole premise of Facebook is earned media at scale, where typically, the success metrics are much more than the number of likes, but are threefold: number of Facebook fans, click-through rates, and conversion rates.

In order to grow a brand’s Facebook community, a brand marketer must properly and holistically strike a chord between paid and earned media.

Measurement and reporting on the true impact of Facebook paid media has remained elusive for most brands. And the pace of Facebook’s innovation in ad products further complicates the answer to the simple question about what to do next.

And then with the advent of EdgeRank, the algorithm developed by Facebook to govern what is displayed and how high on the news feed, the old notion of like campaigns was turned on its head. Now marketers needed to find ways to create engagement in a more sensible yet effective manner.

For the most successful brands on Facebook, which have grown their fan bases to tens of millions, many of them are now asking, “Now what? We have these likes, but where do we go from here?”

The answer is moving from likes to influence. To help determine influence, Facebook has partnered with a number of key data providers like comScore (The Power of Like), Nielsen (online campaign ratings on reach and engagement studies), and Datalogix (helping map offline spend to Facebook ad campaigns).

Here are the keys to ensuring that influence and reach are the success metrics for your Facebook campaign:

  • Creating people talking about this: When Facebook introduced the PTAT metric in the fall of 2011, it was a game-changer for marketers, giving brands an enhanced way to track engagement on the page and leading to a better representation of the word of mouth at scale that is being produced. So to achieve PTAT, brands had to shift their strategies from ones that featured like-gating as the centerpiece to campaigns that yielded strong and robust engagement that pivoted on generating a vital content-creation approach. Good PTAT is dynamically in proportion to getting your fans to talk about your brand at scale. However, much more needs to be done in this arena. Soon after PTAT was introduced, a study by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute that looked at the top 200 brands on Facebook showed that only 1.3 percent of fans actually engage with brands on Facebook.
  • Linking PTAT to return on investment: Conversion. Conversion. Conversion. So you’ve captured this audience and are seeing robust engagement on a brand’s Facebook page. Now what? How are you converting these users into buyers? Brands need to ask themselves : Where along the customer journey are you leading your audience to finish the transaction? In most cases, that journey should lead to a brand’s splash page, with referral traffic a key determining success metric. Facebook is focused on improved tracking and products to help close the loop between PTAT and ROI, including downstream conversion tracking. Application-programming interface partners such as Spruce Media have had success working with ecommerce brands, driving traffic off of Facebook and ultimately tracking spend and sales.
  • Purchase intent: A very important area for marketers to really hone in on is for brands to start focusing on increasing the purchase intent of their audience. It’s no secret in the industry that marketers continue to try to solve the purchase intent puzzle. A recent Ad Age/Citigroup survey found that 19 percent of respondents didn’t know if Facebook is useful in driving purchase intent, with 13 percent saying it’s not useful. But all hope is not lost. Samsung recently announced that it spent $10M on Facebook ads around the Galaxy S III release, and landed $129 million in sales. Facebook understands that it needs link reach and frequency of ad impressions to purchase intent — hence, its partnership with third-party providers like Datalogix to help quantify the impact of ad campaigns on offline spend.

The advertising landscape on Facebook will be interesting to watch unfold this year, as savvy brands start to separate and distance themselves from the pack. As this begins to happen, we will see brands evolve and get more sophisticated and keep up with Facebook’s evolution from a like machine to an engagement platform. And those brands that are still focused on just the like won’t fare as well. Which side of this opportunity do you want to be on?

Lucy Jacobs is chief operating officer of Facebook advertising solutions provider Spruce Media, overseeing sales, marketing, business development, and communications.

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