For the past few years the main focus of marketers who use Facebook has been to gain as many likes as possible for their page and their content. At first glance this may seem like a good strategy because the more people you have who like your brand, the bigger your potential audience for seeing the content that you produce. However, after a recent seminar I conducted wherein someone asked me whether or not likes, comments or shares were more important to marketing efforts on Facebook, I started thinking about it more closely. My conclusion, after some serious research and investigating my own statistics on my Facebook page, was that Facebook marketing is no longer all about the likes, but rather all about the shares that your content receives.
Let’s start with the argument that the more likes you have, the better off you are, because your potential audience is bigger. Yes, this is in fact true, but at the same time you have to understand how Facebook works. No matter how many likes you have, Facebook only puts your post(s) in front of about 10% of your overall audience based on some black magic formula which they don’t share publicly. Of course, you can game this system by paying to “boost” your post and show it to more people, but what’s that really getting you? I’d argue that it gains you very little. More people might see your post, but that doesn’t make them interact with it in any way. Whereas if someone were to share your post, they’re not only putting their stamp of approval on it, but they’re also sharing it with their friends, who may also share it with their friends, and so on. This is what we call viral content, which is basically the holy grail of online marketing.
What’s In a Facebook Like?
The like is probably the most convenient form of interaction a person can give on Facebook. All the user has to do is press a single button and move on. They’re not engaging with you in the same way a comment does, and they’re not sharing your post with others or increasing your viewership in any way. A like is simply an impersonal way of saying “yep, I saw it…” and nothing more. Likes don’t even mean that a person necessarily approves of your post at all. I see a ton of status updates from individuals and brands that are in no way positive or meant to evoke a positive reaction, but people like the post anyway. Again, it’s just a method of acknowledging that you’ve seen the post, and not even a decent indicator on whether or not you read it. Otherwise nobody would ever like status updates where someone says “my grandmother just died” or “my husband just got arrested”. Seriously, just take a look at some of the stuff people choose to like on Facebook, and you’ll quickly see why it’s lost its value as social currency.
Why Shares are Where it’s At
I’m very careful with what I share with my audience. I know that many people follow me for a certain reason, and thus I try my best to curate the material that I post to them. I think most people are that way. They aren’t going to share something they don’t actually think others will enjoy or find useful, so that’s why I think a share is the best metric for judging how effective your social media efforts are on Facebook, or anywhere else for that matter. I realize that may be a hard pill to swallow, especially since most posts will get way more likes than they do shares, but let’s look at it from a numbers perspective.
Let’s say you create a video and share it on Facebook. You have 1,000 people who like your page, so that means roughly 100 of them will see the post by default. Even if all 100 people see and like your post, you have exactly that, 100 likes. Whereas if out of those same 100 people, one of them shares your post with their 500 friends (the average for most Facebook users these days), and out of those 500 people 100 people see it, you’ve just doubled your viewing audience. If you could get 1 of those 500 people to share your post with their list of friends, you’ve just tripled your viewers without spending a dime. Make sense? Remember, the game of social media is all about eyeballs and how many of them you an put on any given piece of content that you produce. In order to win the eyeballs game you can either pay for it, or create share-worthy content that scales on its own.
Does This Mean that Likes No Longer Matter?
The short answer is no. Likes are still a big measuring stick in the world of social media. While they may not be generating you a bigger audience or directly driving sales, they do in fact increase your pool for potential viewers, and also the more likes your page has, the more credibility you’ll have as a brand. I’m not saying you should stop trying to get likes. What I’m trying to get you to do is try to get the people who already like your page to share your content. Then, and only then, will you begin to really get a bigger return on your social media investment.
How do I Create Content that Others Will Share?
This is the million dollar question for social media marketers. Honestly, I don’t believe there is a magic formula for creating viral content. However, I recently found an infographic that depicted “How to Create Perfect Posts on Social Platforms” and it really made me rethink the way I do my posts on the social networks that I participate it. The graphic was done by a site called My Clever Agency and I’ve included a copy of it below.
The world of online marketing is constantly evolving, and what works today almost certainly won’t work for you six months from now. They key is to stay on top of all the latest trends and tools that are out there and staying nimble. If you’ve got a five year plan… You’re doing it wrong!