Facebook Marketing: Newsfeed Impressions Matter More Than the Number of Fans

The recently released “The Power of Like: How Brands Reach and Influence Fans Through Social Media Marketing” study, a collaboration by comScore and Facebook, suggests that the reach and frequency of brand impressions on Facebook may be more important that the number of Facebook fans.  The study looks at unpaid impressions for three major brands – Starbucks, Southwest Airlines and Bing – to see the impact of brand exposure, and how brand impressions reach friends of fans.

According to the study, for every fan of a brands’ page on Facebook, there are an additional 34 friends that can be reached (on average for the top 100 brand pages).  The main way to gain exposure to friends of your brands’ fans on Facebook is via the newsfeed; it is “the primary location where branded content is consumed.”

  • Users see their newsfeed 27% of the time while on Facebook; the newsfeed shows brand interactions by their friends
  • Users are between 40 and 150 times more likely to consume branded content in the newsfeed than to visit a particular brand’s page

Starbucks was the star among the three brands studied, though the brand also started with a much higher fan base.  Starbucks has over 24 million Facebook fans, Bing over 1.7 million, and Southwest over 1.6 million.  Starbucks had the most earned brand impressions per Facebook page view, with 156.  Bing had 45 impressions per fan page views on Facebook, and Southwest had 42.

The study also indicates that, when dealing with a brand with a large following, social media can ‘deliver impressions comparable with that of other digital ad campaigns.’ For Southwest and Bing – both with smaller Facebook followings – their social media brand impressions were fairly negligible compared to their existing online display ad campaigns. However, unpaid social media impressions increased total online impressions by a whopping 64% for Starbucks.

How often does your brand post on Facebook, and how many fans will see those posts?  According to the study, in average 16% of fans will see brand content if that brand posts 5 of 7 days, and posting an additional day will slide the average up to 18.5%.  This is relatively consistent with the level of reach between Facebook friends – a status update generally will reach around 12% of the average Facebook user’s friends.

Why do users miss content from their Facebook friends and the brands they like?

  • they may not be logged onto the site during the times when brands or their friends are active
  • the Facebook Newsfeed only delivers the the content it deems “most relevant” to a user at the top of the feed

Facebook accounts for 90% of the time Americans spend on social networking sites, and 100% of the Ad Age Top 100 advertisers have established Facebook brand pages.  The study concludes that “brands can realize significant untapped benefits by understanding and focusing on reaching the friends of their fans on Facebook.”

The study was conducted in May 2011. Download the full study here.