Some communicators I speak to at conferences and workshops are still surprised when I tell them that getting someone to like their company's Facebook page is essentially meaningless.
Getting the like, they assume, is how they get their status updates into their audiences' news feeds. But if those who have liked the page don't engage and interact there, they may as well never have liked the page at all.
There's plenty of advice to be had on how to engage people on your page. Get them to comment, vote in a poll, answer a question, watch a video, enter a contest, they're all worth more than a like.
Yet even the best brands are having trouble with that engagement. According to a study from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, the 200 biggest brands with Facebook pages are generated less than 1% engagement.
A lot of marketers will look at that data and see names like Nike, Harley-Davidson and Ford Motor Company and conclude that seeking engagement is a waste of time. Best to invest their scant social media resources elsewhere. Seeing that the 10 brands with the largest number of fans inspired engagement of 0.36% will be the nail in the coffin.
Hang on, though. The Starbucks page has attracted 28.7 million likes. If 0.36% of them are engaging (and that's the average for the top 10, not Starbucks' actual number), that's still over 1,000 people engaging. Who are they likely to be? The answer: Starbucks' biggest fans. Understanding that can lead an organization to engage them in such a way as to encourage them to engage with their peers on the company's behalf.
A brand gets those brand ambassadors to represent them in their communities by appealing to what they value intrinsically-recognition, for example, or the opportunity to show off what they know to their peers. Suddenly, attracting millions of fans in order to convert thousands into unpaid company representatives doesn't sound like such a bad deal.
Of course, most brands don't work hard to help those few who want to engage take the leap from interaction to ambassadorship. But the fans are just waiting to be activated for those who are able to appeal to what motivates them.
When you hear the math tell you things are bad, take a step back and reconsider. There still could be good news in those numbers.
For some great insights into "superfans," consider reading Michael Wu's "The Science of Social," a free ebook available from Lithium.