Real Friends Don't Like Other Friends' Facebook Pages - Here's Why
One of the hardest things when starting out with your brand's Facebook Page is building audience. You've gone through the set-up process, you've ensured your images and content are pixel perfect, now it's time to get people to come see the fruits of your Facebook labor. So how do you do it? You could advertise, of course, and that makes sense if you've got the budget to do so and a few posts of relevant content waiting to be seen by visitors (as you should), but the fact is that a great many small businesses don't have the budget to spend, nor the relevant platform knowledge, to build their Facebook audience from scratch.
But Facebook prompts you with one easy way to do this:
"Invite Friends to Like this Page"
Of course, this makes perfect sense - tell all your friends about your new business Page, get them across to build up a few likes and get the ball rolling. Because let's face it, you don't want to be promoting a Page with 0 likes - who's gonna' be interested in what you have to say if no-one else is? The psychological impact of peer recommendation - or lack of it in this case - is significant, and really, you're probably going to need to have a few likes in order to get a few more, that's how the basics of crowd momentum work.
So you tell your friends, you get a 100 or so likes and your page is off and running. That's great - your Page looks immediately more credible, maybe even a couple of friends put in a review to help you out. All this is logical, simple - it's what the majority of Facebook Page owners do when they're starting out. But did you know that, eventually, those Likes from friends could actually hurt your Facebook Page performance?
A Friend in Need
So let's say you've gone through the above process and you've gained 100 likes from friends and family. Let's also say that of those, around 20 of them are actually genuinely interested in your content, and therefore likely to engage with your Page posts through 'Likes', shares and comments. The other 80 have liked your Page because they like you, and they'll see a couple of your future posts show up in their News Feed, then they'll probably switch them off because what you sell isn't really of any interest to them. That action alone is going to hurt the future reach of your content - Facebook will take those 'unfollows' as a vote of dissatisfaction with your posts and penalize your reach accordingly.
But regardless of that, the reductions in organic reach on the platform have fundamentally changed the way the Facebook eco-system works. You see, in the past, Facebook actively encouraged Pages to get more Likes as a means of building and reaching your Facebook audience - it even used to be an ad objective within Facebook's ad offerings.
The idea behind this was pretty simple - if people liked your Page, that indicated to Facebook that they wanted to see that Page's posts, so all of your fans (likers) saw all of the posts you put up. But Facebook has essentially grown too big for such a simplistic model to function. As Facebook's ever-expanding network has evolved - now up to 1.59 billion users - the amount of people using and engaging with content on the platform has also grown in-step. Whereas once it was feasible for a person to see all the posts from all the Pages they'd Liked, the number of connections and Likes each person has on Facebook is now too much - it's not possible, given the size of each person's network, for every user to see every post from every Page and person that they've either Liked or made friends with.
Facebook explains it like this: The average Facebook user has around 130 friends and around 227 likes. That means that each user is eligible to be served around 1500 posts every day, way too much for anyone to consume in a 24 hour period. But that's only the average - Facebook also notes that some users have way more connections, and could, potentially, be shown up to 15,000 relevant posts, based on their indicative preferences. It's not possible to show users all the content they could be interested in, based on this model alone, which is why Facebook introduced a News Feed algorithm to better filter the feed and uncover more relevant content for each user (incidentally, this is part of the same issue Twitter now faces, and is trying to resolve by showing its users more relevant and interesting content via their new 'Top Tweets' system).
Because the system itself has changed, the way brands approach Facebook must also evolve in-step, and in that, the traditional approach of getting your friends to Like your Page may be somewhat out-dated. Because Facebook's working to show users more relevant content, organic reach for Pages has been reduced, meaning Page owners have to work harder to earn audience trust and attention. So, going back to our test case, if only 20 of your 100 new Page likers are actually going to engage with your posts - and thus, amplify your content reach through their actions - you could only ever, possibly, hit 20% audience engagement with your posts. But worse than that, Facebook's organic reach for Pages is now down below 10% - some studies even suggest it's lower than 3% (though, in fairness, it is generally higher for Pages with lower fan counts).
(Chart via Locowise)
The worst outcome of this could be that even if you reach 20% of your new audience, if that 20% is among the majority of users who'll never engage with your content, your reach is going to take a hit, which could stall Page growth. Many people who start a Facebook Page get frustrated because their posts are only reaching a few people, and only getting Liked by 5, maybe 8 users. Yet when you consider the logic behind how this happens, it makes perfect sense - those friends of yours who've Liked your Page to show their support are actually not helping, and may even be hurting your Facebook reach.
But the problem actually goes deeper than that. Those friends, all keen to help you out and raise the profile of your Page, they can also impact your ad targeting and audience understanding - which is important because Facebook is the greatest audience insights tool we've ever had.
When using tools like Facebook's 'Audience Insights' dashboard, you're looking to get intelligence on who your audience is and what they're all about, in order to then inform how you go about creating content that'll resonate and generate better results. Audience Insights is excellent for working out things like the education level of your audience and what jobs they do, with comparisons for your audience against the overall Facebook average.
And that's great, there can be some really valuable insights there that can help focus your Facebook strategy when used well, but as you can imagine, having people who like your Page who are not actually interested in what you do can sully that data.
For example, I recently did a Facebook Like profile of a small business that sells handmade floral design-type accessories - fairy-themed type products like hair clips and dolls. Now you'd think that the target audience for such products would most likely be interested in similar things, fairies and such, so this Page's Like profile might show up things along those lines. But that's not what the data showed - here's their overall audience profile, based on what people who like this Page have also Liked on Facebook.
Movies, Music and Comedy are the top matches - okay, that might be right, but looking deeper into the results, here's what the like profile within the topic of 'Music' looks like:
Again, that could be correct, but I started to have doubts about the data accuracy - in not just this, but other areas - and a large part of that is because this Page has less than 500 Likes. Basically, my suspicion was that this was more likely the Like profile of this Page owner's friends, whom they've got to Like their Page to increase their numbers, than it was for the Page and products themselves. Now that might be wrong - if this audience is 100% all Likers of the actual Page and not predominantly friends of the Page owner, then this is extremely valuable info - you can target your on-platform content a lot more specifically once you know the exact interests of the majority of your audience. But the problem I'm trying to highlight here is that those data points can be muddied if you've got a lot of friends and non-genuine Page Likers mixed in among your audience data.
"They really like me..."
So is it worth getting your friends to Like your Facebook Page? That's hard to say. There is a definite social proof value to having a number of Likes on your Page - you probably do need to have at least some Likes to give your Page a level of legitimacy. And when you're starting out, the easiest way is to get a few friends across, of course - it's really about weighing up those social proof benefits with the likely reduction in reach you may suffer as a result.
What I would suggest is that it probably is worth having your friends Like your Page, initially, but that you also need to remain aware of this and of the interaction - or lack of - you may see as a result. And really, once you've built your Page and you've hit around 1,000 Likes, it's probably worth going back and assessing whether those friends are actually engaging with your content - and if they aren't, cutting them off from your Page fans.
How do you do that?
On your Page, click on 'Settings' then click on 'People and Other Pages' and you'll get a complete listing of all the people who've liked your Page. From there, you can remove unwanted fans one by one.
This can also be helpful if you've ever purchased fans - which is another option you might take to build up your page initially, though I strongly recommend against it.
It might take longer to build up a real following, but as you can see, the long-term value of that genuine, engaged audience, both in terms of outreach and insight, is huge.
Main image via dolphyn/Shutterstock
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