One of my least favorite analyses of social data is the “what is the value of X” metric, which pop up from time to time, with X being either a Twitter follower or retweet, a Facebook fan or comment, or any number of other measures which I would generally consider diagnostic, but which many marketers want to attach a hard dollar value to. A quick Google search for “value of a facebook fan” generates over 200,000 results, with answers ranging from around $1 to well over $100 (I’d link to them but I don’t want to encourage bad behavior). That should be enough to convince any reasonable person that there is not a single, correct answer, unless one is to believe that one person has totally nailed it and everyone else is helplessly confused.
As with many problems in social measurement, the issue here is a desire to attach a familiar measure to the wrong thing. We see this over and over; brands want to understand the value of social so they go to what they know instead of understanding that social is not the same as other digital marketing channels, and is in fact not a true marketing channel at all. And, by the way, if you treat your social platforms like marketing channels, you will fail, so stop trying to measure it like one.
But to be clear on Facebook fan “value”. One can certainly determine the average value of a customer, or the average value of consumers who clicked on an ad, assuming clicks are being tracked to lower funnel measures. In both of these cases the “value” is simply the average revenue generated by each user in the set. The trick here is that one can safely assume that if you increase the number of users in the set (more customers, more consumers clicking on the same ad), that average value will stay about the same and revenue thus increases as that set gets larger.
The same is certainly not true for fans of a Facebook page. More fans does not necessarily mean more revenue — I’ve seen no solid data correlating the two. In reality the “value” of these consumers existed before they “liked” your page and is unaffected by the act of clicking that button. Becoming a fan is not inherently linked to a revenue-generating activity the way all other “value” measures must be. Becoming a fan is nothing more than a) someone (maybe) willing to share their fondness for your brand with their Facebook friends, and b) a desire to (maybe) hear a little more from your brand, whether it’s entertaining content or coupons. It’s not a promise to buy anything, and shouldn’t be treated as such.
If you shouldn’t put a hard value on your Facebook fans, then how do you measure the value of Facebook? I’ll cover that in my next post (partly, at least). Here’s a hint: your Facebook page isn’t a marketing channel, but your fans might be.