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Report urges business to focus on Facebook engagement, not fan numbers

Friday, 24 February 2012 | By Patrick Stafford

Start-ups have been urged to start using Facebook more proactively and engage more with customers, after a new study has found that many brands have plenty of fans, but aren’t engaging with them effectively.

 

The new report, compiled by digital media firm Online Circle Social Media, investigates several industries and their top brands, counting both the number of fans and the number of engagements.

 

Online Circle chief executive Jeff Richardson says while brands are effective at gaining a high number of fans, the actual engagement of these fans is much lower. As he explains, this is a risk because as more brands jump on social networks, users are stretched for time and will need to choose which brands command their attention.

 

“The engagement rate across the board was lower than I would have expected. Getting fans is one thing, but getting them to talk and comment is another,” he says.

 

“We have to keep in mind here that your competition is not necessarily brands in the same industry, but every single Facebook page, blog and Twitter account that can absorb someone’s time.”

 

The report found that while the fast-moving consumer goods and snackfoods industries had the highest number of fans, the actual engagement rate was just 2%. In comparison, the retail and grocery industry was ranked eighth in terms of fans, but had the highest engagement rate of 10%.

 

The engagement rate is calculated by dividing the number of references to a particular company by its number of fans.

 

The fashion, beverage, department stores and automotive industries rounded out the top five sectors for Facebook fans, while travel, telcos, grocery, accommodation and financial markets made up the top 10.

 

The energy and utilities industry was ranked last, with just 41,025 fans and an engagement rate of 2.1%.

 

Broken down into individual industries, the statistics reveal the number of fans doesn’t necessarily correlate with high engagement rates. In automotive, Holden has the highest number of fans at 241,967, but Hyundai had the highest share of engagement at 22.6%.

 

And while the Vodafone page has the most fans out of all telecommunications firms, Boost Mobile has the highest engagement rate of 21.9%, compared to Vodafone’s 17.7%.

 

Richardson says the survey clearly shows engagement with your fans is more important than their total number.

 

“This includes things like getting people to talk to you, commenting, answering questions, and so on. Providing information and other interesting pieces of content.”

 

“You can only spend a minute once, and that really means that people wanting to create these pages need to create entertaining and engagement content.”


Another issue is that some industries are more consumer-focused than others, and so will not necessarily have as many fans. Richardson says there is a greater challenge for services and B2B businesses to engage, as they will be competing against consumer-facing companies such as banks or telcos.

 

However, he says it can be done – businesses just need to be smarter about how they engage. Focus on the share of attention, he says, not the share of the market.

 

“The simple answer is yes, it’s harder, but you just need to give your fans a reason to engage with you.”

 

“Whether that’s providing interesting information like links or referrals, or engaging in competitions, asking people to share their experiences and photos, etc. These all work well.”

 

Richardson also says businesses need to start getting serious about Facebook analytics. Focus on what works, and continue to do that, rather than trying strategies without realising if they’re working or not – similar to how SEO works.

 

“The people that want to make the effort will succeed, and they will succeed at the cost of those who don’t. There is a competition for people’s time and attention.”