Do You Have to Pay to Recruit New Fans On Facebook & Twitter? [Study]
By John Cully & Luke Abbott. Facebook Organic Reach has been dropping for brands since December 2013. Edgerank Checker have completed several studies into Organic Reach showing how it has dropped from 16% in September 2012, to 9.5% in Sept 2013 to just 7.7% in December 2013. Facebook have said the best way to get around this is to pay to reach your fans. These changes have been well publicised, but it had us thinking if Facebook wants us to reach fans by paying, do they want brands to pay to recruit new fans too?
Five Weeks of Counting
To examine this we choose 40 of the biggest brands operating Facebook Pages and Twitter Profiles in Ireland. The brands were from the Retail, Telecoms, FMCG and Alcohol categories. We choose pages and profiles whose audience would be mostly made up of people living in Ireland so international marketing activities wouldn’t skew our results. We then tracked them over a 5 week period to measure their increase in fans per week. Of course we only wanted to track organic fan growth, so any pages or accounts that saw large increases over a short period of time were excluded as we believed these brands probably used paid media. In total 12 brands were excluded for using paid media.
What We Found
• Average Facebook Fan growth is 0.29%
• Average Twitter Follower growth is 0.49%
• Facebook Pages with under 50,000 fans had average growth of 0.66%
• Facebook Pages with over 150,000 fans had an average growth of 0.07%
• Engaging content on its own won’t increase fans above the average recruitment rates
• Competitions without paid media can help boost recruitment
Average Facebook Fan growth is 0.29% & Average Twitter Follower growth is .49%
Facebook Fan Organic Growth is half that of Twitter and if brands want to recruit new fans above 0.29% (or followers above 0.49%) they will need to invest in activities such as paid media and competitions. While good engaging content is always a necessity we did see one brand in the study actually lose as many fans as they gained resulting in no net increase – even though their content was relatively engaging.
Top 3 highest Facebook Pages had an average growth of 0.07 % & bottom 3 Pages had a growth of 0.66%
It has been recently documented that Facebook Pages with large numbers of fans have the lowest Organic Reach. In the study we noted the 3 largest Facebook Pages (with 150K to 180K fans) had an Organic Growth rate of 0.07%. While looking at the bottom 3 Facebook Pages (with 35K to 50K fans) we can see they are growing at a rate of 0.66% well above the average and 9 times faster than larger pages. We also looked at this in relation to Twitter & we didn’t see much difference between the larger and smaller pages. However, as Twitter is a growing platform in Ireland, the number of followers we were looking at was a lot smaller. The average number of followers for a brand in our study was 15,155.
Good engagement (& content) does not transfer into a higher than average recruitment rate
While undertaking this project we found many posts that had high engagement rates, however this didn’t translate into an increase in fan growth. As mentioned, in one case where a brand had engaging content, they had no increase in fans over the course of the research. The route Facebook would like you to take is to mix your content with paid media. Although recruiting fans is a secondary objective when mixing content with paid media (engagement is the primary objective), we know from our own experience content and paid media will always translate into an above average increase in fans.
Competitions without paid media can work for growth if targeted correctly
Paid media combined with good content is one route to explore outside of running direct recruitment campaigns (Page Likes, Promoted Accounts). We found throughout the study that competitions that appeal to the audience a brand is trying to recruit do work. What we mean is a brand runs a competition with a prize that directly relates to that brand (ie. the prize is their product, their vouchers or their service etc.). While a competition alone can increase fans, we have seen, from working with a number of leading Irish and International clients, that good content + competition + paid media results in exponential benefits.
The goal here was to identify the Organic Growth rate for Facebook Pages and Twitter Profiles for brands. We have found by using a selection of Irish brands across Facebook & Twitter that Twitter is growing faster organically. We have also noticed in order for a brand to achieve above average growth on Facebook they must use well executed competitions or good content combined with paid media. However, we must point out that we didn’t measure what impact advertising has outside of Facebook (eg. print ads with CTA to like the brand on Facebook).