How Much Is Your Facebook Stardom Worth?

by Michelle McGinnis on Saturday, December 18, 2010 in Social Media

This article originally appeared on SocialTimes.com.

How much is a Facebook fan worth? $3? $10? $1,000?

Don’t feel bad if you have no idea. Pinning a value to a brand’s Facebook following is as elusive as uncovering the true value of Facebook itself.

That hasn’t stopped some from trying, though. Social media software publisher Vitrue ran some numbers. According to their research, if a brand had one million “likes”, posted twice a day and applied a conservative CPM estimate of $5, then an individual fan was worth $3.60 per year. Research firm, Hotspex, issued a study that estimated an earned media value of $6.79.

Those reports mainly examined consumer-facing brands. What about B2B marketing?

Don’t expect to read conclusive studies any time soon. Determining the value of social media — whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn — is strangely more personal when it comes to B2B. B2C seeks mass. Pepsi wants fans to reach for a 20-ounce bottle every time they walk into the convenience store. For B2B brands there are entirely different factors that go into analyzing value: longer sales cycles, pricier transactions, a deeper level of nurturing, etc.

Measuring B2B marketing in social media is trickier because the market hasn’t matured as quickly as it has for B2C, Jason Harper, Vice President of Analytics, Media and Marketing Intelligence for the ad agency Organic, explained to me. “There are places where B2B customers congregate that need to have more social media capabilities. Over time, there will be more B2B social communities and that sector will catch up with social media.”

Harper tapped into his training in applied economics to forecast how Organic’s social media campaigns would impact sales of clients’ products. According to Harper, brands, whether they sell to consumers or companies, need to calculate the ROI of their social media campaigns, tracking the generated business to impressions made through social media platforms. Figuring out the investment is simple: money and time. But the return can be vague.

“The return is where you have to spend some time figuring out what you get from it. So if you get another 1,000 people following you on Facebook, you need to know the impact that has on your brand objectives — whether it is sales, awareness, etc. The trick is figuring out if those 1,000 new fans helped impact sales,” Harper said.

No one can set that metric for you. Your marketing teams needs to establish its own means for qualifying success, ultimately pinpointing how campaigns contribute to revenue. If the goal is awareness, the number of fans and followers you generate, and corresponding rise in traffic in your brand’s web properties, might be a good yardstick. If the purpose is to drive the interest of an existing customer base to a new product, measuring the reaction in social media (“likes”, retweets, etc.) to your content and a change in the amount of people demoing the product or completing registration forms, could be how you determine the success or failure of your campaign.

Your brand makes the call according to a clearly defined need. And you probably won’t be able to come up with satisfactory metrics without some experimentation.

Also, your Facebook fandom might not mean that much for B2B, Harper claimed. “Facebook has some potential here, but it is more likely that LinkedIn will grow stronger in B2B.”

According to Erika J. Brookes, Vice President of Marketing for Vitrue, every company needs to spend time on Facebook. After all, 500 million registered users can’t be wrong. “Facebook is becoming the operating system of the Internet,” she said. “If you want to be found on the web, you’re going to need to be there in some capacity.”

So better not dump your Facebook page then. But it’s important to examine how your use of social media relates to qualified leads and buyers. Not unlike high school, popularity can be superficial — and fleeting.

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