How Much Do Facebook Fans Still Matter?

Do Facebook Fans Still Matter?

I know there’s a growing sentiment that Facebook fans no longer matter. This claim tends to be shouted loudest by those who also claim that organic reach is dead (it’s not).

While I’ve long supported the notion that fans still matter — and matter a lot — my opinion is starting to change, at least when it comes to Facebook ad targeting.

Note, however, that there is a huge caveat here. My opinion is changing because of the maturity of my business and the transition I’m making. It is not a universal statement on the value of page likes.

The value of a page like for ad targeting is diminishing — for me. Let me explain why…

[Tweet “The value of a page like for ad targeting may be diminishing. Here’s why…”]

Data Set Notes

Before we go on, a quick note on how I evaluated my data since my results can lead to strong opinions.

I went back to May of 2014 within my custom ad reports. To focus only on ad sets targeting fans, I ran a filter to only include ad sets with the word “Fans” in it. I did the same thing for “WCA.”

Of course, I needed to scrub more. There were times when I’d mention fans or WCA in the ad set name, but it wasn’t because I was targeting those groups.

I later broke down my results based on the Website Conversions objective. I did this by filtering for the word “Conversions” in the campaign name.

Note that this is one of the many reasons why a consistent naming convention is important. I can’t guarantee that my results include all relevant data, but it will be close.

Something else to keep in mind was Facebook’s structural changes to campaigns, ad sets and ads that happened last year. That impacted how I named these things, and so it also means there is undoubtedly some data missing from my report.

Historical Fan Value

I have long said that fans have significant business value. These people proclaim affinity for your brand. They are most likely to have read your content or purchased from you before. They (or at least some) see your content organically.

As a result, when you share a link, these people are likely to click.

When you have an opt-in, these people are likely to convert.

And when you sell a product, these people are likely to buy.

My own results reflected this, particularly when my business was younger.

So not only did fans have value in theory, but I was seeing this in my results.

Ad Targeting Cost Trends

Lately, however, I’ve seen a trend. And I’m moving away from targeting my fans.

It’s not necessarily because targeting my fans is becoming all that less effective. It’s more because I have a growing audience of a much more effective group.

I am moving more and more of my budget to targeting website visitors — various forms of website visitors. And the reason can be found when breaking down the numbers.

Let’s compare results when running ad sets targeting only website visitors or only fans — for any reason. So this includes running ads to promote blog posts, drive opt-ins, increase page likes, sell and more.

WCA: $17,240.65 Spent, $1.49 CPM, 48,582 Website Clicks, $.35 CPA, 12,060 Conversions

Fans: $8,309.81 Spent, $3.21 CPM, 15,875 Website Clicks, $.52 CPA, 1,504 Conversions

In this case, CPA represents Cost Per Website Click. My Cost Per Website Click when the primary goal is driving traffic (promoting a blog post) tends to hover under $.20, but the numbers above include promoting products and opt-ins as well which drives up the cost.

The first thing you’ll notice is that CPA is $.35 for WCA and $.52 for fans. That’s significant, particularly when you start talking about volume and not small sample sizes. Had I achieved a $.35 CPA when targeting fans, it would have resulted in 7,867 more website clicks.

What is the source of this increased cost? Look no further than the CPM. It costs me more than double to reach my fans than it does my website visitors.

What’s of particular interest, though, is that the cost to reach my fans is going up while the cost to reach my website visitors is going down…

Fans vs. WCA CPM Jon Loomer Digital

So while the cost to reach my fans is more than double the price to reach my website visitors during the past year, that disparity has widened during the past few months.

Conversions, Too

My first concern when breaking down these numbers was that there is one difference I must disclose between targeting my fans and website visitors. When I target fans, I’m forced to select countries (I usually focus on the US, UK, Canada and Australia). When I target my website visitors, there is no such requirement. So I typically leave that open.

This is important to point out because that will make it cheaper to reach my website visitors due to an audience that will include people outside of those four — typically expensive — core countries. That will certainly impact CPM.

However, my theory was that I don’t care much about where my website visitors came from. If they’ve been to my site — particularly specific pages of my site or during the past three years (one day I’ll explain how I’m controlling this with WCAs) — they are very likely to be my target audience, no matter where they live.

This is backed up in conversions. Again, recall that I run my ads for several objectives. But I usually (not always) will track for multiple conversions, even when driving website traffic.

As noted earlier, I spent $17,240.65 overall targeting my website visitors, resulting in 12,060 conversions ($1.43 per conversion).

When targeting my fans for any objective, I spent $8,309.81 to get 1,504 conversions ($5.53 per conversion).

Of course, those results may not be apples to apples. Without spending more time scrubbing my data, there may be a disparity in how budgets were distributed.

If we focus only on campaigns that had the website conversion objective (using the filter to include campaigns with “Conversions” in the campaign name), we get the following:

WCA: $8,088.42 Spent, 9,666 Conversions, $.84 Per Conversion
Fans: $2,058.50 Spent, 707 Conversions, $2.91 Per Conversion

While it’s again impossible to say that this is apples to apples (it’s always possible more budget was spent targeting fans on high dollar products), it certainly appears that targeting website visitors is far more efficient — not only in terms of cost to reach the audience, but website clicks and the number of conversions that result.

Why Website Visitors?

First of all, it’s cheaper to reach website visitors. We mentioned that. But it’s undoubtedly cheaper to reach those people because they are more likely to engage favorably.

And really, it all just makes sense…

If you are a fan of my page, you may have liked it recently or it may have been three and a half years ago. Your interests change. And you may not have been to my website recently.

If I’m targeting an audience that has been to my website during the past 30 days, you not only know who I am but expressed interest in my content recently. That’s a big deal.

So it’s not so much that I don’t care about fans anymore. I just don’t care about fans who haven’t been to my website recently.

On the flip side, website visitors are very valuable. If such a visitor already likes my page, that’s awesome. If not, that’s okay, too.

Let’s take a look at the data behind this…

If I want to reach any website visitor from the past 180 days, I can target close to 500,000 people.

On the flip side, I can target just over 90,000 people who have liked my page during the past 3 1/2 years — many of whom may not have been to my website lately.

Actually, according to Facebook…

Of my fans, here is the number of fans who have been to my website recently:

  • Past 180 Days: 26,000
  • Past 30 Days: 11,000
  • Past 14 Days: 7,500
  • Past 7 Days: 3,700

While those 26,000 people who both like my page and have been to my website during the past 180 days are undoubtedly valuable (and I should consider an ad set just for them), that’s just 5% of the total audience of website visitors that I can target during that period.

The Important Caveat

It would be really easy to distort the purpose of this post to proclaim that Facebook fans no longer matter. That’s not what I’m saying. At all.

This is what I’m seeing — for a growing, maturing business.

I have nearly 500,000 people I can target who have been to my website during the past 180 days. Because of that, I get plenty of flexibility to target website visitors by different durations and specific pages they’ve visited.

That’s targeting power. I also have 75,000 people on my email list I can email or target in ads who are extremely relevant.

I’ve chosen to no longer target my fans because I no longer need to — not because targeting that group isn’t effective. I’ve simply built a very large audience of people that is even more effective.

I didn’t always get that much traffic. My fan base was once new and fresh. As a result, targeting my fans once made much more sense than it does now.

If you already attract significant website traffic, you need to prioritize this audience when running Facebook ads. Period. No doubts about it.

But if you don’t yet get much website traffic, abandoning fan targeting is crazy. Those people are almost always more likely to act on your ad than when targeting by interests or lookalikes (assuming you built that fan base the right way).

Age of your fan base is important as well. If you have an audience that has been built over several years, you can’t expect the entire audience to be all that interested in what you are offering.

On the other hand, if you’ve built your fan base (again, assuming you did it the right way) within the past year, that group may be just as effective as targeting website visitors.

Fans Do Still Matter

While I may be largely abandoning my fans when it comes to ad targeting, make no mistake: Fans do still matter.

After publishing this blog post, I am going to share it to my Facebook page. And when I do, I tend to reach anywhere from 15,000 to 30,000 people organically — without promotion. Depending on the post, that will result in anywhere between 1,000 and 5,000 website clicks to my site.

That organic traffic is extremely important.

Additionally, this fan base is a big reason for why my website traffic is where it is today — and where the revenue is where it is, too. Building a fan base was necessary to drive a relevant group of people to something I own.

So it’s important to understand the role of the Facebook page. It is a vehicle to help increase traffic to something I own. My end goal it to increase website traffic and build my email list. Without that, I will forever be reliant on the fan base.

There should come a time for all businesses — as that time came for me — when the size of the audience you own exceeds that of what you don’t own (the fans). And as that gap widens, you’ll begin shifting more and more of your budget away from targeting fans and towards your website visitors.

Your Turn

Are you still targeting your fans in Facebook ads? What do you think?

Let me know in the comments below!