Nonprofits: Are Your Facebook Fans Engaged?

Participation is the key for getting value out of your Facebook Pages

Target audience: Nonprofits, NGOs, cause organizations, social enterprises, brands, businesses, Web publishers, individuals.

I‘ve been digging deep into research about Facebook fan activity lately, in preparation for a few upcoming presentations about social media return on engagement and Facebook engagement. I was delighted to find recent research about Facebook fan engagement from Michael Wu at Lithium and from comScore. Placed together, this research offers three very practical takeaways for nonprofits and brands managing Facebook fan Pages: relevant benchmarks of how deeply fans engage with Pages, the effect of fans on website visits, and how likely fans are to engage with your organization’s services or purchase items.

Basic benchmarks for measuring fan activity

Michael Wu posits that “fan count is only the most superficial characterization of engagement, because it says nothing about the fans’ subsequent action and their interactions.” To measure the real engagement of a fan Page, Michael looked at different levels of fan engagement: active fans (who comment or post a message on a page), what fraction of posts have comments, amount of interaction among fans on a Page, and number of unique fans per conversation. From his research, he found these Page engagement benchmarks:

  • The number of active fans per day (i.e. actively engaging) is about 3.45% of total page fans.
  • About two-thirds of all posts do receive some activity, but it is normal to expect that around one-third will never receive comments and disappear quickly from a person’s newsfeed.
  • Most Facebook fans are not very loyal to the fan Pages. Only about 30% of the active fans re-engage with the fan Page more than once (i.e. through posting).
  • The probability of a fan returning to the same conversation on the fan Page is low, only about 9.6%.

If a fan never interacts with your Page’s content, then the reach of the Page will never grow, either. The more interactions, the more friends of fans will see your content. This correlates to the comScore research, next.

The role of the newsfeed

Facebook users primarily interact with a fan Page in the newsfeed. What this means is that most fans don’t ever visit the actual fan Page. How often a fan or a friend of a fan will see your Page content within the newsfeed is determined by how often the actual post is shared, interacted with, and Liked. (See J.D. Lasica’s article for an in-depth look at how EdgeRank works.)

The new comScore report “The Power of Like” offers solid data on why fan activity with a Page is so important: reach. This report is focused on how people interact with the top 100 brands, with deeper analysis of a few large brands.

  • Facebook users spend 25% of their time on Facebook interacting with their newsfeed. In May, 27 percent of engagement on occurred on the homepage and newsfeed, followed by profile viewing (21 percent), photo viewing (17 percent) and usage of apps and tools (10 percent).
  • Facebook users are 40 to 150 times more likely to see branded content in the newsfeed than to visit the fan Page itself.
  • Friends of fans is an important potential segment for organizations to reach. Friends of fans typically represent a much larger set of consumers (34 times larger, on average, for the top 100 brand pages) and may receive social media brand impressions through their Facebook friends. In the graph below, you can see that for every fan that visits Starbucks’ Facebook fan Page, 156 others see the brand Page’s updates through the newsfeed.

To reach more friends of fans, post to Facebook more frequently. Each incremental day of publishing branded content from the Facebook Page increases the reach among fans by about 2.5 percent.

Facebook fans equal website visitors

Big implications here for nonprofits! Fans and friends of fans are much more likely to visit an organization’s website than the average Internet user. In the comScore report, for example, Bing fans are 55% more likely to visit the website and friends of Bing fans are 33% more likely to visit the website than the average Internet user. Other research shows that consumers use a combination of search and social media to research before making a purchase, and the effect of exposure of a brand to likelihood to purchase.

Interestingly, the comScore report shows that fans and friends of fans are more likely to spend more per transaction at the store and to have more frequent transactions. I believe you can reasonably assume from the data that those who Like your page are more likely to take these actions.

While Facebook engagement data from Lithium tells us a lot about how fans engage with your Page’s content, the comScore data illustrates how engaging data can potentially affect website visits, purchasing, and engagement with your organization’s services. The key, of course, is creating engaging, relevant, shareable content.

How does this data compare with your experience managing and/or interacting with a fan Page?


Debra Askanase works with nonprofits and businesses to create engagement strategies that move people to action. She is a social media strategist and partner in Socialbrite. Follow her on Twitter at @askdebra.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported.