Yesterday I ran across an interesting article from Hubspot social media scientist @danzarella about Facebook conversations. More specifically, how they don't account for increased views. He breaks down a couple of large brand pages that he has admin rights to and notes how posts with long Like/Comment threads didn't have any more impressions than other not-as-active posts. Being the type of guy that doesn't want to believe everything he reads, I went into my own Facebook pages that I work on for clients and made my own discovery...he was right. I noted that the posts each brand made with high engagement didn't actually see nearly as many impressions.
Conversation Doesn't Matter?
I have a lot of respect for Dan and have learned a ton from his social analytical studies. That said, I do feel his post(s) on conversations being meaningless stops short. As far as conversation improving eyeballs seeing a post, he's absolutely right that there's a neutral to negative correlation. But that doesn't necessarily render conversations meaningless.
It's true that most people follow a brand to be first in line for discounts and deals. I've also heard it said that at least a third of Facebook fans for many pages can be attributed to traditional Facebook ads. But what keeps people at the page after the initial Like?
It's what separates social media from traditional advertising. It's finding topics that aren't necessarily brand-specific every time but would pique the interest of your target audience. It's about surprise and delight. Finding ways to engage with people are necessary to build community and brand advocacy. If a brand takes time to find ways to talk one-on-one with people, it increases the odds of creating those brand advocates. Advocates drive sales as well. If reach was all that mattered, all the internet companies advertising during the Super Bowl in our last tech bubble burst years back would've been a good idea.
Online Conversations = Offline Sales
Ironically, eMarketer posted this study about an hour after I read Dan's post. It talked about how conversations about a brand - be it through a brand page or a user-generated post - actually influence purchasing decisions. 53% of people are more likely to purchase a brand after following and engaging with that brand on Facebook. Others are also just as likely to go off on their own walls and talk about brands after Liking a page. Below is the chart provided from that report.
A Loyalty Channel First
Dan pointed out himself that you are more likely to see a brand's future posts if you have interacted with that brand (through Likes/Comments) before. Knowing that, wouldn't you want to drive some type of engagement with your brand posts? Don't you want people to find ways to keep coming back to your page and feel like they have some type of ownership of the brand?
Reach is critically important (I'm not discounting that at all) but having loyal fans that comment and keep coming back will encourage more long term sales growth through advocacy than only single-serving friends. (Groupon taught us that much)
In the end, it all boils down to what you are trying to achieve with a Facebook brand page. Do you want to just have masses or a highly engaged audience that keeps coming back? Figure out what you want and design your strategy from there. Just don't put all your eggs in one basket. Good Facebook brand executions have a mix of both conversation and good marketing tactics.
That's my two cents. So what do you think? Do Facebook conversations matter?