by Michelle Lefevre
Following on from our piece last week 'The Ground Game', all about a more collaborative way to share information through the dance world, we thought a follow up on the effectives of Facebook would be a good idea.
In 'The Ground Game' we noted that Facebook Pages often don't inform all of your followers of new messages, no matter how many or how few of them you might have.
Article19 uses a Facebook Page to share links with our readers, particularly audition information. We long ago abandoned using mailing lists.
The thinking behind this analysis, although Facebook deny it, is to get you to pay to "promote" posts more often so you can actually reach all of the people that "like" what you're doing and hopefully a lot more besides.
Break Out The Test Tubes
Here in the TheLab™ we decided to run a little experiment and actually hand over some money to promote one of our posts to see just how much the levels of feedback increased, if at all.
First some background. If you don't have a Facebook Page then allow us to explain the basics.
Just like your personal Facebook account when you post messages, no matter what information they contain, that information is supposed to show up on the news feed of your "fans" (this is what the people who followed you used to be called).
The news feed is the page you get when you log into Facebook. The one that contains all the cat photos from your friends and the ads down the side for "mature singles"!
To let you know how well your information travels the social media website shows the page owner a very simple number under each post that proclaims "545 people saw this post", or whatever it may be.
How Facebook determines the number of people that see the posts from your page is a mystery. For all we know they might be completely making it up.Averages
On average Article19's posts appear to reach just under half the number of people that follow us, 2373 at the time of writing. The "insights" graphs on Facebook suggest that we generally reach the same 1,100 people over the period of a week.
For our experiment we chose to promote the post linking to 'The Ground Game' which, ironically, is all about sharing things using the internet.
Promoting a post is easy, you simply click on the promote button underneath it, after you enter some credit card details, you select a promotion amount. The more money you spend, the more
people you might be able to reach.
You can choose to promote to only those who like your page or push the message to all their friends too.
Facebook only "estimates" the number of people who might see your post with a variation of thousands between the low and high number.
Here in TheLab™ we chose the £7 option because even if we hit the lowball estimate that means we reach everybody who "likes" Article19.
The "campaign" runs for 3 days or until your budget runs out. Our campaign ended early as our budget ran out after we hit 2,591 views of the post. The upper estimate was over 5,000 so that was a little disappointing.
Before we promoted it the message had, according to Facebook, reached 700 people already so we basically paid for another 1900 pairs of eyeballs.
If we add up the counters for "organic", "viral" and "paid" from the stats we actually get 2873. Facebook offers no explanation for this so either they can't count or this is an overlap and people saw the post twice.
Of course the whole purpose of promoting the post is not just to get people to see it but click on the link to read the attached article.
The detailed stats provided by Facebook indicate that of the people who were reached through our promotion 60 of them clicked on the link to get to the article. Believe it or not that kind of "click through rate" is actually above average for this type of web advertising. (for stats junkies it's about 2.5%)
On Article19 the most popular things we publish are the auditions, Shouts, videos and TheImp™ so perhaps, in retrospect, we didn't make the best choice for the experiment.
However, leaving the click through data to one side it was still a valid exercise in trying to determine how many people we could get to actually see our post in the first place.
Basically it cost us £8.61 (after VAT) to reach just over the number of people who like us to begin with but, for unknown reasons, never get to see what we post on our Facebook page.
Your own experiences with this type of paid promotion may differ of course. The more followers you have the more money it's going to cost you just to reach your actual followers, never mind all of their friends.
The information you are sharing is also relevant to the amount of click through you might actually get. If you're running a competition or giving away free tickets to shows then you might attract more attention, but don't count on it.
For our page it maxes out at spending £48 (before VAT) to reach an "estimated" 16,000 to 30,000 people, which in and of itself is a very wide target to try and hit. Considering Facebook is in charge of who could see the promoted post there's no technological reason why they could not guarantee the number of people who see the promoted information.
Again, Facebook's own stats suggest our 2,373 followers are connected to at least 1,000,000 other people. That's a lot of people to choose from.
So is it worth it? As stated, the more followers you have the more money it's going to cost you to promote your posts.
If you have a few thousand followers it may be worth spending a small sum of money to push a post once in a while if you're running a fund raising drive or have a particularly important piece of information you want to share.
Over the long term however it might start to cost a lot of money and there is no information to suggest that promoting a post overrides a users ability to hide everything they get from your page.
This is something people tend to do when a particularly noisy pages is sending out a lot of updates because it's easier to mute the information than it is to "unlike" something.
In more general terms Facebook has some serious usability problems. The website makes adjusting what you do and do not want to see very difficult especially in the newsfeed view where people spend most of their time.
Given Facebook's very wide estimates for how many people may or may not get to see the information you are paying to distribute you might be better off trying to actually encourage people to share your stuff with the "like" and "share" buttons.
For the moment, that's still free of charge.