When it comes to the future of Likes on Facebook, the writing is already on the wall based on what’s already disappearing from users’ Walls. Starting in September 2019, Facebook began testing in Australia hiding Likes, video view counts, and other countable metrics from the view of everyone but the poster. The thinking behind the experiment is: if the platform is less transparent about what content is going viral, users will be less self conscious about trying to post content that gets the most Likes. Instead, they will focus on sharing the content will drive meaningful interactions with users who can relate to the posts.
This follows the actions of Facebook subsidiary Instagram, which we’ve already written extensively about, with their tests removing publicly visible Likes from their platform, first internationally, and now as of November, in the United States.
Given these ongoing and ever-expanding tests, there’s no question that Facebook is moving towards getting rid of vanity metrics such as Likes or, at the very least, deemphasizing them on their social media platforms. Given that context, the question for marketers becomes: What type of social media analytics should they be focusing on if Facebook Likes disappear?
Based on our extensive experience around social media analytics, ListenFirst has put together this guide on how marketers should approach Facebook in 2020 and beyond.
Facebook Tip #1: Prioritize Engagement Around Groups
When Likes disappear from Facebook, the focus is going to shift from getting the widest possible audience for brand posts to cultivating smaller more niche communities, and Facebook Groups is a big part of where that’s going to happen. In an April 2019 speech, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made it clear that Groups are going to be just as prominently displayed to users as Friend posts in the News Feed. In addition, now brands and small businesses are able to post in other people’s Groups, which had previously been forbidden.
With many brands seeing organic traffic on Facebook substantially decrease over the past couple of years, Groups were already taking off—for example, Peloton announced that membership in their Facebook Group increased from 1,300 in 2015 to 116,000 in 2018. Facebook Groups is an effective avenue for brands to increase relevant engagement, and the growth of a brand’s Facebook group is a great measuring stick for success on the platform whether Likes disappear or not.
Tip #2: Leverage Content Benchmarking
An important detail to remember is even if Facebook benchmarks such as Likes and Video Views aren’t publicly viewable in the future, there’s every expectation that brands will still be able to privately see those metrics for their own Facebook content.
However, ListenFirst’s Content Benchmarking feature provides brands with competitive and industry benchmarks for both public and authorized Facebook metrics. Using exclusive, anonymized and authorized data from the large network of brands that partner with ListenFirst, brands can see how their performance on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter measures up against the rest of the industry, both around organic and paid.
With ListenFirst’s Content Benchmarking, brands can increase the amount of Facebook analysis they’re receiving, regardless of what happens with Likes on the platform.
Tip #3: Shift Focus To ROI Metrics
In reality, vanity metrics such as Likes and Followers have always been overrated for brands, as they rarely speak to return on investment. For instance, following a brand on social media is a one time action that even a bot account can take, and similarly, someone Liking a piece of content on social media doesn’t even guarantee that content was read.
Instead, brands should spend the most effort tracking Facebook benchmarks that can actually impact the bottom line, such as clicks to your website, downloads, leads generated, contest entries, and how many coupons are redeemed. Authorized metrics that can be more directly tied to product interest are inherently valuable for brands and better speak to engagement and ROI than Likes ever could.
Tip #4: Use Estimated Media Value
One scenario where brands have traditionally used Likes and similar vanity metrics on Facebook, is to determine the value of potential branded content partnerships with media partners. However, there’s already a more effective way to evaluate current and potential branded content partnerships than tallying Like counts.
ListenFirst’s Estimated Media Value metric can approximate the amount a sponsor would have paid via conventional paid channels, in order to earn the same level of user engagement achieved through the sponsorship. The metric is supported for branded content on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and is derived from public data, so it can be used as a competitive benchmark for media partners and brand sponsors.
Being able to assign an actual dollar value to partnerships on Facebook takes the guesswork out of evaluating partner performance.
Tip #5: Look At Share Of Voice
Say your post about your haircare brand gets 500 Likes on Facebook? You can’t possibly evaluate if that’s a positive or not without looking at how much engagement competing haircare brands posts get on Facebook. ListenFirst enables brands to track the social media channels of unlimited competitors across multiple industries to give the context needed to better understand the performance of your own content.
While the specifics of those competitors insights would change should Likes data stop being public on Facebook, there’s still more than enough data ListenFirst would still provide about competitor performance and benchmarks on Facebook, that share of voice could be evaluated properly.
Facebook benchmarks have come a long way from the days of measuring performance solely from Likes—and the truth is that conversion metrics not Likes, should be the focus. Working with a Facebook analytics platform like ListenFirst, marketers will get the insights they need to succeed in a world without (or with) Facebook Likes; and will get the benefits of that competitive advantage whether Likes disappear or not.