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Measuring the value of social media activities is important and challenging. New approaches are being developed all the time, and they have the potential to aid our understanding of how social media creates value. One such metric that is popular among digital marketers is the value of a “like” on social media. This value is typically calculated by determining the average value of customers who are fans on social media (in other words, the value of a customer who publicly endorses your company). Then you subtract the average value of customers who are not fans on social media (in other words, the value of a customer who is not publicly endorsing your company). Of course, there are important differences between fans/follows/“likes,” and so forth, but our recommendations are deliberately broad to accommodate use across many social media platforms. In sum, the metric measures the simple difference in value between two groups of customers: fans on social media versus nonfans.
Marketers seem to assume that the difference in customer value between fans and nonfans is attributable to the company’s social media strategy. An overwhelming majority of marketing managers in our survey saw a link between their social media spending and the value of a “like.” Syncapse, a social media strategy firm, suggests that when assessing the value of a Facebook fan, “marketers must understand the measurable differences between users who have ‘liked’ or Fanned a brand versus those who have not.”1 However useful this is, it does not mean that the cause of the differences in users’ value is attributable to a company’s social media strategy.
The reason that social media strategy shouldn’t be seen as the driver of value difference between fans and nonfans is because customers who are social media fans will differ from nonfans for reasons unrelated to the company’s social media strategy. For example, fans are probably more active on social media, more technologically literate, and typically younger. Our experience suggests that fans are often more favorable toward a brand to start with than nonfans are. Indeed, this is probably what motivated them to affiliate in the first place.
1. “The Value of a Facebook Fan 2013: Revisiting Consumer Brand Currency in Social Media,” white paper, Syncapse, New York, April 17, 2013, p. 4.
2. D. Zarrella, “How to Calculate the Value of Your Social Media Followers,” November 26, 2012, http://blog.hubspot.com.