What’s the Value of Your Facebook Fans?

From my recent social media projects in the restaurant industry, I have become fascinated with brand Fan Pages on Facebook.

In fact, the genesis of this blog came about when I read a blog post from Ignite Social Media where they summarized the top 50 brands on Facebook.  There are 8 pure restaurant brands in the top 50 and I have summarized them below.  To make the comparisons somewhat equal, I added a column for the number of locations and calculated the number of fans per location.

Top Restaurant Brands on Facebook (Per Ignited Social Media)

While 8.4 million fans for Starbucks seems like an impressive number, it is only 4th in terms of Fans Per Location among the top 50 brands.  Interestingly, Krispy Kreme is doing the best job with 1.6 million fans spread across 615 locations yielding more than 2,600 fans per location.  As a comparison to smaller brands I was following, The Cheesecake Factory chain based in Los Angeles has 150 locations and 370,000 fans which yields 2,500 fans per location.

Which got me to thinking about the value of a Facebook Fan.

From my experience in a 43-location restaurant chain based in Southern California, I know that our Facebook Fan Page was important and the Facbook pageviews on a weekly basis were about 1/3rd of the pageviews from the main website.  In my mind, the Fan pageviews on Facebook are even more important than the website because they are current and interactive, and all Comments or Likes are hitting the newsfeed for each fan with the potential of reaching many more people.  If I had to make a back of an envelope calculation, I would say that the value of a fan would be at least 1 to 2 times the average dinner check for a casual dining or typical restaurant as that is my estimate of incremental visits driven by Facebook activity.  From my experience in managing the Facebook fan page and reading fan comments, I know that we were getting people to think about and talk about our brand when they weren’t in the restaurant – and that we were reminding people to come back and visit us.

To be a little more scientific, I did a Google search of recent blog posts on the subject of “What is the value of a Facebook Fan?”

Augie Ray, a social media blogger from Forrester, made an argument last week that the value of a Facebook Fan was zero.  While he may have been overstating his case, his point was that a fan does not have any value until a company is engaging the fan and working to keep their interest.  In other words, just pumping up a fan base for the sake of sheer numbers is not a way to build value.

Research firm Syncapse released an interesting study last month that said that the value of a Facebook fan was approximately $71.  Their report was based on interviews with more than 4000 fans of 20 top brands and analyzed the spending patterns of fans vs. non-fans.  Gigaom has a blog post summarizing the Vitrue report and you can download the full Vitrue report here.

I also found an interesting tool from Vitrue called the Facebook Fan Page Evaluator.  This looks to be a nifty little tool and uses a concept called ‘”Earned Media Value” to calculate the current and potential value of a brand based on the number of fans, page posts and interaction.  The Earned Media Value is an assumption that the user can change and see the results on the fly.  There are also recommendations for best practices for post frequency, post type and the use of short URLs.  There is a further explanation of the Evaluator tool from the Vitrue blog and at this AdAge blog post by Judy Shapiro.

Krispy Kreme - Vitrue Social Page Evaluation

So, what do you think the value of a Facebook Fan is?  I have some additional ideas about Fan page engagement and measurement that I will share in a follow-on blog post later this week.