How to increase Facebook reach by targeting friends of fans

Brands can significantly increase their reach on Facebook by effectively targeting the friends of their fans, according to a European study from Comscore.

The report found that  the majority of European Facebook users’ time is spent scanning their Timeline page. This isn’t surprising in itself, and tallies with a recent similar study into the habits of US Facebook users, but what does it tell us about how brands can interact with their fans and, perhaps more importantly, their fans’ friends?

With advertisers placing an increasing amount of trust in the brand building power of social networks, over 1 in 4 display ad impressions are now appearing on social networking sites in the UK, over 1 in 5 ads in France and nearly 1 in 3 ads in Germany.

The report also showed, perhaps unsurprisingly, that consumers who were a fan of a brand on Facebook were far more likely to visit the company's website than non-fans. Some organisations spend vast amounts of money building up huge swathes of Facebook fans, and for each one of these Comscore estimates, for the top brands, there are up to 81 additional friends that can be reached.

The secret? 'Likes'.

Targeting friends of fans

Friends of Fans often have slightly different demographic profiles to the core Fan base of a brand. Understanding where the differences lie provides brands the ammunition to strategically target these demographics and drive them into physical or online stores.

To harness the full extent of Facebook’s brand building potential, marketers have to invest time and energy in the dialogue with their fanbase, continuously posting relevant content.

The money shot kicks in where fans ‘like’ posts, sharing the information within their network on their newsfeed. If this information strikes a chord with this extended network, who in turn ‘like’ the post, you can see a chain reaction, cascading ‘likes’ across Facebook, extending the reach of the initial communication exponential.

As some retail brands have more than 10 million “likes” there is considerable opportunity for brand amplification amongst potentially a very wide audience.

The tightrope dance

However, there are a number of difficulties to achieving such an explosion of ‘likes’, mainly time and frequency of content sharing. The tightrope dance between frequency that inspires engagement, and incessant posting that leads to overexposure, is one that must be performed with care.

But even if your balance is perfect, it’s unlikely that more than a small percentage of your fans will encounter a specific promotional post. In 2011 Comscore found that after posting for five out of seven days, a brand had still only reached 16% of its fanbase.

Additionally, the Facebook Newsfeed prioritises content calculated to be most relevant to a user by using an algorithm that ranks content most likely interest to a user.  

The old challenge of creating content that’s adequately compelling is also fundamental to success in this strategy. Apparel retailers like ASOS, La Redoute and H&M do this particularly well; with their e-commerce sites they are at a particular advantage in this respect as they can share promotional offers that can be immediately redeemed.

Beyond click-through

Commenting on Comscore’s report, Luca Benini, Managing Director, Buddy Media Europe said that the results indicated that marketers need to start thinking about more sophisticated measures than simple click-through rates; instead viewing Facebook as a driver of sales, brand engagement and exposure.

“In particular, we can now see the power of friends of fans, who are 2.7 x more likely to visit a brand page than those with no links to the brand page,” he said. “Fans are worth more than simply their ‘Like’ – they’re worth an entire extended network of potential customers. With this in mind, brands should be thinking in an integrated way about their paid, owned and earned activity on Facebook.

“Ads need to be carefully tailored to the target audience - within a context of good quality, engaging Page content - to generate the most consistently effective results,” he added. “We’ve seen this approach working time and again for brands that want to generate deeper, more lasting relationships with consumers.”

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