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Published December 22nd 2023

Likes, Fans, and Followers: How Much Are They Really Worth?

When we first wrote about this topic back in 2012, the world of social media was very different. 

Let's look at some stats that show how important and big of an impact social media has on both brands and consumers. 

  • 2012 saw 1.43 billion social media users. In 2023, Statista reported a different, much larger figure: 4.89 billion users.
  • Our daily time spent on social media platforms worldwide has grown from 90 minutes in 2012 to 151 minutes in 2023.
  • Gartner analysts projected social media revenue to reach $19.6 billion in 2012. In 2023, we are looking at $143 billion, including a growing number of in-app transactions.

We’ve also witnessed an emergence of new social media platforms, like TikTok, that seem to have captured the attention of younger audiences. Not only do these consumers use TikTok for entertainment, but they also use this platform for research and learning purposes. 

Slide right to another example

You can learn more about how consumers increasingly use social media and TikTok in particular for all things search in our new Digital Marketing Trends 2024 report. 

But some things remain the same: Quantifying the value of a Facebook and Instagram “like” or X (formerly Twitter) follower is something of a holy grail in online marketing. 

If companies could determine exactly how much each such interaction generated in revenue, they could efficiently mold marketing strategies around that figure.

Proving the value of social media 

It’s no surprise that there have been countless attempts to assign a value to each social media user.

  1. Brand awareness: How familiar are people with your brand? Social media is vital for building brand visibility and engagement. 
  2. Lead generation: When used strategically, social media can be a gold mine for leads, allowing brands to tap into a diverse audience. And that includes working with influencers, too.
  3. Customer relationship management: Use social media to connect and create relationships with consumers by responding to their inquiries and feedback. Leverage social listening tools to keep track of your brand mentions and watch out for any new mentions.
  4. Targeted marketing: Social media advertising helps promote specific marketing initiatives and direct traffic to the website.
  5. Real-time consumer insights: Posts on social media offer valuable insights into customer behavior and preferences.
  6. Social proof: A high count of genuine likes and followers serves as social proof that can generate even more likes, followers, and conversions.

How to measure the value of social media

The power of a “like”

Likes are a great way to draw attention to your content and brand on social. The key aspect of a “like” is that a like doesn’t prompt any further response, and it doesn’t even have to mean people genuinely like something. Yet, likes do trigger algorithms. By generating more likes, your posts will likely be pushed to the top of social search by social media algorithms that usually surface “popular” content first. And the more likes your posts get, the more engagement they’ll generate (the more people see something “liked” by many, the higher the chances they’ll engage with your post, too).

Getting more likes on Instagram, will likely boost the discoverability of your content. The TikTok algorithm also views posts with a significant number of likes positively.

Likes can also serve as endorsements. Most consumers are more likely to do business with a brand that is liked and trusted by their peers, especially their friends and family. 

When a post on Facebook gets many likes and comments from friends, it signals to the Facebook algorithm that this post is important. And if the user has liked or commented on several posts from a certain Facebook Page, this user is likely to start seeing more posts from that page.

Followers, fans, and the lifetime value of a customer

Similarly to likes, a strong social media following can offer brands increased visibility, brand partnerships, and revenue opportunities.

But social media followers are more than just numbers. They can also be brand advocates, expanding reach, attracting new followers, and amplifying your brand messages. Their loyalty can result in repeat business and referrals, both online and through word of mouth, contributing to long-term growth. 

Business on repeat from a loyal customer contributes to the customer’s lifetime value. 

Authentic connections trump vanity numbers

The truth is: It’s not always about the number of followers; it’s about followers who engage and are genuinely interested in your product.

To quote our very own Community Marketing Coordinator, Florencia Liondi:

“I think followers, likes, and fans aren't as important as they used to be in measuring success. Social media managers have shifted their focus towards reach and impressions, engagement, and how the community or audience perceives their brand.”

What’s more important is not the sheer number of fans, likes, or followers, but rather the what, where, who, and why people are talking about a brand. Social media monitoring and management tools like Brandwatch Social Media Management provide a much more detailed picture of the value of a social media user base.

A post on X, a status, a blog post, a forum comment: these online interactions are active and complex statements of intent. They require a greater degree of interaction and ultimately are a deeper level of engagement with a brand than a like can ever be.

Instead of just checking if someone follows, likes, or is a fan of something, monitoring tools can gather data from all over the internet. This data helps paint a comprehensive picture of what consumers are saying about a brand. With the help of social media monitoring tools, marketers can really tell how strong or popular their brand is online and benchmark themselves against the competition.

Measuring engagement rate

Engagement is one of the most commonly used metrics to measure content performance (and whether some types of content are worth posting more than others). 

But first things first, what is social media engagement?

Social media engagement refers to how people interact with your social media content. These interactions may involve likes, shares, reposts, comments, saves, plays, and other actions, depending on the platform.

Why is measuring the engagement rate so valuable?

Measuring the engagement rate helps show how people interact with your social media, helping you understand what works and how involved your audience is.

For organic social media campaigns, you can calculate the engagement rate by dividing the total interactions your content received by your total number of followers and then multiplying that number by 100%.

If you are running paid social media advertising, the engagement rate can be calculated by dividing the total interactions your content received by the total number of views. Then multiply the result by 100%.

How to calculate the ROI of conversions from social

First, you need to identify what you consider a conversion, for example, click through to visit a specific page, email sign-ups, demo requests, purchases, and complete transactions, or any other desired action you’d like your followers to perform.

Then you need to work out the conversion rate and average sale value. You might need to speak to your growth or ops teams to get this information. You can then calculate the ROI of your social conversions.

Here's an example:

Using past data, we know that webinars convert at 10%, and that an average customer spends $200.

$200 (average sale) x 0.1 (conversion rate) = $20 (value of a single registrant).

If you're able to track how many webinar views you got via an organic social campaign, you can calculate the ROI.

By the same token, if you track the number of people from your social pages who convert on your website, and you know the average sale value, you can get an overall dollar value to attribute to your social efforts over time. By growing your follower base you'll increase opportunities for potential customers to see your content and engage and convert, growing that number as time goes on. 

Industry benchmarks 

Below, you’ll find several benchmarks to give you an idea of the industry averages. Use these numbers as a reference, but ultimately brands should always rely on their own metrics to calculate. 

  • Shopify shared that businesses make $5.78 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing. Brands will also get $4.12 of earned media value for each $1 spent on Instagram influencer marketing.
  • The average engagement rate on Instagram (engagement rate = (likes + comments + saves) / reach x 100) is 2.88% by follower count; carousel posts get 3.11%, images get 2.76%, and videos get 2.60%.

How to maximize the value of social media interactions 

We’ll wrap this post with several suggestions on what marketers can do to maximize the value of social media interactions with their brands.

  1. Decide what metrics and business outcomes matter the most to your brand.
  2. Have the right tools that can help you quickly surface relevant metrics and data.
  3. Create benchmarks of your past paid and organic performance and social media presence. 
  4. Identify your most important channels to direct your marketing efforts on them.
  5. Regularly review your stats and performance and optimize your initiatives.
  6. Make sure to use UTM tracking when launching different initiatives on social and properly attribute your campaigns.
  7. Cultivate and leverage social proof with user-generated content.
  8. Stay authentic. Even with a smaller social media following, brands can still generate a lot of engagement and feedback on their posts.
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