Facebook

Understanding How Facebook Pages Grow

42 Comments 04 August 2009

facebook-fan-suggeestion

Ever wondered how some businesses attract over 1,000 fans to their Facebook Pages, and others don’t? A new research report on Facebook Pages offers insights into how Pages grow and debunks the myth that a few people can create a “snowball effect” of Fans. Inside Facebook recently revealed the results of a study of Facebook Page popularity growth by researcher Cameron Marlow. The report (Gesundheit! Modeling Contagion through Facebook Newsfeed) paints a picture of exactly how Facebook Pages become popular. Marlow’s empirical investigation of 262,985 Facebook Pages reveals that Facebook Page growth is “not usually the result of a single chain-reaction event,” but rather the confluence of a large number of users. After looking at every Facebook Page with over 1,00 fans (as of August 2008), the report concludes:

Pages accrue fans as a result of many different clusters of connected people becoming fans.

The single most important action that creates these clusters is when a user becomes a Fan and broadcasts this action to their friends’ news feeds.

Here is how it works: individuals arrive independently at a Page,  become a Fan, and (ideally) publicize this action through the News Feed. Publicizing the action creates that person’s chain of “start nodes.” A start node is a mini-cluster of Fans. The mini-clusters eventually merge through interconnecting relationships to form a relatively large-sized cluster. According to Marlow’s research, the median large Page had 69.48% of its fans in one connected cluster.

facebook-suggest-to-friends

Here are some interesting findings pulled from the report:

1. People within the “start nodes” tend to have more Facebook friends than those who do not start nodes.

2. More of the “start nodes” have active Facebook users than the non-start nodes. The study concludes that active users are more likely to understand how to find, use and pass along Facebook fan pages to their friends.

3. The large Facebook Pages consist of a majority of Fans who are connected in one large cluster consisting of many chains of start nodes. In other words, there are many, many small nodes/chains of people that converge rather than a few large chains that converge to create Fan Page with high numbers.

4. Facebook chains of Fans tend to involve more people and be longer-lasting than word-of mouth chains. In this study, 86.4% of paths that people took to become fans involved a chain of at least four people. In an earlier word of mouth study, only 38% of paths involved four individuals. What does this mean? Fan Pages can fully leverage the “six degrees of separation” inherent in a large social media platform, and especially Facebook.

5. The only way to assure that the chain of people is long is to “increase the likelihood that a Page fanning action occurs in other users’ News Feeds.”

Implications?

Creating a Facebook Page is much more than “opening the doors” and simply inviting people to “fan” the Page. The News Feed acts as the “ignition” to influence and entice new followers. The implications for Facebok Page owners are:

  • Creating a Fan Page must take into account a strategy to encourage supporters to broadcast their decision to become a Fan in their News Feeds. Just inviting people to become fans will not be enough to create a large Fan page.
  • Organizations and businesses with Fan Pages should think strategically about working with groups of interconnected people to become “evangelists” for the Page.

How will you incorporate the findings from this research into your Facebook Page strategy?

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  • http://j-town.co.il/ David Corman

    Great post. What a challenge to get the evangelists to work on your behalf! I think most people who manage Facebook pages don’t realize the work involved in really building it up (except of course for the lucky ones who already have so many evangelists willing to voluntarily spread the word for them!)

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    David – I agree that it is a challenge to get the evangelists to work on your organization’s behalf to recruit other fans. In fact, it can be really, really difficult. If a Facebook Page is the natural extension of an organization’s mission, and provides value to enthusiasts, then this is less of a challenge. Many nonprofit Facebook groups don’t use the Page as a natural extension of its programming and mission – they keep the Page separate and silo it into “marketing.” People who find value from both the organization and the conversation or information on Facebook are much more likely to become enthusiasts and recruit others to the Page. The challenge is to encourage them forward in the recruiting!

    [Reply]

  • http://j-town.co.il David Corman

    Great post. What a challenge to get the evangelists to work on your behalf! I think most people who manage Facebook pages don’t realize the work involved in really building it up (except of course for the lucky ones who already have so many evangelists willing to voluntarily spread the word for them!)

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    David – I agree that it is a challenge to get the evangelists to work on your organization’s behalf to recruit other fans. In fact, it can be really, really difficult. If a Facebook Page is the natural extension of an organization’s mission, and provides value to enthusiasts, then this is less of a challenge. Many nonprofit Facebook groups don’t use the Page as a natural extension of its programming and mission – they keep the Page separate and silo it into “marketing.” People who find value from both the organization and the conversation or information on Facebook are much more likely to become enthusiasts and recruit others to the Page. The challenge is to encourage them forward in the recruiting!

    [Reply]

  • http://txgifted.org/ David Estlund

    Wonderful post! Any suggestions or cases demonstrating “a strategy to encourage supporters to broadcast their decision?”

    [Reply]

  • http://txgifted.org David Estlund

    Wonderful post! Any suggestions or cases demonstrating “a strategy to encourage supporters to broadcast their decision?”

    [Reply]

  • http://www.ahadirect.com/ Brenna Holmes

    This makes complete sense! I’ve seen this is real time with my client’s FB page http://www.facebook.com/calparks. It went from 516 fans over 45,000 fans in little over a month because of an aggressively integrated multi-channel campaign and mainstream media coverage of the CA park closures & budget crisis. We started with a friend-get-a-friend campaign and gave supporters lots of posts to respond to in addition to encouraging them to share their own stories, post pictures and videos in support of the parks.

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Brenna – great example and thank you for sharing this with us! Can you write a little more the “friend get a friend campaign” and what aspects of that were most successful for recruiting Fans? Thank you so much for commenting on the post and adding to it with your example of the CalParks Facebook Page.

    [Reply]

  • http://www.ahadirect.com Brenna Holmes

    This makes complete sense! I’ve seen this is real time with my client’s FB page http://www.facebook.com/calparks. It went from 516 fans over 45,000 fans in little over a month because of an aggressively integrated multi-channel campaign and mainstream media coverage of the CA park closures & budget crisis. We started with a friend-get-a-friend campaign and gave supporters lots of posts to respond to in addition to encouraging them to share their own stories, post pictures and videos in support of the parks.

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Brenna – great example and thank you for sharing this with us! Can you write a little more the “friend get a friend campaign” and what aspects of that were most successful for recruiting Fans? Thank you so much for commenting on the post and adding to it with your example of the CalParks Facebook Page.

    [Reply]

  • http://www.ahadirect.com/ Brenna Holmes

    David – it takes a full commitment to respond to EVERY post/question personally and not just broadcast. The organization has to be willing to engage and build relationships with “vigilante” activists, so that they become loyal evangelists. Happy to talk more about the specific CSPF case if anyone is interested.

    @bfholmes

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    David – I agree with Brenna (@bfholmes) that it is important to respond to every post/question personally. I think that Chris Brogan does a great job with his Trust Agents Fan Page http://www.facebook.com/trustagents with this aspect – he takes the time to respond to every wall post personally, but more importantly, Trust Agents is about building a community of people interested in discussing the issues of weak ties, trust and sales. Additionally,as I mentioned earlier in the comments, if Facebook Pages are an integrated part of the mission and not just another marketing opportunity, people will be far more likely to become evangelists. As for an example of a strategy to encourage supporters to broadcast their decisions, it’s a great question – let’s put the call out and see what comments come in!

    [Reply]

  • http://www.ahadirect.com Brenna Holmes

    David – it takes a full commitment to respond to EVERY post/question personally and not just broadcast. The organization has to be willing to engage and build relationships with “vigilante” activists, so that they become loyal evangelists. Happy to talk more about the specific CSPF case if anyone is interested.

    @bfholmes

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    David – I agree with Brenna (@bfholmes) that it is important to respond to every post/question personally. I think that Chris Brogan does a great job with his Trust Agents Fan Page http://www.facebook.com/trustagents with this aspect – he takes the time to respond to every wall post personally, but more importantly, Trust Agents is about building a community of people interested in discussing the issues of weak ties, trust and sales. Additionally,as I mentioned earlier in the comments, if Facebook Pages are an integrated part of the mission and not just another marketing opportunity, people will be far more likely to become evangelists. As for an example of a strategy to encourage supporters to broadcast their decisions, it’s a great question – let’s put the call out and see what comments come in!

    [Reply]

  • http://johnhaydon.com John Haydon

    Debra – thanks for posting this. As a point of clarification, does “86.4% of paths that people took to become fans involved a chain of at least four people” mean that 84.4% of people who became fans did so because at least 4 of their friends became fans first?

    [Reply]

  • http://johnhaydon.com John Haydon

    Debra – thanks for posting this. As a point of clarification, does “86.4% of paths that people took to become fans involved a chain of at least four people” mean that 84.4% of people who became fans did so because at least 4 of their friends became fans first?

    [Reply]

  • http://www.communityorganizer20.com/ Debra Askanase

    John, happy to clarify! According to the report, “the maximum length of diffusion chains from initiator nodes can sometimes be extremely long, especially in comparison to diffusion chains that have been observed in other empirical studies of real world phenomena.” Now, in my own words, I interpret that to mean: the length from someone starting a chain to the last related degree of separation (me to you to your friend to your friend’s friend, etc) can be much longer than in the offline world. To go further into it, the report states that it has identified one chain that has 82 levels (I assume this means related degree) of linkage!

    To further quote the report “86.4% of paths of Page diffusion involve at least four individuals.” (page eight)

    And to the point: I think you have the right interpretation! 86.4% of the paths (of the ways that people took to become fans) involved at least four individuals.

    [Reply]

  • http://www.communityorganizer20.com Debra Askanase

    John, happy to clarify! According to the report, “the maximum length of diffusion chains from initiator nodes can sometimes be extremely long, especially in comparison to diffusion chains that have been observed in other empirical studies of real world phenomena.” Now, in my own words, I interpret that to mean: the length from someone starting a chain to the last related degree of separation (me to you to your friend to your friend’s friend, etc) can be much longer than in the offline world. To go further into it, the report states that it has identified one chain that has 82 levels (I assume this means related degree) of linkage!

    To further quote the report “86.4% of paths of Page diffusion involve at least four individuals.” (page eight)

    And to the point: I think you have the right interpretation! 86.4% of the paths (of the ways that people took to become fans) involved at least four individuals.

    [Reply]

  • http://johnhaydon.com John Haydon

    Who did they write the report for anyhow? Brain Surgeons? LOL!

    [Reply]

  • http://johnhaydon.com John Haydon

    Who did they write the report for anyhow? Brain Surgeons? LOL!

    [Reply]

  • http://aac.org.za/ Bill Rogers

    Having read this, I understand that my gut-feel about growing my FB friend-base was correct. Also interesting what it says about nodes and clusters which, if I interpret it correctly, translates into people with similar interests having many mutual friends on FB with each other. The implication is that if one person for whatever reason decides not to forward a given snippet of information (link, note, page, group, cause), then there is a likelihood of another mutual friend passing it on. As such it exhibits an information network structure similar to that of the internet itself inasmuch as information bypasses obstacles to reach its destination. So please send me friend recommendations of all your FB friends who are interested in addiction and/or social justice, making the world a better place and/or protecting children.

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

  • http://aac.org.za Bill Rogers

    Having read this, I understand that my gut-feel about growing my FB friend-base was correct. Also interesting what it says about nodes and clusters which, if I interpret it correctly, translates into people with similar interests having many mutual friends on FB with each other. The implication is that if one person for whatever reason decides not to forward a given snippet of information (link, note, page, group, cause), then there is a likelihood of another mutual friend passing it on. As such it exhibits an information network structure similar to that of the internet itself inasmuch as information bypasses obstacles to reach its destination. So please send me friend recommendations of all your FB friends who are interested in addiction and/or social justice, making the world a better place and/or protecting children.

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

  • Pingback: Reading: Understand How Facebook Pages Grow « Direct Sales & Social Media()

  • http://www.singledadlife.com/ Barry

    As someone just getting his feet wet in the social media arena, this was excellent information. Thank you!

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Barry – glad you enjoyed the post. I’m always interested in hearing how readers use this information, so please drop by again and update us!
    Jennifer – thanks for the comment. I think you summed this study up so well in your comment “Evangelists of your page who are well connected bring maximum results.” Right on target!
    Bill – this is what makes the study so interesting, isn’t it? Not only do we need well-connected evangelists to make the page successful, we want many of these which increases the likelihood that another mutual friend will pass it along. Great analysis, and thanks for adding to the conversation.

    [Reply]

  • http://www.singledadlife.com Barry

    As someone just getting his feet wet in the social media arena, this was excellent information. Thank you!

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Barry – glad you enjoyed the post. I’m always interested in hearing how readers use this information, so please drop by again and update us!
    Jennifer – thanks for the comment. I think you summed this study up so well in your comment “Evangelists of your page who are well connected bring maximum results.” Right on target!
    Bill – this is what makes the study so interesting, isn’t it? Not only do we need well-connected evangelists to make the page successful, we want many of these which increases the likelihood that another mutual friend will pass it along. Great analysis, and thanks for adding to the conversation.

    [Reply]

  • http://jenfongspeaks.com Jennifer Fong

    Debra,
    Thanks for the great article (and the kind words you left on my blog when I linked to it!) These are all the types of things someone needs to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to set up a Facebook page. I appreciate you sharing the results of this study! Evangelists of your page who are well connected bring maximum results.

    Jennifer Fong

    [Reply]

  • http://liajen.wordpress.com Jennifer Fong

    Debra,
    Thanks for the great article (and the kind words you left on my blog when I linked to it!) These are all the types of things someone needs to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to set up a Facebook page. I appreciate you sharing the results of this study! Evangelists of your page who are well connected bring maximum results.

    Jennifer Fong

    [Reply]

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  • Mobile App -

    I understand that my gut-feel about growing my FB friend-base was correct. Also interesting what it says about nodes and clusters which, if I interpret it correctly, translates into people with similar interests having many mutual friends on FB with each other.thank you

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Yes – nodes and clusters seem to be critical in spreading messages on facebook. Check out the guest blog post by Brenna Holmes called “Building a Facebook Fan Page – California State Parks Foundation Case Study” for a great example. It’s the blog post right after this one. Let me know what you think!

    [Reply]

  • Mobile App -

    I understand that my gut-feel about growing my FB friend-base was correct. Also interesting what it says about nodes and clusters which, if I interpret it correctly, translates into people with similar interests having many mutual friends on FB with each other.thank you

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Yes – nodes and clusters seem to be critical in spreading messages on facebook. Check out the guest blog post by Brenna Holmes called “Building a Facebook Fan Page – California State Parks Foundation Case Study” for a great example. It’s the blog post right after this one. Let me know what you think!

    [Reply]

  • http://communicatevalue.com/ Christine Gallagher

    Excellent post–just came across it and posted it to my own Fan Page. Reinforces what I have always told my clients and the people I present to in my speaking gigs–the news feed, as it was put so well, is the “ignition!”

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Christine, Glad you like it! It has certainly reframed my thinking about using Facebook. I now begin conversations with new clients who use Facebook with a discussion of how Facebook Pages grow, and how this information can be utilized and harvested for their benefit. The news feed is the ignition, and it’s exciting to finally read some hard evidence of how it ignites a page. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    [Reply]

  • http://communicatevalue.com Christine Gallagher

    Excellent post–just came across it and posted it to my own Fan Page. Reinforces what I have always told my clients and the people I present to in my speaking gigs–the news feed, as it was put so well, is the “ignition!”

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Christine, Glad you like it! It has certainly reframed my thinking about using Facebook. I now begin conversations with new clients who use Facebook with a discussion of how Facebook Pages grow, and how this information can be utilized and harvested for their benefit. The news feed is the ignition, and it’s exciting to finally read some hard evidence of how it ignites a page. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    [Reply]

About

Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She is the current Director of Outreach at the National Brain Tumor Society. She speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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