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Blogger Math Takes On Facebook

Date posted: February 14, 2013

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by  Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian), San Francisco Bay I saw some numbers last week on how the top 10 retail brands are doing on Facebook.

The numbers came from the 4th quarter of 2012 — the Christmas selling season which is by far the best season for most retailers and, presumably, the season at which Facebook activity would be highest for retailers.

The numbers are startling.

We know that ads on Facebook are alarmingly invisible, with click through rates somewhere around 5 in 10,000. But we’ve been told that the real value in Facebook is not in display ads but in engagement on brand pages.

From what I can tell, these things are just as ineffectual as display ads. Let’s do some blogger math (full disclosure: blogger math is known to be unreliable and is not to be confused with real math.)

Let’s take Walmart as an example. According to the report I read at Business Insider among retailers Walmart has the most fans on Facebook — over 26 million. When Walmart posted something during the holiday period, they averaged about 19,000 “fan actions” per post. A “fan action” is defined as either a “like” or a “share” or a “comment.”

I did a little math to find an “engagement rate” — in other words, to find out at what rate people who self-select themselves as fans of Walmart interacted with Walmart’s posts on their page. The engagement rate came out almost identical to the average click-through rate for ads — .0007.

In other words, 7/100 of one percent, or 7 in 10,000. This isn’t even rounding error. This is almost all noise and no signal.

Not only that, the calculation uses the most charitable possible definition of “engagement.”

The people who did the study (and have a vested interest in the advancement of social media) cavalierly include “liking” as engagement. I doubt that disinterested observers would agree that an action that takes a third of a second is anything approaching “engagement.”

Then deduct from that number all the people at the agency who were directed to do gratuitous liking, sharing, and commenting and all their friends and relatives, and all the people in the marketing department and all their friends and relatives, and all the hate comments on Walmart’s page that are counted as “engagement,” and all the click-bots that are working overtime in the Ukraine, and all the inadvertent clicks due to poor hand-cursor coordination, and you have yourself the real number.

If you can call it a number.

- The Ad Contrarian is Bob Hoffman, ceo of Hoffman/Lewis advertising in San Francisco and St. Louis. Hoffman is the author of The Ad Contrarian and 101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising. Reprinted from his blog The Ad Contrarian.

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