The word on the street is that Facebook fans no longer matter. For the most part, this is perpetuated by the same people that claim organic reach on Facebook is dead. It’s not.

Not only to Facebook fans still matter, they’re a significant asset, especially for those that aren’t running Facebook ads.

If your business and website traffic is growing, you may be transitioning away from the dependence on ‘organic’ social traffic and towards the on-demand advertising approach.

In a case such as this, the value of a like may be lower than a targeted visit.

However this doesn’t mean that a Facebook like isn’t valuable for another brand or business, or that it doesn’t valuable for you at some point in the past.

Historical Fan Value

Facebook fans have significant business value. It’s obviously not about the number of fans, but about the actions they take.

These people are brand advocates.

They have more than likely read your content or purchased something from you before. As a fan, they will see your content organically (at least some of them will).

So when you share a link, it’s your fans that are most likely to click.

If you’ve created some sort of opt-in, it’s your fans that are likely to convert.

When it’s time to sell, your fans are likely to buy.

If you have targeted fans, you will see a business impact. Particularly in the starting stages of your business. You will see value in your results.

Ad Targeting Cost Trends

As a business and/or website traffic grow, there may be a natural shift away from fan targeting using Facebook ads.

It’s not that targeting fans exclusively doesn’t have value or is ineffective. It’s more likely that you will have a growing audience of a much more effective group that you can target.

Eventually, if you have the website traffic to support it, you will want to transition as much of your budget to target your website visitors as possible.

I’m talking about various Website Custom Audiences based on a number of conditions. I promise, when you look at the numbers, you will see the difference.

Let’s think about an Ad Set that is targeting fans and one that is targeting website visitors. On the ad side, it could include promoting blog posts, traffic generation to opt-ins, a fan building campaign to increase likes, individual product sales – whatever.

You will more than likely notice a lower CPC for a WCA based campaign over the CPC for a fan based campaign. Below, I’ve included aggregated data from two major campaigns I’ve ran that clearly show the performance differences.

Facebook Ads - Website Custom Audience vs. Fans -

The cost difference will vary based on your audience sizes, but above,  we’re looking at a strong sample size where one campaign has an acquisition cost that is 71% lower than the other.

This is absolutely massive when talking about conversions, and the clear winner here is the WCA based campaign.

So why would you see a higher CPC between the two campaigns?

It all comes down to the campaign CPM, which you can see above.

A major factor that determines CPM pricing is the size of your audience. As a result, you will see a higher traffic acquisition cost when targeting fans over a Website Custom Audience due to a smaller audience size.

If you want to experiment, measure the the CPM cost for each audience. As your Website Custom Audience grows, you are likely to see the cost to reach that audience go down.

In my experience, your WCA will be more engaged and have a higher Relevance Score. Facebook will also have a great pool of people to choose from based on a larger audience size, displaying your ad to those that are most likely to take action.

The Website Conversions Objective, too

When you’re selecting your WCA, don’t worry about country filtering if you’re running a content based campaign. It’s likely that anyone who has visited your site is in fact your target audience.

When running a campaign exclusively to your Fans, however, you are required to select a country.

Similarly to a lower CPC, it is likely you will see a lower cost-per-conversion for your WCA based campaign. In the majority of my testing I’ve seen fan based campaigns, regardless of objective, roughly 75% higher.

For a Website Conversions based Objective, the results below add further weight in favour of WCA campaigns:

Facebook Ads - Website Conversions Objective - WCA vs. Fans -

We’re seeing a CPA that is 2.7x that of a WCA campaign.

In every scenario it’s apparent that targeting website visitors is way more efficient.

This isn’t only on the reach level, but it trickles down to the cost of website clicks and the number of conversions due to higher conversion rates.

Why Website Visitors?

We know website visitors are cheaper. As mentioned above, it’s because they’re more likely to engage favourably.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

If you’re a fan of a page you could have liked it recently or maybe it was 4 years ago. Over time, your interests change. It’s likely that you haven’t checked out the brand or website lately, either. The same goes for your own fans.

If you’re running a campaign that is targeting an audience that has been to your website in the last 30 days, they’re not only familiar with you but they’ve actually been to your website. This is awesome to know.

So in the end, it’s not that fans don’t have any value. It’s that fans that haven’t been to your website recently aren’t as valuable as someone who has been. If someone who visits your website already likes your page, awesome, and if not, that’s cool too.

Think about the data behind this…

Let’s say you want to target any of your website visitors over the past 180 days and you can reach 400,000 people. Generous, I know.

On the other hand, you have a strong Facebook page with 70,000 fans that have liked your page at some point over the past few years. Most of which haven’t been to your website lately.

If you want to dig into it, segment your 180 day audience using a filter for those that like your page. Even if your content is engaging, you’re probably looking at 10%, and below, of fans that have visited recently. So you might have 7000ish people.

Sure, it’s great that 7000 people have visited over 180 days, and you can do run targeting just for them. But that’s only 1-2% of the total audience of website visitors that you could be targeting.

Yeah, There’s a Caveat

Looking at the relationships explained here, it would be pretty easy to ignore the fact that Facebook fans still matter. They do.

Of everything presented here, we’re talking about big traffic and audience numbers – a growing business.

With an audience of 400,000 people you could target over 180 days, you would have a ton of flexibility to target your website visitors based on different durations and specific pages they’ve visited.

That’s serious targeting power.

If you have a huge email list, you can also create a Custom Audience to target in ads or to drive traffic directly – an extremely relevant group.

If you’re at this stage, you probably don’t need to target your fans any longer. It won’t be as effective.

Instead, it makes sense to focus efforts on maintaining and growing a large audience of people to make your strategy even more effective.

If you’re looking at 400,000 people and are thinking that those numbers are huge, yeah, that’s a big audience. But where did it start?

We all started from scratch. At some point you will work with an audience that is new and fresh. At the beginning, targeting your fans is likely the perfect place to start when it comes to targeting.

If you think about it, if your traffic is low then abandoning your fans would be insane. These are people that have qualified themselves and will be most likely to act on your ad. You can always zero in on interests or create a lookalike audience to scale – assuming you’ve properly built your fan base.

It’s important to consider the change in your fan base demographics over time, as well. If you’ve been building an audience for years, the entire audience isn’t necessarily going to be completely interested down the road.

If you’re looking at a fan base over the past 12 months or so, if you built it right, you may have a perfect audience that could be just as effective as targeting your website visitors.

Is it worth testing? Always.

Final Thoughts: Facebook Fans Still Matter

While my targeting focus has shifted from fans to a larger audience, let me be clear: Your Facebook fans still matter.

When you publish your content, share it on Facebook and track what your reach looks like. If you have a targeted fan base, you might see organic reach at 18-35%. Depending on what you post and how big your fan base is, you could see clicks to your website ranging from a few hundred to thousands of clicks.

Organic traffic is incredibly important.

As your fanbase grows, it will become a significant source of traffic that feeds your site, also pushing your revenue forward. Remember: building a fanbase is necessary to drive a relevant group of people to something that you own.

Why do you have a Facebook page to begin with? It’s a vehicle that helps you increase traffic to something that you own.

For me, my end goal is to increase website traffic and build my email list. If you don’t own your audience data, you’re reliant on a single fanbase.

And that’s not smart.

Are you using Facebook ads to target your fans? Will you now continue to do so, or diversify resources to grow your audience?

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