Facebook is the king of social media, and eager to tap into a 500m-plus strong audience, brands have flocked there to reach consumers on the world’s most popular social network.

Setting up a Facebook Page gives brands the ability to collect ‘fans‘ and to reach out to them directly. Some of the world’s most recognizable brands (and individuals) have millions of fans, a potentially powerful marketing asset.

But what’s the real value of a Facebook Page?

More importantly, what’s the value of the outreach and marketing messages it facilitates? Robin Davey, head of music and film development at a company called GROWVision, decided to find out. After tracking the response to a Facebook status update with his own account containing 913 friends, he looked at some popular Facebook Pages:

The Black Keys have 800,000 fans and they get around 800 likes per post, although they did reach 7,000 when they said ‘Lotsa Grammys”.

Justin Bieber has 22,000,000 fans and gets between 25,000 and 50,000 likes per post.

Mumford and Sons have 1,300,000 fans and have recently pulled an impressive 17,000 likes on one post that simply said, “TOUR!!!”

But how impressive exactly is that?

Well the Black Keys, at 800 for the less popular posts, works out significantly below 1% of their fans choosing to like it, and just under 1% for their most popular post. Bieber’s rampant fans achieve similar numbers. Mumford’s impressive number is actually only just above 1%.

Davey’s believes the results call into question Facebook’s value. If a relatively small portion of fans will even ‘like‘ a status update, how many will click on a link, or take some other more meaningful action?

Probably not, he suggests, meaning that Facebook isn’t a “make or break” platform.

On the other hand, it’s not clear that ‘likes‘ are a good proxy for success here. As one commenter notes, “The problem is that engagement can’t always be measured. Just because someone
didn’t ‘like’ a post, doesn’t mean that it wasn’t effective

This is true: likes of status updates probably aren’t important to most brands, in and of themselves at least. What’s more important: whether Facebook is making some contribution.

How can brands determine if that’s happening?

It’s all about developing strategy and setting objectives and goals. Brands that are on Facebook just for the sake of it probably aren’t achieving much of substance.

Yet brands that know why they’re on the site and are executing a thoughtful strategy can create KPIs that can be measured to determine success or failure.

In some cases, Facebook might be a branding tool, in others a platform for commerce or direct response. The KPIs that matter depend on what the platform is being used for.

From this perspective, I’d argue that we’ve moved well beyond the days when it was easy to evaluate whether a Facebook presence or campaign is successful or unsuccessful based on relative comparisons of simple metrics such as ‘likes‘ of status updates.

When it comes to Facebook, results are strategy and campaign-specific.