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Why is Facebook Engagement Declining (and What Can You Do About It)?

The most popular measure for the effectiveness of Facebook activity is fan engagement – determined by the volume of likes, comments and shares. And it’s not hard to see why.  In the online advertising world, engagement, in this case measured by dwell rates and dwell times, has been found to deliver the greatest correlation with conversion. And of course fans engaging with posts delivers the benefits of viral promotion too.

But fan engagement with brands is declining according to social media management and monitoring agency Expion.  Their FAVE 50 social retail report, which analyses the Facebook presence of the top 50 US retail brands  – including leading luxury brands such as Tiffany, Victoria’s Secret, Coach and Macey’s – delivers a number of useful insights. We thought we’d share the best of their findings with you.

The Big Picture – Declining Fan Growth, Declining Engagement

For the past 2 years, retailers have been increasing their Facebook fan base by more than 40% every 6 months. However, the first half of 2013 saw a marked slowdown with only 16% growth.

In addition, H1 2013 was the first 6 month period where the company posts trend didn’t mirror engagement trends. In previous periods, an increase in the number of posts published by retailers has been accompanied by an increase in engagement. This relationship was broken in the first half of 2013 when post volumes rose but overall levels of engagement fell.

Trends_in_Facebook_Posting_and_Fan_Engagement

Premium and luxury brands in the study were not immune to the trend – Tiffany (-5%), Victoria’s Secret (-15%), Macey’s (-29%) all saw falls in their overall levels of fan engagement. However, the silver-lining for luxury retailers was that they led the engagement rankings by far, delivering almost 3 times as many fan engagements by post than the next best sector (Department Stores).

Top Retailers for Engagement

Expion ranked the 50 brands in their study by engagement, as measured by the average level of fan interactions per post.  Tiffany and Co. topped the list with an average of 28,741 interactions per post, well ahead of other premium brands such as Victoria’s Secret (18,562), Coach (10,196) and Macey’s (9,866), all of which made Expion’s top 10.

The secret to Tiffany’s success?

A perusal of their Facebook page shows their approach flies in the face of much social media advice. There are few promotions and competitions to actively get their fans involved. Instead, they let their stunning products – showcased by elegantly simple photography – do the talking.  As a result, what are essential product posts are turned into things of beauty and desire which attracts tens of thousands of admiring likes, comments and shares.

Tiffany

Tiffany also clearly know what type of post works for them and aren’t ashamed to stick to their winning formula – 95% of their posts are photos and despite the lure of the moving image, their proportion of video posts hasn’t breached the 5% mark. Text and link posts don’t feature at all.

Tiffany2

And finally, Tiffany clearly only say something when they’ve got something to say.  Over the period of Expion’s study, they only averaged one post per day but they delivered almost 40% more overall fan actions than Macey’s despite posting with less than half the frequency and having 1/3 of the fans.

Learnings from the Study

The slowdown in Brand Page Likes, if it continues in H2, may well be a sign that not only has Facebook reached maturity, but that Brand Page Liking is reaching maturity to.

Because fans have more liked brand pages in their portfolio, and because those brands have steadily increased the volume of their posts, so fans newsfeeds are getting increasingly cluttered with brand posts – some fatigue is inevitable and no doubt behind the falling engagement stats.

The brands that will thrive are those that understand their appeal, understand what their fans want from them and are prepared to post only when they have something to say. It’s about quality, not quantity.

Published by Neil Cunningham on 18-09-2013

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