Whether it’s the new financial year or the start of a new project, one of the most daunting questions we can be asked is “how many followers will our Facebook Page have this time next year?”.
Projecting growth for social media channels is scary, especially when there are so many changes in the algorithm which make growth something which is harder and harder to predict.
However, predicting growth of a social channel isn’t impossible, and there are a few things you can do to help facilitate the process for your business.
Why do you want to know?
The first thing to understand when asked about social figure growth is to understand why the question is being asked. Having a frank discussion about business goals can make all the difference. It can be easy to fall into the vanity metric of ‘let’s double in size’ for social media, but social figures aren’t a true metric of brand health – they are just easy to measure.
On top of this, social media numbers don’t measure whether your social platform is successful in meeting your business objectives, whether that is building brand awareness, building a community, driving traffic, or sales acquisition (both short or long term).
Often, the question which should be asked around social media is whether your channels do what they need to in your marketing mix to achieve your business goals.
The other thing to keep in mind is that when the question is asked: ‘how much will our social channels grow by’ – it’s possible that that it’s a loaded question. Someone on the Exec Committee might have a nice round number in their head that they want for this time next year. It’s useful to interrogate what their expectations are; then you can do some research to see how feasible those goals are.
Get down with the data
Irrespective of whether we measure success using metrics like traffic or conversions, how many followers a channel has is metric which businesses are not going to stop measuring anytime soon.
Before you can make an estimate on how much your social figures will need to grow by, you need to be mindful of several factors including past growth, past trends, and current ad spend options.
In terms of past growth, it’s easy to export your data and look at monthly growth figures to see, on average, how much your social media channels grow each month.
This is a great starting point in terms of growth. If you can see that if your page growth by 200 people on average each month, then in a year, you will have 2,400 new fans.
It’s also useful to measure over several months so that you do not measure a month which is an outlier in terms of growth (whether it’s a boom in December or a dip in January).
If you can measure over a few years, this will be useful so that you can calculate a growth rate over time.
Campaigns for growth
Do you have any campaigns, competitions, sales or promotions coming up?
It’s not uncommon that social figures jump during times like Black Friday (in the USA) or Christmas. Be aware that if you have upcoming promotions that they might impact your organic growth so you might be seeing better than expected numbers.
You may be able to predict growth numbers around these boom periods by looking at your data historically and seeing how your data changed compared to the month before and the month after.
If these are annual events, you can factor these boosts in. For example, you might find that Christmas is a great time for your business and that your page growth booms.
Make a note how the growth changes especially around recurring campaigns so you can consider that in your projections.
If there’s a target in mind…
Let’s face facts: organic growth is slow and steady. Social media is, after all, a long game. It’s about long-term trust and relationship building. This means that you’re not going to jump organically by huge numbers over a few months.
Once you’ve worked out how much you will grow organically over the year, you can then factor in how much more you can grow by if you include ad buys to increase the number of fans you’ve got.
As I mentioned earlier, often Executive teams will have a nice shiny number in their head around growth.
It’s possible that your management are specialists in their field and aren’t aware of how Facebook page growth works.
In this case, what they are looking for from the social media specialist (you) is an understanding of what options they have around how to grow to that specific number, so it’s at this point that you may need to do some translation.
You may need to explain that to get more people finding out about your business, and you need to advertise. Unlike engagements figures or clickthroughs, you can’t adjust your content and the algorithm to get more Page Likes.
An analogy I like is that when you have people in your coffee shop, you can get customers you already have to upsize and consume more coffee: but to get new customers in the door, you need to advertise.
To translate this to social media: we can boost things like reach and engagement by changing our tactics – but to get more people to like our page, we need to advertise.
One approach to frame this is to break down the targets:
Organically, we are likely to grow by x amount within one year.
But to reach y shiny figure, we will need to spend $z in advertising.
With an informed decision, marketing budgets can be rearranged if everyone understands the targets.
Show me the money
Running a Page Likes ad on Facebook is the simplest way to get new fans for your Facebook Page.
While these costs do vary by industry, to start the discussion: a single Page Like could cost between 0.30c and $2.00*.
To put this into more realistic numbers, to gain 1000 new fans, you could be spending $300 at a minimum.
For some businesses, this is completely within their marketing budget – for others, not so much.
Of course, do your own research, look at the latest costs around CPC, because these change all the time.
But it’s worth understanding how much it might cost to run ads to gain new fans, and whether that pay-off is worth it for your business.
*I based these figures off the 2013 Salesforce report. See Page 17.
The right fit
If you’re still struggling with a page growth target which feels insurmountable, while you’re auditing your numbers, it might be worth reviewing your content strategy to make sure you are doing everything you can to boost your follower numbers.
What are you page demographics? Is your content suited to their needs? What time of day are they engaging? How many posts a day are you doing?
Exploring your options with these might mean you are more likely to have your content seen by your audience, have is shared, and grow faster.
It’s also worth looking at all your digital owned assets: you might find adding a Like Box to your website might encourage growth, or running a competition to encourage growth. Are there things other sites or your competitors are doing to gain likes? Are there techniques you can adopt too?
While this isn’t technically a plan as part of projecting growth, it can be useful if the pressure is on from upstairs to grow these figures.
On the road again
It’s important that you set weekly or monthly goals with your social channel growth.
There is nothing worse than saying ‘We need a million fans in two weeks’ – because there’s a point where you just can’t run ads to any more people at once – and the thing you need from there is not money, but time. So while time is on your side, make the most of it.
For this reason, you should set regular goals and report on them each week or month. If a month is ahead or behind, keep track of what caused it the change, or what you’re testing or experimenting with in order to change the figures.
If you’re running ads, always optimise along the way.
Look at the statistics from your ads, see what is effective. See which demographics are clicking on your ads, and also test what copy is more effective for your ads.
Keep testing and optimising to get the lowest CPC possible.
To calculate your page growth, the key things to keep in mind are:
- Look at your history of growth to determine a monthly benchmark
- Consider if there are sales or campaigns coming up which may boost numbers
- Consider how much of an advertising budget you have
- Keep regular track of your figures over time
I hope this helps you plan your next year of growth. Good luck!
Want to work with Rachel?Rachel Beaney is a writer and social media content specialist, helping businesses connect with their audiences.
She’s worked with local, national and global companies, in addition to not-for-profits and government bodies. She loves helping businesses tell their stories with creative and data-driven solutions.
She is based in Sydney, Australia.
Want to work together? Rachel would love to hear from you. Get in touch today.