According to the internet, a Facebook fan is worth $174 .
I imagine this was Zuck-dawg’s first response to the news.
Every month, 12,100 people search on the keyword [buy Facebook fans], and there are two types of people who search for this query that worry me. The first type is someone who believes that the number of Facebook fans they have is a measure of Facebook marketing success. Then there are those who make a living off of people who hold those beliefs. These people are necessary in any marketing function, but it becomes a problem when they lose track of the true value behind what a Facebook ”like” is supposed to stand for.
In today’s post, I’ll be breaking down the misconceptions we hold about the value of a Facebook fan on your brand page, including three questions to ask about these kinds of studies, and then explain why buying Facebook fans is a bad idea.
What Is a Facebook Fan Worth?
Back in April, Mashable reporter Todd Wasserman covered a report from Syncapse, a social media services company, on the value of a Facebook fan. And everyone started quoting the absurd $174 price tag. It didn’t go viral because it was great reporting (no offense Todd). It went viral because people only remembered the headline. Much of the actual reporting was skipped, causing misconceptions to be widespread. I’d like to caution readers of the WordStream blog to the dangers of summary statistics of any sort of data-driven report.
What the flying duck tours is going on with this data? Let’s dig in and find out
Question the Source: Does This Facebook Fan Value Research Apply to Your Brand?
The answer is probably no. The research disclosed that 2,000 panelists were selected for this research data – and from the look of these multi-million-dollar brands, your little brand was not even considered. These are giant corporations, not SMBs. Surely, you wouldn’t expect 50 Facebook Fans that “like” a local pizza store to generate $8700 (50 Fans X $174 Average Facebook Fan Value = $8700) more in sales.
Based on the way the survey was conducted, the results do not apply to you. As a matter of fact, it would be ridiculous for any brand that was a panelist to compare their fan worth against $174. However, compliments are due to the Syncapse marketing team for incorporating brands to make the study more relatable. We’ve done the same thing in our research on Google Earnings.
Pro tip: When looking at any sort of social media research, look at the source where the data is sampled.
(More: What Industries Contributed the Most to Google’s Earnings? )
Understand What Is Being Measured: How Did the Average Facebook Fan Become So Valuable?
“The study compared Facebook fans and non-fans based [on] their corresponding product spending, brand loyalty, propensity to recommend, media value, cost of acquisition and brand affinity to arrive at the figure.”
There’s more than one way you can define the value of a Facebook fan as there’s more than one way you can a slice the pizza . I’ve highlighted the questionable factors in the Syncapse study that contribute to their average value calculation. If there are any factors in a research study that’s being used which you don’t agree with, then you should disregard the study. Likewise, if a research study is missing out on a big variable in reaching its conclusion, you should also take their conclusions with a grain of salt.
Pro tip: Be wary of averages used in any study. Remember, the average is derived from the source. Therefore, if the source does not include you, the averages do not apply to you.
I agree there are a few fluffy figures here. Fluffy figures are things that wouldn’t pass an IRS or SEC audit.
(More: Dear eBay, Your Ads Don’t Work Because They Suck )
Identify the Stakeholders: Who Benefits From This Facebook Fan Study?
Whenever you’re looking at any report or study, you should ask who gains the most financial benefit from a study. For example, when Twitter collaborated with Neilsen  to release a study on how Tweets can increase a TV show's ratings, the special interest was clear. Twitter sponsored the study to gain favor from traditional TV advertisers, while Nielson also gained to profit by releasing a new ratings systems that incorporated social media signals. Bias immediately becomes a concern.
In Syncapse’s study, the goal is to capture leads. It’s for big brands that need to validate that they’re not undervaluing the importance of Facebook with simple traditional metrics like product sales and the cost of customer acquisition.
The difference in behavior is the golden nugget in this study, not the $174 average value on the headlines. The devil is in the details.
Syncapse wants brands that are interested in fostering a more profitable community to take notice of their study. These brands don’t just want any fans though. They want fans with favorable brand-promoting social media habits.
Pro tip: All research studies try to answer a question. The ones that are usually published are the ones that are favorable to the publisher. Keep this bias in mind.
So How Does This Relate to Buying Facebook Fans?
Syncapse is saying that people who clicked “Like” on your brand page act differently than those who didn’t. That difference, on average, was $174 based on their value factor calculation.
What it doesn’t say is that any Facebook Fan is worth $174.
However, people will mistakenly believe that the value of a Like on a brand page is, on average, worth $174. This mathemagical conclusion will fuel the “Buy Facebook Fans Cheap!” scamwagon. The same pattern happens with the search industry – conclusions are often prematurely drawn  on correlation studies.
Google’s distinguished engineer had to publicly dismiss the myth that Google +1’s rank webpages.
At WordStream, we’ve seen studies with good intentions misinterpreted at a larger scale with Twitter followers , and a growing one with fake Pinterest followers . Some websites will even go as far as adding banners from news sites and quotes from journalists and appeal to visitors by authority.
How A Facebook Fans Scam Could Hurt Your Business
If you believe that the number of Facebook Fans is a measure of success, then be ready to be scammed. It only takes $5 to cheat the system . Heck this SEO shows that you could cheat search marketing success with just $1 .
When you buy Facebook Fans, the Like increase will look good on paper in the short run. In the long run, the Facebook Fans you bought will come back to haunt you for three reasons:
- You are watering down the data you have on your real fans that are doing awesome stuff for you. By buying fake Facebook Fans, you decrease the value of your true Facebook Fans because there’s no way to separate the two with Facebook’s current built-in analytics tool.
- You will immediately lose trust from a web-savvy visitor if they use a fake fan checker tool or visit your historic Like data  and notice a low brand activity vs total like ratio.
- Your Facebook Fan page could be marked as a spam and removed for violating Facebook’s Terms of Service.
So please, please, please. Don’t buy Facebook Fans. Facebook marketing success isn’t measured in just Likes, but the increased difference in behavior exhibited by people who are naturally your brand’s Facebook Fans.
Disclaimer: The author was upset when he realized just how many people had misinterpreted the news from reading the comment section . Foolish, but he couldn’t help it. Please don’t argue with the fool.