The View from 20,000 Fans (I Refuse to Say Likers)

For those of you who don't already know it, I'm the online community & social media manager for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). I don't usually write about stuff specific to ASHA but reaching 20,000 fans (like I said in the title, I cannot bring myself to say "likers") on Facebook feels blog-worthy, so I thought I'd share some stuff I've learned on the way.

We started the Page in October of 2009 with no expectations and no real plan. We advertised the page to members in a minimal way--it was more an experiment than anything. We didn't--and still don't--feature our Facebook Page on our website in any prominent way. We occasionally mention it in a print publication, but, again, not with a lot of fanfare--or even a direct url, for that matter. These low-brow promotion techniques are intentional. Our approach with Facebook has been not to shove it down members' throats; on the contrary, we set up an outpost on Facebook to meet those members and non-members who are on Facebook where they are and engage with them there. Let's face it--to many people, Facebook is still considered a stupid waste of time and some gentle nudges towards the community there have been met with less-than-enthusuastic responses from members.

Ok, here are some numbers for you ROI-curious people:
  • Facebook has become a HUGE source of traffic to our website. Of well over 7,000 sources of traffic, Facebook is consistently between 10 and 15. Of those, about 30% tend to be new visitors.
  • 40% of fans are female ages 25-34; the two other largest age groups are 18-24 (about 20%) and 35-44 (about 20%). Our members are predominantly female, btw.
  • The growth of the page has been 100% organic--we have not done paid Facebook ads to promote the page or any other kind of "become a fan" promotion. Occasionally we tweet about the page or mention it in a newsletter or some other member communication, but for the most part, I assume people find the page by seeing it in friends' news feeds.
  • Because we have over 10,000 fans the "impressions" feature is enabled. Facebook describes impressions as "raw number of times this story has been seen on your Wall and in the News Feed of your fans." The number of impressions is usually almost double the number of fans--typically between 35,000-40,000+ impressions per post.
  • The types of posts that elicit the most "likes" and comments from fans are videos about stuff related to the professions of speech pathology and audiology or human interest stories from our publications. Resources for students get a lot of interest, too--announcements about awards, volunteer opportunities, etc. But by far, human interest stuff like stories or videos about people get the most positive attention.
  • The success of the page is totally dependent on daily tending. During the month-long period when I left to take another job and the page was pretty dormant, traffic to the page and to ASHA website from the page plummeted. Especially if your'e not relying on Facebook ads to direct people to your page, the only way people are going to be aware of it is if they see updates from your company in their News Feed. The only way to make that happen is frequent posts to the page.
I could go on and on but I'll spare you. Suffice it to say that it's been extremely gratifying to watch the community grow and see people come to the page to solicit feedback or advice from peers.