Friday, July 30, 2010

The Results: Is B2B Content "Likeable"

A few months back, with Facebook’s announcement of a “Like” button for the web, I decided to run a quick, highly unscientific experiment to see if B2B content was “likeable”. Put more simply, is B2B content as likely to be shared in the social atmosphere of Facebook as it is to be shared in the more hybrid social/business atmosphere of Twitter.

While I will admit that I personally am more active on Twitter than on Facebook, I gave the “like” button a more prominent position at the top of the post to hopefully even the score a little bit. The results are dramatic – mentions of the content of this blog on Twitter generally fall around 20 or so mentions per post. Facebook, however, is lucky to get one or two likes or shares per post.

While many factors may explain this discrepancy, I suspect that the most reasonable explanation is the differences in social context between the two networks. Content must fit the context of the environment or it feels out of place and awkward, even if the participants are similar.

(as part of this post, I should mention that HubSpot's Blog Grader does a wonderful job of tallying all the Tweets/Shares/Likes for a blog)

Does this match with your experience of B2B content on Facebook?
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Kathleen Schaub said...

Steve, I think the differing use models of the networks is at play here.

Facebook is a "thicker" sharing network. Meaning that Facebook requires a little bit more emotional bandwidth from the participant and a little more emotional payback is expected. Facebook is less "thick" than a face-to-face interaction but more "thick" than Twitter. Because of this,it is (in practice, if not in theory) a fixed size network. Response tends to be limited to your group of friends unless someone shares your update (not a frequent FB practice).

Twitter, on the other hand, is extremely "thin". Tweets are emotionally cheap. Relationships more transient. Network size is therefore potentially unlimited as tweets are more likely to trigger a chain reaction. I know people who aim for a score of a certain number of RT's a day just so they look more active - they seldom even click through to a link much less read it.

What I take-away from your mini-study is that Facebook and Twitter need to be used for different purposes - and just the "counts" are not a complete view of success.

It would be interesting to also see the overlap between your FB fans and Twitter followers - and where they see your posts first. I am personally tiring of seeing duplicate tweets, first on twitter and then on FB or LinkedIn (another "thicker" share-space), especially when people are a little too content "thin" and prolific.

Steven Woods said...

thanks for the comment - it's an interesting point on the "emotional bandwidth" that it takes to make a recommendation on each platform. You're very much right (from my own personal experience at least) that a Tweet is a bit more "throw away" than a Facebook post.

The point on cross-platform duplication is an interesting one... difficult for orgs to work in multiple platforms without duplication, but annoying for very active users in multiple platforms to see the duplication. Will be interesting to see where this evolves to.


Tewks said...

From a technical standpoint it will also be interesting to see how these various forms of linking start to impact search.

I forget the exact stat, but hasn't Facebook approached or even eclipsed Google for searches? I totally agree, w/ facebook in particular the relevance for B2B content may not be there.

I do see however, while one channel may only have a small number of direct "follows" their aggregate reach can be greatly extended by search effect.

- Tewks

Drew Hawkins said...

This sums up nicely what my experience with B2B/Facebook integration has been. My belief is that most B2B people are on Facebook as a digital way to get away from work and connect with friends.

The blog I run for our company (Hinda Incentives) has like button features on each post and email subscription. However, most of our traffic is generated from Twitter.

Tom Scearce said...

This topic has been on my mind too, especially since FB passed 500M users. So I’m glad Steve teed it up as it got me to research the question for myself a bit more.

[BTW, I haven’t settled my opinion of the Like button, specifically. I sense that people are still getting a feel for what it is and how it works, and the latest round of Facebook privacy concerns may also be creating some mouse-finger hesitation. These comments relate to referral traffic from facebook vs. other sources.]

Below are some google analytics data from my blog ( which speaks to these issues, and makes me think Facebook may yet hold value for B2B content marketing.

When I filter my blog's traffic sources to referral traffic only, my top four referrers, by visit count, over the past 6 months are:
1. linkedin
2. twitter
3. facebook
4. - the web site for my consulting practice, which links to my blog

Now, I don't blog as frequently as I should, and I'm sheepish about sharing hard traffic figures, but I will say that “N” values for those 4 sources are statistically significant. After the top four, the numbers (long) tail off quite a bit.

When I compared each referral source by the average time the referred users spent on my blog site vs. the site average, I was presented with the following:

1. linkedin +10.21% (i.e., linkedin traffic spent 10.21% more time on my site than the average of all other referred traffic)

2. twitter -38.73% (this support’s Kathleen’s comment about the low engagement level of the twitter crowd)

3. facebook +111.91% (very interesting but not surprising when I think about it. My FB friends seem to care about my stuff a lot more. This stands to reason because most of them actually know me, even though FB might be the only “contact” we’ve had in 10 or 20 years)

4. +8.85 (interesting how these users, having already gotten the gist of what I do on my web site, seem only marginally more interested than the average joe/jane in reading my blog posts)

From this data I conclude (for now at least), that facebook visitors have potential value to me as a B2B marketer, if I’m careful about how I interact with them. Sure, the stats above could just be a function of my FB friends being curious enough to read my blog longer than those who don’t know me from Adam. But whatever the reason, it’s a good foundation to build on, because engagement is valued currency in a disengaged world. Similar to cash in the world of money, if you don’t have TONS of it engagement, there are practical limits to how much it can be leveraged for predictable and high returns. But, like cash, engagement can also be hard to come by (as many small business owners or content marketers will attest) and it’s always better to have it than to not.

Steven Woods said...

those are very interesting stats. I have not done that depth of analysis, but anecdotally, I suspect that our experiences are the same.

It is interesting to extrapolate what that means though, in terms of the split purposes of content. One, is new discovery - people finding your ideas for the first time. The other though, is maintaining those "loose" relationships - people you don't see that regularly, but who you would ideally want to keep in touch with.

Perhaps we're oversimplifying by trying to merge both analyses into one.

Kurt Gielen said...

Great article and very insightful comments. As a marketeer fiddling around with Twitter and Facebook I came to the same conclusion that Twitter is easier and thinner than FB.
What that lead to is that I'm going to challenge everybody in our marketing dept. to change what we do in such a way that people will become fans of us on Facebook. That means being more remarkable, delivering more highly relevant content and work those relationships. It's hard work, but looking at Tom's statistics, definitely worth the effort!