Are Facebook Fan Pages, 'The Emperor Has No Clothes'?

I'm told daily that its imperative that I set up a fan page on Facebook. Brands of all sizes have done so. Like Twitter, I know the number of one's followers can assist in spreading one's message virally. But isn't a fan page really just a puffed-up outlet for ego gratification and an opportunity to dupe ourselves and the public into believing that we get something out of renting a billboard on Facebook?

Spacey & LettermanSpacey & LettermanThe more I think about this, the more I am reminded of a recent interview David Letterman had with Kevin Spacey. When asked about social networks, Spacey said  that with 800,000 followers on Twitter, he now gets lots of people saying "hi"  to him. Not having to ponder too long on the actor's revelation, Letterman replied that, to achieve the same results, all he needs do is take a walk down the street.

This begs the question: Are 800,000 people really following Spacey, or do millions of fans simply connect on sites like Twitter and Facebook because its the thing to do?  Is this truly a form of engagement for a brand whether its a celebrity, a company's product or an individual?

Yes, I guess if you are a B to C company, and you offer fans discounts, new product launches, contests, sweepstake drawings and entertaining videos, there is something in it for the fan. But do those tactics really engage the customer or do those fans merely seek you out for all the freebies? Take the department chain Sears for an example...

Sears Facebook Fan PageSears Facebook Fan Page
Does their fan page really build brand loyalty? Am I going to remember Sears tomorrow when I'm shopping for an item I can purchase cheaper elsewhere or closer to my home. Most likely not.

As much as Facebook likes the world to believe it has moved beyond its youth oriented roots, according to Quantcast, it estimates over 50% of its demographic remains college students. Since students have low disposable income and usually ignore advertising in favor of communicating with each other, how does a Fan Page benefit a brand or an individual?

If you are contemplating a Fan Page to simply attract the same friends or followers you have on other social networks, aren't all you are doing is just duplicating efforts with existing folks that already know about you. Yes, you have a greater opportunity to post graphics, videos and content detail as to what you're involved in or trying to promote, but how many of your followers really care or more importantly have the amount of time to sit and absorb it all.

Research from Sysomos and TechCrunch demonstrates it's not easy being popular on FB when 77 percent of Facebook Fan Pages have under 1000 fans.

Sysomos analyzed 600,000 fan pages on Facebook and came up with the distribution curve in the chart above.  The vast bulk of fan pages have between 10 and 1,000 fans.  Only 4 percent have more than 10,000 fans, and less than 1/20th of a percent have more than a million fans.  It breaks down as follows:
    * 95% of pages have more than 10 fans
    * 65% of pages have more than 100 fans
    * 23% of pages have more than 1,000 fans
    * 4% of pages have more than 10,000 fans
    * 0.76% of pages have more than 100,000 fans
    * 0.047% of pages have more than one million fans (297 in total).

And dissimilar to Twitter, where popularity is correlated with how many times you Tweet, Facebook fan pages tend to their update their status only once every 16 days.  On Twitter, you follow someone because you want to hear what they have to say. On Facebook, you fan them just to show your support. According to TechCrunch, "too often, it’s a throwaway gesture."

A Fan Page also requires lots of updating to keep your individual and/or brand profile intriguing and interesting enough to attract and maintain followers. Similar to Web sites that are not promoted through SEO and other search marketing tactics, a Fan Page that remains static is not going to engage your fans over the long haul.  "If you build it, they will come," does not apply here.  If this is your assumption, visitations to your site will show less and less activity over time.

So the question still remains, are Facebook Fan Pages actually a case of the emperor has no clothes? Do we follow trends just because social media groupthink tells us to do so? Or should we report Facebook to the authorities for indecent exposure? Your thoughts and feedback would be greatly appreciated on this topic... particularly if you think you're exceedingly popular or just like parading around au natural!

Indecent ExposureIndecent Exposure
Dec 12, 2009
by Anonymous

It Follows that...

To have a fan page be even remotely effective, you must first have, fans. Of course, the word fan is short for fanatic, so, adjust your expectations accordingly. I'm wondering if the numbers would be different if you were allowed to have more than 5000 'friends' on Facebook....

Dec 13, 2009
by Anonymous

natural communication and interaction...

good or bad pro or con, it seems everyone is currently asking for a definitive answer. if you have a mailing list or network of friends,clients or consumers a percentage will be online.

so if people that you or your business know are online, facebook is merely another method to keep contact and communicate with them.

community is important whether 3 people or global, within community we create, communicate and refer each other with regard to what we are doing, using and experiencing.

can facebook like the original telephone be seen as a method to communicate with more ease. time and time again we need to remember that social media has differnet criteria for all users as axel stated above. one of the major uses within facebook is messaging where members use this method rather than email fan pages can integrate and use this as a positive.

whether kevin spacey or stephen fry have 1 friend or 5 billion is irelevent, both figures can make the using a social media a postive experience. this is due to the contacts/network we all have and can bring to those we meet. facebook like email in the next few years may be passed by another technology but in the meantime using such a media platform can be positive....

Dec 13, 2009
by Anonymous

accepting evolution in the marketplace and 1 is never enough

I think the first two paragraphs are somewhat one-sided. It seems to me that only one side of the topic is being presented. It could well be taken from the pov of an author who is content with a static and locked in place marketing position. This article reminds me of Bill Gates' quote about how 640k of memory should be enough for anyone. But I think Ron C. is just being provocative here. I'll bite. He got me thinking and now responding.

Some of the article I agree with, for example, not updating and maintaining a web site, a blog or an FB fan page, pretty much removes any advantage. Yes college students are generally poor customers. Yes, FB is still a place where young fans congregate. But a few years ago FB was ALL young. That has HUGELY changed in just a few years.

I think the big point is that change still happens. Do we still listen just to radio, ignoring the TV? Do we just watch B&W TV forsaking the color? Do we ignore HDTV on a wide screen, preferring instead to watch our old 15-incher with the rabbit ears? Yes some do just that. But MOST people have evolved and embraced change, or at least have accepted their relevancy.

Anything in marketing left "in place" and static will fade away and not do anything to benefit the owner. I think the danger in just about anything is the temptation to put up version one and "be done" with it. One newspaper ad, one radio ad, one of just about anything will not get you much. One try at an FB page, one blog post, one web page, one email newsletter - all of these will largely net ZERO.

In my opinion, regardless of media or platform, the more you put into something, the more you will get out of it. Good things, like a relationship with a large and active customer base, take time and effort.

Good article and good writing. I disagree on some points, but it made me think and coalesce my own thoughts in this area.
my .02
Jeff Bach

Dec 13, 2009
by Anonymous

ebook is at

the ebook address is wrong in the above post...sorry.

Dec 14, 2009
by Anonymous

Fan is probably the wrong word

For brands looking to get value out of this. I know Starbucks, Coca Cola etc have millions of fans but I don't think, as a consumer, you are ever really a fan or a friend of a brand or business. You can be a fan of a celebrity or a sports team, 100%, and I think you are seeing some success with this type of engagement but not so much for a business. Certainly, you will sign up if you can get good discounts, offers etc but that is different from caring deeply about your Football Team or favourite singer.

Anyway, nice post!

Dec 16, 2009
by Anonymous

First, set your goal - then play the game!

I feel FB Fan pages are a great tool to connect with your fans(customers?) and develop regular conversation with them. It's not justified if you compare the celebrity Fan pages with a brand fan page. The former would always seem bigger and better. If most biz failed to gain momentum, the channel can't be blamed - they should find what went wrong in their communication. First the biz should set their goal from the campaign - it'll then become easier for them to measure the end-result.

A brand might have just 100 fans, but they might call it a success - if revenue these 100 fans help generate is sizable enough. We also shouldn't forget that FB Fan page as a concept has caught on only in the past 2 years - and better one's would start popping up in the near future.

For a brand, social media (as in Facebook & Twitter) present a highly cost effective, and completely measurable channel for marketing and customer relationship.

Cheers :)

Anil Varghese
Follow my tweets: @hotelmarketing5

Dec 20, 2009
by Anonymous

Is it true that a company's SM presence never hurt, no matter ho

Is it true that a company's SM presence never hurt, no matter how badly it is done?

A recent comment to that effect appeared in the discussion section of a LinkedIn group, but I find this difficult to believe.

There are lots of examples of customers getting frustrated with bad shopping carts and switching to a competitor's Web site to purchase a product. That is probably particularly prevalent during the Christmas season when folks are making last minute purchases and don't have time to struggle with time consuming or dead end sites.

Wouldn't the same be true in many SM situations?

For example, you end up in a company SM experience and get frustrated because it is out of date, or not up to the standards you expect. Does that not reflect poorly on the brand? If a competitor then gives you the level or quality of SM experience you're seeking, does that not help their brand and hurt the brand of the company with the poor SM "presence?

I think your post makes more sense.


Feb 7, 2010
by Anonymous


I'm not doing business on any social networking website that has vampire bites and pillow fights. I don't need Mafia Wars to promote my business. I call it MyFace because as far as I'm concerned facebook is just a little better than MySpace which is also not a great place for a business to network.

I applaud anyone who makes those sites work for them. It's just my personal preference. Effective social networking is time consuming. With my schedule I have to choose a few that I want to participate on and stick to those., and are good for my purposes, plus a host of sites where you mostly just bookmark sites to bring in traffic.

May 26, 2011
by Anonymous

Ride the wave

Take all the free advertising you can and run with it! If you are a growing business and you are constantly fighting the issues involved regarding name branding and public opinion and all that comes with running a business, you can't afford not to take advantage of all the free that is out there on the internet. The web is also fast; you want to say something about a new product or service... post and share, baby!

I am reminded of how hard it was 25 years ago to convince people that they needed a website to promote their business. I had car dealers tell me that they didn't want tire kickers finding their website... because you can't sell cars over the phone or online, really? Today, those same dealers, if they are still in business, will tell you that they can't keep enough inventory listed online to keep the customers engaged long enough before they wander off to the competition's website. They know now that the customers do their homework online 24/7 and then choose to visit the best choices on their list of dealers to shop from in person. Same story with apartment shoppers, etc.

Social media is now allowing business to choose the content of their fan pages... I like the sound of business pages better! What used to cost hundreds of dollars in advertising in the local phone book is now almost FREE! Yes, there is the time factor but you can do it yourself if you want and save even more! Personalize the page for the feel you want to present to the public or just change your mind and then change your page... DONE!

Don't even get me started on the changes in desktop publishing over the last 25 years; from Mac SE's and 9" screens and 250 MB hard drives and waxing half tones! Just imagine what I have saved in time alone with all the new technology! You can't afford not to gain the name branding and other benefits that come with the newest tools that we now have and in this economy FREE is not a dirty 4 letter word! Bottom line to me is that if you are so busy with all your customers that you don't have time for social media then hire a new graduate who needs the job... it could be my son or daughter!