What's the True Value of a Facebook Fan? (hint: it's not $136.38)

by Devin Sugameli Two Fridays ago, Gigaom published the results of a survey by social media marketing measurement firm Syncapse that attempted to assign a dollar value to Facebook fans of brand pages. According to their report, the average fan is worth about $136.38, though Syncapse acknowledges that this number can fluctuate dramatically depending on the brand. The survey results additionally showed that fans tend to spend an average of $71.84 more than they otherwise would on products and brands of which they are fans, as compared to non fans. Furthermore, Syncapse found that fans are 28% more likely to continue using that brand/product and 41% more likely to recommend a brand/product to their friends than non-fans.

In the metrics-driven new media environment, the question of "how much is a Facebook fan worth?" is one that has caused much stress for marketers seeking a foolproof measurement to back up their work on social media. I give Syncapse credit for attempting to put a number to it. That being said, there's at least one major issue to consider in looking at these results, which I think is best described as the "chicken and the egg" dilemma. Namely, it's impossible to determine how much of a fan's spending habits can be attributed to the brand's Facebook presence as opposed to the fan's own previously established loyalties; do I spend more at Express because I'm a fan or am I a fan of Express because I shop there often?

If I had to answer my own question above, I would truthfully tell you that I became a fan of Express because I already had a loyalty to the brand - and I couldn't say with confidence that I spend anymore on their products now on account of their page (though I'm sure there are those who do). But this shouldn't come as a shock to anyone, because to assign a dollar value to an individual fan is already kind of missing the point. While you can certainly say that social media gives power to the individual, the power of social media itself is in the social graph. It's the power to rally groups of individuals for your cause, whether your cause is to raise money for disaster relief or to sell the heck out of your brand's new signature must-have summer cargo pants. When you build a community of enthusiastic brand evangelists and empower them to spread the word, you are tapping into a resource far more valuable than any individual promoter.

So all of that's nice, but let's be honest: that doesn't translate to anything of value when you're negotiating for an increased social media budget. But fear not! Short of assigning a particular value to an individual fan, the tried and true methods of ROI measurement still work (fan-only coupon code redemptions, tracking all click-throughs from your Facebook fan page to your website, tracking fan activity on your website, number of "shares" of your content, etc.). What I think could be far more useful would be a formula that determines the relative increase in ROI a company can expect as it increases in fans. To be able to determine fan goals based on projected clear, direct impacts on ROI will do a great service to marketers and budgeting folk alike.

Do you see value in assigning dollar amounts to individual fans? Let us know what you think is the most important metric (whether it's currently possible to measure or not) in determining the value or ROI of a brand's social media presence!