Research conducted by Facebook’s “in-house sociologist” Cameron Marlow last year and presented in May at the International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media offers some interesting findings on what makes the pages of celebrities, bands or movies grow to large numbers in a such a short time period. The findings aren’t just relevant to the next garage band that’s looking to make it big — there’s a lot to be learned by big brands, as well.
Many brands are trying a little bit of everything these days to get more fans or visitors to their Facebook pages. Some of the approaches are new twists on reliable practices; it’s a no-brainer that everyone loves free stuff. Some are embracing newer approaches with viral videos and guerilla marketing. The one constant is that these brands want to be seen by as many people as possible to up their odds of consumers embracing their respective products.
So how does a page grow, and what influences the rate at which it grows? Should a brand pander to demographics that have been loyal in the past and respond well to their campaigns in other media? Or do brands market to a few key people that they feel are influential in social media and can spread their brand for them (I’m looking at you, Oprah)? The answer seems to be none of the above.
According to the research conducted by Facebook last year, the growth of wildly popular pages was never the result of one single person starting a trend, but rather a page gains followers as “closely connected groups of like-minded people contact one another.”
The findings state, “No single person is accountable for the popularity of a Page; instead, we consistently see that roughly 15% of all fans arrived independently and started their own chains (which merge together as the rest of the fan base takes shape).” That conclusion supports the value of using advertising to seed a Page’s audience.
The one constant throughout all popular pages, whether they have 5,000 or 100,000 fans, seems to be quality of content. Whether it’s a celebrity, band, television show or a major brand, the page must be engaging. There must be something there to make a person want to share that page in his or her Facebook news feed. And if the page is compelling enough, it won’t just appeal to one person or demographic, but will catch the eye of a few different people that share you or your brand as a common interest. And that’s how it all starts.