From a marketing perspective, how many metrics would you expect a small, local activities provider with limited resources to be able to beat global mega brand Starbucks on? Not that many, we reckon.

However, on Facebook, that is exactly what’s currently happening – proof positive that smaller businesses and social media are a match made in heaven. Here’s how it works:


Facebook “people talking about”: Fans vs engagement

Over the last couple of weeks, Facebook have been rolling out a new measure,  “People Talking About”,  for business pages. This is displayed publicly for each page, underneath the total Liker count.

We think this measure is a great idea, and really shows how the general understanding of social media is evolving. Rather than just counting “fans”, it is a measure of the level of what marketers call “Engagement” – the extent to which those fans are actually talking to, or about, that brand or business. For a great summary of exactly how the measurement is put together, check out Search Engine Land’s  Demystifying Facebook’s “People Talking About” Metric blog post.

The “engagement” concept  is crucial because while having 10,000 Facebook fans is a lovely ego boost, in actual fact having 150 fans who are talking about a company to their best friends, who rave about it to *their* best friends, is far more effective in terms of actually reaching new customers.

So, back to Starbucks. Earlier this week, Mashable published some statistics about the top brands on Facebook. And then compared those brands when ranked by the “Talking About” figure. We’d rather been hoping someone would, to save us the leg work of putting the data together!

We’ve gone a step further than Mashable and calculated the engagement percentages for each of the megabrands. Here are the results, ranked by those percentages:

So Starbucks, the top performer, is  achieving just under 2% engagement.

Bigger isn’t necessarily better

By comparison, one of our clients in East Anglia has a comparable figure of 2.34% for the last 7 days, just through the use of a simple but highly effective strategy for engaging their customers.

The Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds clocked up 1.28% for last week, still outranking all but one of the big brands.

So, despite their huge numbers of fans (Starbucks is “Liked” by over 25 MILLION people ), and despite the enormous resources some of these brands dedicate to their social media promotions, small local companies have the potential to win out hugely on this channel.

Why? Well, we think it’s a reflection of  the qualitative difference in the relationships consumers have with big brands, versus the relationship they have with their favourite local restaurant or place to go for a day out. The latter is always more personal, and that’s what social media marketing thrives on. So, smaller companies have a natural advantage and a real opportunity to do great things – are you making the most of it?