The War for Likes: Advertisers' Facebook Updates Have Only a 23-Hour Lifespan

Last Updated Oct 27, 2011 4:35 PM EDT

The average useful "lifetime" of a Facebook status update posted by an advertiser is just under 23 hours, according to research by PageLever, a social media research agency. Their mayfly nature suggests limits on their usefulness as buzz-building weapons for brands: The more popular Facebook becomes, the more people "friend" each other, the more quickly a status update will be driven downward in a user's News feed -- until it vanishes out of existence.

One solution ad agencies have come up with to combat the trend is the bulk purchase of Likes and Friends, so that advertisers don't have to do all the hard work of actually making relationships with their customers.

PageLever's Jeff Widman says that some updates last as little as 10 hours, especially if they attract few "Likes" from fans, and as such marketers ought to monitor them so they don't leave "dead air" on Facebook. Conversely, he says, updating so often that more than one status update appears in a fan's news feed at one time annoys users, leading them to "un-Like" you.

The 22 hour, 51 minute average "life" of an update implies that most fan pages shouldn't post more than once a day.

"Like" management, believe it or not, is a real issue for marketers. President Obama, for instance, appears to have the whole thing down, whereas Ron Paul still has work to do, according to this review of their campaign Facebook pages.

Most likes -- 38 percent -- are driven by the 18-24 age demo. A further 29 percent come from 13-17-year-olds. That's fine if you're a rock band, but what if you're a household detergent trying to get the attention of moms? Social media marketing firm Vitrue says youngsters' preponderance can actually hurt a social media campaign's value:

Likes generated by broadly targeted campaigns on Facebook could be diluted by an overabundance of responses from teen users.
It's the online equivalent of allowing gangs of teens to hang around in the mall for too long. Sure it looks nice and crowded, but it's deterring older shoppers who actually have money to spend. Most depressingly of all, Widmer notes:
... most status updates receive so few comments that there aren't enough data points to determine whether your fans are choosing not to comment or simply aren't seeing the post in their News Feeds.
That, I suspect, is why there is a number of firms literally selling Facebook Likes en masse to advertisers, such as this one and this one and this one and this one and this one.

Ironically, these mass creators of new fans -- they spam their databases urging fans of similar stuff to Like your stuff -- render the humble Like even less valuable than it was to start with. It's a lesson Newt Gingrich learned the hard way, when he was caught larding his Twitter account with hundreds of thousands of fake followers, purchased by "follow agencies."

Related:

Image: NerdyShirts.