Social media marketers often say that content is king. While content is seen as the driving force behind social media efforts and KPIs of social are often linked to how well content performs, we need to take a step further in understanding the behaviour of a brand’s social media community.

People are the driving force behind content engagement, organic reach, relevance scores and the success or failure of any social campaign. Plenty of resources are spent in growing social media communities, but very little is talked about the retention of these communities. Even further, community loyalty and retention are not given the proper importance when it comes to social media management priorities, mostly because there is a lack of research and frameworks around these topics.

When I say social media communities, I am referring to the fans and followers of a brand, particularly those who have liked a fan page on Facebook because they:

  1. Were persuaded by a social campaign to like/follow the brand on social media
  2. Already are a brand’s consumer
  3. Are interested in the brand but have not become a customer yet or
  4. See the brand as aspiring and would like to become customers eventually

Amongst these four cohorts of fans, we can see how each group represents a potential client or repeat customer – someone who is just learning about a new product, someone who is thinking about purchasing a product, someone who has purchased the product or someone who loves the brand and aspires to become a customer.

When looking at social media communities, they can comprise similar groups of potential customers that are present in a classic marketing funnel. Yet, classifying and understanding the sub-groups of social media communities are rarely a priority and very little intelligence is taken from understanding their behaviour.

Looking closely at what social media communities are, we can see how much information is being neglected due to a focus on measurement in digital marketing which prioritises quantitative data. But the reality is, social media communities are a gold mine for information that can greatly contribute to a company’s marketing and product development strategies.

Focus On People Just As Much As On Numbers

Community growth is often a priority for social media managers and a metric that tops KPIs for social media performance. When social media managers deliver online activity reports, metrics are often focused on content engagement rates, reach rates and return on ad spend, amongst other numerical KPIs for social media.

What most social media strategies lack is a deep understanding of the people who are part of their fan base or social media communities.

Most content strategies focus on developing content that engages the general fan base, because they are approached as homogenous groups of people. However, rather than looking strictly at fan base growth and generalist content made only to win in popularity, loyalty and retention require a deeper and more descriptive analysis to be efficient.

From Acquisition To Retention:

Customer retention is a high priority for sales professionals. These professionals know that the cost associated with acquiring a new customer can be five times higher than retaining an existing customer. If we follow this principle and apply it to social media, then we can understand that fan/follower retention should be a top concern for social media managers.

Managers generally measure the cost of acquisition and the lifetime value of new customers, however, very little value is placed on the measurement of new fans and their lifetime value. This is linked to the difficulty in allocating monetary value to a fan and mapping their journey from fan to customer.

The discussions around fan value have drifted in the past few years as Facebook focused its efforts on valuing engagement for social content. Engagement is a very important metric, as it shows what types of content trigger fans/followers reactions, and can in turn increase organic reach (which saves marketers money in the long term).

Improving Community Loyalty And Retention

Commercial teams know the value and importance of retaining customers. Consequently, social media managers need to approach fan retention as an important measure that contributes to their Customer Lifetime Value. After all, social media contributes to all of the marketing funnel stages, from awareness to retention and brand advocacy.

If we approach social media loyalty and retention as part of the Customer Lifetime Value, then these metrics become an important part of the sales cycle which will impact customer retention.

In order to improve loyalty and retain fans/followers, it is crucial that social media communities are not looked at as homogenous groups. The first step to craft appropriate loyalty and retention tactics is to segment your fan base and look at each segment carefully, in order to pull relevant data in regards to behaviour, likeness, common interests, etc.  The same way an e-commerce manager might segment their customers into groups (perhaps by ticket price, purchase frequency, etc.), to establish how profitable different types of shoppers are, social media fans should also be segmented.

Segmenting Your Fanbase

To make the most out of your fanbase, start by segmenting them into groups that make sense to your brand/company. The cohorts could be based on a series of characteristics:

Fan Acquisition Segmentation:

It is a good point of reference to start by fan type. Divide the fanbase between acquired fans and organic grown fans (for instance, if you ran a fan acquisition campaign in the past four months, segment your audience by acquired via campaign vs organic acquisition).

By looking at paid vs organic fans, you can later analyse engagement rates, to understand if there is a difference in behaviour from one group to another. Comparing the behaviours of these two groups will give you information about whether it is worth acquiring fans through paid campaigns and what distinguishes one group from another (age, gender, interests, etc.) in regards to behaviour.

Engagement Rate Segmentation:

Understanding who engages, with what, and at which frequency can give marketers valuable insights into how well their content strategy works. Usually, engagement is looked at from a “what” point of view (which topics and formats engage the most). However, if we segment highly engaged content alongside the “whom”, then we get a different picture of how efficient the content really is. It puts content into a perspective of – content A engages mostly persona R, but does not engage persona Z at all. Looking at engagement rate segmentation alongside gender/age/acquisition will give marketers a more detailed view of what impact each type of content has on various cohorts.

Gender/Age Segmentation:

For some brands, it will make sense to dive into gender and age segmentations if the business caters to a variety of groups. ASOS, for instance, has products for men and women from the age of 15 upwards. Because they have such a large offering of products, segmenting their fan base by gender and age gives them more insight into the type of content and topics that will work for each group.

For large brands such as ASOS, segmentation will be of great value as they can discover which type of content generates engagement amongst each group. Focusing on engagement as a standalone metric will leave other cohorts of fans without content to engage with, if the brand only focuses on improving engagement rates without considering what works for each cohort.

Region/Country Segmentation:

For global brands or brands that serve more than one country, regional segmentation will be key. This segment is particularly important if there are large amounts of international fans in non-English speaking countries. It is an opportunity to discover if content needs to be created in different languages, or if international agencies need to take hold of fan pages to ensure that all international fans are being addressed.


After managers decide which segmentations make the most sense for their businesses, the next step is to look at engagement rates for each cohort. It is here that managers will find the groups that are being neglected by generalist content. It is here that managers will also find the gaps in their approach to content and begin to address these gaps wisely.

 New FansAge GroupsGenderRegion/Country
Engagement Rates3,75,62.37,60,66,03,55,66,55,7

After deciding which cohorts are relevant to the business, create descriptive data to characterise each segment and give insights beyond numbers. For example, for the Acquired fans cohort, you may notice that engagement rates are lower than average amongst 15-20 years old. Describe the data itself, what it means in context to social media behaviour (Millennials are not using Facebook as often as other age groups, so it might explain the low engagement rates and thus acquiring new fans for this age group may prove useless) and what it means for the brand.

The purpose of community loyalty and retention is that you begin to produce content that is focused on the segments that are important to your business. In turn, marketing managers can draw insights from each cohort, by looking at how they behave and how/with what they engage, and consequently they can better craft content strategies that are tailored to each cohort.

This is an important evolution in social media marketing because, so far, social media managers’ single view of engagement rates values what content gets the most interaction (view of content based on popularity) versus content that is appropriate for each cohort.

Successful content strategies for loyalty and retention are not created based on what people like the most but what is carefully tailored to them.