Facing up to the Facebook challenge

Despite some brands having millions of Facebook fans, their engagement rates are low in comparison. A new study pinpoints what tactics attract people’s attention, and which ones fail to turn heads. 

Facebook engagement levels among some of the country’s best known brands remain low compared with global industry averages, according to research seen exclusively by Marketing Week.

Content agency Likely’s analysis in the high street fashion, beauty and travel sectors shows that few brands have cracked the right content strategy in order to successfully capture attention from their fans. 

Engagement - the total number of interactions over seven days (or ‘People talking about this’) divided by the total number of fans then multiplied by 100 - is 4.1 per cent for clothing globally, but the majority of the fashion retailers in the research fall below this.

Out of the 10 companies analysed, H&M has the highest number of fans at more than 15 million, yet its engagement rate is only 1.1 per cent. Topshop has 3.4 million fans but only 1.2 per cent are engaged with the brand, according to the research, which was carried in June.

“If you look at the page engagement rates, they’re relatively low,” says Daniel Shore, chief executive of Likely. “It just shows there’s a lot of work to be done. All of these companies can improve the marketing they do.”

He suggests the reason for this might be because people like a lot of pages, since fashion is a popular topic, but they do not always engage with pages regularly.

“It might be a combination of people liking fashion, but not necessarily having a strong preference for one high street shop over another, as well as the content being quite similar across brand’s pages,” says Shore.

Only the two brands with the smallest number of fans score above average for engagement. Primark has around 750,000 fans and an engagement rate of 9.3 per cent and Miss Selfridge has 215,000 fans and a rate of 5.5 per cent.

Showing whole outfits, new items and ‘top picks’ on a fashion brand’s Facebook page is likely to do well, according to the research. Primark’s page shows what is available in store and relates it to the weather and events such as festivals. The style of its posts - using hand drawn illustrations - makes it easily recognisable in users’ news feeds.

Mango has almost 6 million fans around the world and an engagement rate of 2 per cent. Shore says that the fact that it uses multiple languages for one post helps its engagement rate, as do click- to-buy links.

Dorothy Perkins has nearly a million fans and a rate of 1.5 per cent. It is able to position itself as more of an authority on fashion because its content has a wide and varied scope - its blog, for example, talks about fashion in general rather than simply plugging its own products. It also shows users its current stock and links to its online shop.


Laterooms uses humour in its posts as a differentiator: copy accompanying this ad read ‘Where even having an argument with your partner can’t ruin the moment’

“If you continually post product shots, people get bored,” explains Shore. “But it’s also what people expect to see. There’s the opportunity to add in other interests as well, things that interest and excite people, based on ‘Passion Points’.” Passion Points are the interests that Facebook fans have more generally. So, for example, a fifth of 16- to 30-year olds like to read about clubbing and they make up a key audience for fashion retailers.

They are also three times more likely to follow celebrities than the rest of the female audience in the UK and are 14 times more likely to follow teen advice pages.

“People who shop at Dorothy Perkins for example, may have a great fondness [for content about] safaris. Popping that into the content stream as well gives people an additional reason for coming back to your page and engaging with your brand,” explains Shore.

New Look is the lowest performing brand from the 10 analysed, with more than 2 million fans and an engagement rate of 0.4 per cent. The research suggests that the way it presents products has contributed to this - a pair of shoes, for example, is shown in close up but the whole product does not feature. Its status updates directly encourage interaction from fans, but posts that would appear in their news feed looked plain.

“If you want to get ahead of the pack, you need to start having a broader approach to your content marketing,” says Shore. “That’s going to grow your relevance and resonance, which when you boil it down equals more clicks, which gives more signal to Edgerank (Facebook’s news feed algorithm), which gives more consumers the opportunity to be aware of and develop a love for your brand.”

Beauty brands do not fare much better than fashion labels in how engaged Facebook fans are, according to the research. The average engagement rate across health and beauty brands globally is 4.3 per cent. Among the 10 brands monitored, only skincare brand Olay’s page (5.5 per cent of its 1.8 million fans engaged) exceeds this.

Like Dorothy Perkins, Olay has a wider scope than purely product-based posts, focusing on the audience’s interests outside of the brand. Humour is used to highlight Olay products in an alternative way, tapping into the online meme trend, which has strong relevance on Facebook.

“Olay stands out – its been a bit quirky. The posts seen are based on lifestyle as well [as the product],” explains Shore. “It’s no coincidence that Olay has content that is based on other Passion Points relevant to its target group. The one brand that does that has five times the engagement rate [of some of the other brands].”

Other top performing content includes make-up tips and promotions of new and popular products, which No. 7 focuses on, as well as forthcoming events. Estee Lauder UK asks fans open-ended questions to try to generate discussion, saying ’We love this… How about you?’, and answers fans’ queries thereby showing that it cares about its audience.

Brands should make sure they post several times a day to keep fans interested and returning for more. Nivea UK has nearly 600,000 fans but only 0.3 per cent of them are engaged with the brand. During the survey, it only updated its Facebook content five times and posted the same content about a competition twice. Although Neutrogena has 1.4 million fans, long status updates contribute to a low engagement rate of 0.3 per cent.

Again, an all-encompassing view of beauty and health can encourage fans to read more posts as well as commenting themselves. Those that follow beauty brands also follow pages from Special K and Flora Hearts as well as department stores such as John Lewis. These make up ‘affinity pages’, those that have high numbers of the same people interacting with content.

In the travel sector, the number of Facebook fans are generally much smaller than for fashion or beauty, however the overall engagement rates tend to be higher. The average global travel and leisure engagement rate is 4.8 per cent - but Thomas Cook, Thomson Holidays and TravelZoo.co.uk beat this with 6, 5 and 12.2 per cent respectively.The brand with the highest rate is LateRooms.com with 15.1 per cent, although it has fewer fans than most of the brands with 83,612, compared with Thomson Holidays’ 408,196.

Pictures of beautiful beaches get the most clicks, but LateRooms has also used humour to get people to interact with its content as well as pictures of places that look unusual. Clear and simple posts do best - Hotels.com UK had a montage of scenes that may have been too complex for people to click on, contributing to its low engagement rate of 1.2 per cent among its 390,000 fans.

It is often said that marketers can get obsessed with the number of Facebook ‘likes’, however having engaged fans can be of far greater value. Nine out of 10 people would recommend a brand to a friend after interacting with it on social media according to an IAB study earlier this month - so clicks can mean prizes for brands.


Content agency Likely analysed the Facebook pages of almost 45,000 brands globally to determine how engaging they are, what drives engagement and which pages have high affinities with each other - which means that the same people interact on both pages. 

The higher the engagement rate, the more people are enjoying the page’s content and are creating stories on Facebook, which means their friends are more likely to discover the page. Facebook’s news feed algorithm  Edgerank increases for pages with high engagement, meaning content posted is more likely to appear in people’s news feeds.

The engagement rate for a Facebook page is expressed as a percentage and is calculated by the total number of interactions (or ‘People talking about this’) divided by the fan count during a seven-day period, multipled by 100. In the report, all engagement data refers to the week ending 22 June 2013. Interactions can include tagging the page in a photo, a check in or sharing deals. 

For example, if the number of interactions is 1,000 over a week and the fan count is 10,000, the engagement rate is 10 per cent.

Marketers’ response


Susan Helstab
Executive vice-president of marketing, Four Seasons

What you’re trying to do is create dreams for people or allow them to create their own dreams. Paint a picture for me, tell me a story, allow me to dream about what that next vacation is going to be, or if I’ve already decided, help me share some of those images and stories with my friends.

As our Facebook presence is property specific, many fans are local and you have to recognise the content that is going to be most relevant for them. Bringing to life your chef, sommelier or spa therapist is more important than the concierge to local fans.

The notion of ‘The World of Four Seasons’ is important. That speaks to breadth, but also a point of view. That’s a big part of what people are buying into. It speaks for me, I can trust it and I want to engage with it.


Rich Kemp
Social media manager, LateRooms.com

We know that users come to social networks to be social and we want to add to that experience, to create content that’s 100 per cent suited to the social environment and to the mindset of users while they’re in social spaces.

We’re interested in the direct relationship with our Facebook fan base, but the relationship we’re really after is with friends of our fans. We get that by creating cool stuff that people want to share.

Our brand is an ideal match for social media. We take aspects of our brand personality and exaggerate them further. It’s that delivery and tone that can really stand you apart and create the engagement that is so key.

Our average Facebook fan is likely to be a fan of other competitive and non-competitive brands too. We’re competing with these brands for attention in their news feed. When we’re looking for inspiration and at who we need to beat, it’s these brands that we look at. No matter the industry, the rules for engagement are more or less the same.

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