Facebook Opens Viral Growth Channel for Pages, Delivering Invites to Like as Notifications
Facebook now allows Page administrators to send their friends invites to Like their Page that appear as notifications, opening a new viral channel that could assist Page growth. Because these invites generate Facebook and email notifications, they are much more noticeable and could have a higher conversion rate than the Page suggestions admins could previously send that appeared in the “Recommended Pages” sidebar module that would occasionally appear. However, accepting an invite requires users to click through to a Page.
Admins of new Pages looking to establish an initial fan base should use the new “Invite Friends” link that appears on their Page. Adding a large number of admins that can all use the feature on their own friends could be an effective growth strategy for smaller Pages.
Before we look at specific ways that admins might use this feature, here’s a quick review of how the feature has changed over the years. In 2009, both admins and users could send Page suggestions that appeared in the Requests panel on the home page. In January 2011, Facebook stopped allowing users to send Page suggestions, restricting a core viral growth channel for Pages. Admins could still send suggestions, but users had to send wall posts or messages that required more effort.
By April, Facebook had phased out the Requests panel completely, and started delivering admin-sent Page invites indirectly by occasionally surfacing them in a Recommended Pages sidebar module that would appear in the right sidebar of the site as recipients moved around the site. Users could also answer and manage their Page invites in the rarely visited Page discovery browser.
Using Invites for Page Growth
Now Facebook has switched back to direct delivery of Page invites. Admins now see an “Invite Friends” link in the right-hand admin panel when viewing their own Page. When clicked, admins see a multi-friend selector that allows them to search for friends or sort them by Recent Interactions, network, Group, or friend list. Admins can then select friends and send a batch of invites. There doesn’t appear to be a limit to how many invites can be sent at once. If there is a limit, it is higher than 20, which was once the simultaneous application invite cap.
Selected friends receive these invites as notifications on Facebook that display the name and photo of the friend who sent the invite. Users also receive email notifications of invites if their account notifications settings permit. Users aren’t presented an option to instantly Like the Page, but instead must click through to the Page where they can decide whether to Like it. This conversion process takes more effort on the part of the recipient, which might offset the boost to conversion offered by the higher visibility of direct invites.
Our initial test of the invite system quickly showed a high conversion rate. This is likely because users see the invites as soon as they log on, and the inclusion of the sender’s photo makes the recipient feel that they’ve received a trusted recommendation.
There’s a chance that if admin-sent Page invites delivered through notifications show a high conversion rate but aren’t abused, Facebook could open the viral channel to use by non-admins. However, Facebook has to balance free, viral fan acquisition channels with its paid Page advertising services so that Page owners feel like they’re getting a high return on their Facebook marketing investment. Too much virality pollutes the user experience, but too little can make marketing on the site seem to expensive.
By providing this enhanced viral channel for invites that can help new Pages establish a fan base for free, Facebook can hook admins on using the site for their business. It can then look to sell admins advertising to continue growing their Page once they’ve exhausted the potential for securing Likes from their own friend network.
Update: Facebook is also delivering Page invites through the Recommended Pages sidebar module and the Page Browser’s invite manager in addition to the notifications channel. This means that even if a user initially ignores an invite, it may be shown to them later as they browse Facebook. It will also be available in the invite manager until they accept or delete it.
[Thanks to Eti Suruzon for the tip]
More strategies for gaining fans can be found in the Facebook Marketing Bible, Inside Network’s comprehensive guide to marketing on Facebook.