Facebook Likes vs. Followers, What’s More Important?

UPDATE: In January 2021, Facebook announced they will be discontinuing the Like button in favour of the Follow button. Going forward people will only have the choice to Follow or not. This is a good thing! No more confusing follows and likes.
Remember how I’m always telling you to use customer questions as a blog topic? Just yesterday a follower sent me this question “On Facebook, Like vs. Followers, what’s more important?” My response was long enough for a blog post, so why waste it! Thanks to Alex for sending me this question.

What’s the Difference Between Likes and Follows?

Before we can discuss which number is more important, you need to understand Likes vs. Followers.
  • A Like is a person who has chosen to attach their name to your Page as a fan.
  • A follower is a person who has chosen to receive the updates that you post in their news feed (subject to the Facebook algorithm of course).
The two are independent. A liker/fan can choose to unfollow, i.e. Your mom could like your Page just because it’s your Page, but choose to unfollow because she doesn’t really care about what you’re posting. Similarly, someone could choose to follow the page and get the posts because they want the content, but for whatever reason they do not want their name associated publicly with the Page.
The default when one Likes a new Page includes following. It is a choice to unfollow and/or follow without Liking.
screenshot likes vs followers button
As well, there are levels to the following: See first, default and notifications. See first puts anything that Page posts on top of your newsfeed. Default is “normal”. And then in the notifications, one could actually choose to get a notification every time the Page posts.

Likes vs. Followers, Which is More Important?

Neither really. What is important when looking at Likes vs. Followers is twofold:
  1. The numbers increase over time, not decrease;
  2. The gap between Likes and Followers does not increase over time.

In general, you want your fan base to grow over time and you want those people to continue to follow you. If the gap between the numbers is growing, you’re losing people and that’s not good in any scenario.

I guess if I had to choose, I’d say followers are more important because they at least have the potential to see your content, where as those who have chosen to unfollow have decidedly chosen NOT to.

So, What Is Important?

The most important is engagement. The rate at which your audience is engaging with your content. It doesn’t matter if you have 100,000 Likes or Followers if they aren’t actually reading, engaging with and remembering your content.
Post Level Engagement Rate = Number of Engagements / Reach
(or, the number of actions taken on your post divided by the number of people who saw it.)
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Agree? Disagree? What is the most important number for you to know when looking at your Facebook metrics? Let me know in the comments.
Related

71 thoughts on “Facebook Likes vs. Followers, What’s More Important?”

    • Hi Darryl,

      Happy to have helped out! Engagement refers to the activity of your followers on the page (or anyone who sees a post, really). If they like the post, or comment, or share, that’s “engagement”. If you put out content that gets a lot of that activity your content is “engaging”. When tracking measurement you want to see the numbers improving, not declining…although picking a specific number isn’t necessary. You’re not aiming for, say, 10% engagement rate, but rather to have an engagement rate that is continually improving. Hope that helps!

      Reply
      • Hello Anita,

        You said the engagement rate is the most important KPI, but how I want to calculate the over all engagement rate on my Facebook Page?

        I should calculate the rate for each post individually and then the average of all?

        Reply
        • To calculate your overall page engagement rate, you would simply need the number of actions taken by your fans (likes, clicks, shares) divided by the number of fans you have on the page. You’ll have to decide two things: will you use fans or followers, and for what time period will you make the calculation. Hope that helps!

          Reply
    • I am not looking for popularity and never was. I want to express myself just very curious as I started out with nearly five million and loved the support but never asked for it. You didn’t answer my question but forget it. Thank you for considering answering me. Wish you well.

      Reply
  1. So, if you look at a Facebook Page and see that 643 people like the Page, and 639 people follow the Page, it doesn’t mean the Page has 1,282 total people interested in the Page, correct? If you’re telling someone how many “followers” you have, you would just use the higher of the two numbers, 643. Is that right?

    Reply
  2. Thanks for your post. So, it confirms what I believe. No matter how many likers and followers there are, they need to be actively engaging with me. A reach of 250 and an engagement of 52 as a percentages is 20% which is 1 in 5. I should be really with that, right?
    What about those social media experts who say that we should take the total number of followers and then look for 1% of those engaging as a minimum to be on track? How much truth is there to that? Anything above that would be good.
    My feeling is that there are still many skeletons in my following from many years and lots are just to lazy to sign off, so it artificially boosts my numbers. I’ve sort of given up on paying attention to total numbers although Facebook sees it a sign that people love your page. To me engagement is all. Any feedback welcome. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Yes, I’d say you should be happy with that if it’s happening on a regular basis! I’m not personally big on specific percentages…it’s so dependent on industry and niche and the content. I prefer to simply look for my numbers to be going in the right direction. If they’re consistently getting better then I must be doing something right. If they’re getting worse, then something is off. I think that’s more important than trying to reach a specific percentage that someone, somewhere thinks is good. Thanks for stopping by to read and engage!

      Reply
  3. I disagree with your thought about “The gap between Likes and Followers does not increase over time”. In some cases such as ours, the gap does increase due to the fact that we have people that want to see our content and not have other people they communicate with on FB to know. Any “Like” is public knowledge but a follow is not known to the public on FB. So for those unique businesses such as ours, you will see the gap grow over time.

    Reply
    • Yes, there are always exceptions to the rule. I can think of many topics that people may want to follow quietly or unseen. However, it is untrue to say “any like is public knowledge”. It is possible, and actually highly recommended, you make your Likes lists private. This prevents you being “outed” for liking a page. So while most likes are public knowledge, there are ways to prevent that. Thanks for stopping in to read and comment.

      Reply
  4. Your competition will often follow you and not like. Same goes for your own executives, managers, etc. For the accounts I manage, the number of followers that don’t like remain relatively small, but there are always some.

    Reply
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    Reply
  6. Hi, Thank you!!

    I have a question that really confusing me.
    I do have almost 20k followers on my Facebook page, but I have very limited likes on my posts. Usually less then 10.
    I don’t understand where is the problem. Why my posts not reaching to all my followers?
    Thank you!!

    Reply
    • Hi Tatianna, There are a few reasons for this… the big one being that Facebook simply doesn’t show your content to everyone, even if they’ve chosen to follow your page. On a Page where your likes were acquired legitimately (not bought), you can expect about 1-4 % of your fans to see a post. On 20K fans that would be 200-500 people seeing a post. And then the percentage of those who see it that will click like or leave a comment is even smaller. If you bought your fans these numbers would be even smaller as the accounts won’t be real and won’t engage. The longer you go with less engagement, the less engagement you will receive and the fewer people will see your content, and it becomes a never-ending downward spiral. The only solutions are to create really engaging content and/or to pay to advertise your best content to get more engagement.

      Reply
  7. Thank you for sharing this.
    I have one very confusing question, the page shows I have 400 likes, and 420 followers, but when I enter the [setting page]-[people and other pages]. I got a list of people who likes my page with 400 people, but if I check people who follow my page, just 20 people, but why my page shows I have 420 followers, why the list only has 20 people. This is really confusing.

    Reply
    • Hi Pat, Basically the 20 is part of the 420. You have 20 people who are following ONLY and have not Liked the Page. They want to get updates but don’t want to be used for advertising, or don’t wan your page listed on their profile. In insights it just splits them out differently. Hope that makes sense?

      Reply
  8. This blog has been REALLY helpful. THANKS!

    Is it possible to determine who is only following and who is only liking?
    Or alternatively who is doing both.

    We have a group attached to our page and I’m trying to figure out the difference between the number of group members, and the number of followers/likes on our page. To check that the balance of group members doesn’t outweigh the number of Followers/Likes to our page.

    OR, do I assume that as our group has 1038 members, and our page has 719 Followers and 669 likes, that our group has more people interested in it?

    Reply
    • Hi Nicole, glad you found it helpful. It is not easy to determine who is following vs. liking. If you go to your Page Settings, and look under the People and Other Pages section you will be able to get a list of followers, or a list of likers, but you can’t download them to compare. So, the information is kind of there, but not in any useful way unless you want to write them all down and compare the two lists.

      Group members can be totally separate from your page likes/follows. You could find that all 1038 members do not also like/follow your page. Some people like groups and some do not. I would be less concerned about ensuring all members like the page or vice versa and focus on providing good content on the page that attracts the right people, and further directing the right people to your group where you’re concentrating on creating great conversations.

      Thanks for the question, it was a good one and made me stop and think a bit 🙂

      Reply
  9. Thank you!
    Could I please ask a couple more questions?
    I think above I read that it wasn’t correct to combine your likes and followers, but rather use one or the other to gauge your engagement is that correct?
    And with regards to the group we have, do I consider that as another audience and therefore when I post, I should be posting into both the group and the page?

    Reply
  10. Thank you for this post. It is the best explanation I have read in a while in seeking answers to questions about Facebook, including the help page for Facebook. The fog has dissipated except for one question: Is a Facebook Ad the only way to reach all my followers? There are 7K plus followers and the average reach at best is only 250 – 300 on some content. We are planning a big initiative in 2021 and would like to reach all our followers, just so they know what’s happening. Is this not possible?

    Reply
    • Hi Evonney, I’m so glad you found this helpful! There is no way to absolutely guarantee you reach all of your followers…not even with an ad. Ads directed to your followers will definitely help, but there are no full coverage options. I would start with ads and look into Facebook Messenger Ads, too!

      Reply
  11. Hi! Just a question about that engagement rate equation.

    In the blog post you had Reach divided by Number of actions on the post but in one of the comments you had said “To calculate your overall page engagement rate, you would simply need the number of actions taken by your fans (likes, clicks, shares) divided by the number of fans you have on the page”

    I’m a bit confused as per which is the numerator and which is the denominator here. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Oh my goodnes…yes, you’re right, I did say that backwards in the comment! Your Page Engagement rate would be the total reached (or fans available, depending on what metric you want) divided by actions. Thanks for pointing that out.

      Reply
  12. This means it is the following which is a practical gauge to see FB Page health! Thank you for this awesome post. It was quite helpful as I have begun FB ads.

    Reply
  13. Anita, thanks for this helpful explanation. I have a question, if I might. When I look at our main (home) page in admin view, I see a number of Followers displayed (twice, actually) in boxes in the right-hand column. These numbers agree with each other. But if I go to Insights and choose to view the data on Followers, I see a different number that is about 3% lower. This unexplained gap is persistent, so I don’t it can be explained by data latency. Why are these two numbers different, and which one represents the “real” number of Followers? Thanks in advance for your insight.

    Reply
    • Hi Andy, I think if you look again you’ll see the two numbers are intended to be slightly different. One is Likes and the other Followers. Previously people could choose to Like your Page and, by default, would also be following it (meaning they would see your posts in their newsfeed, subject to the algorithm, etc). Recently, Facebook started testing only having a following button on Pages, so some people are seeing growth in their Followers, but it’s not affecting their Page Likes. I suspect you are a Page that has only a follow button, perhaps. If not, then the 3% difference would simply be the number of people who have Liked your Page but chose to unfollow it. If the numbers are different between your Insights and what’s displayed on the front of the Page, I would say that’s a glitch. Hope that helps.

      Reply
    • I prefer follows becuase that’s indicating to Facebook they want to see my content. A Like isn’t as strong as a Follow. And a Like doesn’t always include a Follow…so I guess, if forced to choose, I’d choose Follows.

      Reply
  14. Thank yu for the article. A quick question, what if both the numbers followeres and likes increases, but the gap between the two are alosincreasing?

    can i read that peaple just follow my page to get my content, they do not want to associate their name with mine?

    Reply
  15. Hi Everyone,
    Thanks for this blog post.
    I do not think it is mentioned how to check the “engarement rate” of a given FB page.
    You can do that by going to your fan page and:
    1) Insights
    2) Click to see all your post displayed
    3) Click on the small arrrow on top of the table head (right side)
    4_ Click on “engagement rate” from the drop down menu.

    Now you can see which type of posts you should focus your efforts on.

    Reply
  16. Hi Anita: I read the entire comment thread and really appreciate your information. One question I had, which caused your blog to pop up, is the difference between followers and members (if you make membership open to all). Is there a benefit to having one over the other? I’m asking for a site that is an environmental non-profit. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Connie,
      Members are part of a Facebook Group. Followers can either be following your personal profile or your business page. Your strategy for engaging & promoting would be very different depending on whether you’re using a group or a Page. Neither is better than the other, it all comes down to how you want to engage with your ideal audience.

      Reply
  17. Anita thank you so much for these deep explanations:
    please I want to ask further, since I created my page(about 300+ likes and 300+ follows) I have not seen any follower bearing wether top fan or any badge; is it Facebook that gives the badge at their own time or the page admins? The secondly from your explanations on Likes Vs followers it appears that it’s only those members that liked the page can receive the badge right?

    Reply
  18. Dear colleagues and friends,
    Can I emerge like and follow of my Facebook in one, if someone like and it must be the followers as?? To prevent someone to to live without following. Thanks
    Abasy

    Reply
  19. Thank you for the clear content. A basic level query : If increase in followers that will lead the increases in likes /engagements . Simple questions kindly explain it.

    Reply
  20. I personally , think followers are more cost effective when advertising. If you have a new product you want to sell, this will automatically appear in their feed. It may catch their eye and great news, you have a sale that costs you nothing.
    You wouldn’t necessarily get that with someone just liking your page.
    This would also work with paid ads too. You don’t have to spend as much trying to get in front of an audience who don’t already know you, if the audience you have is getting larger, then in theory, spend comes down.

    Reply
  21. Hey Anita! Great post. Quick question. I hope you can enlighten me.

    My page has around 400+ likes, when I checked insights I apparently have 0 followers Would this be the cause why my engagement rate is so low? Most of the time only 5 people sees my posts… I was trying to figure out why and saw that I had no followers! could this be the reason?

    I have this sinking feeling that not all people knows that they should also click follow aside from like. Any tips (aside from great content) to help get my engagements up?

    Reply
  22. HI Anita,
    I was wondering if you knew how to access historical data for a facebook page’s followers.
    Through the analytics tab I am unable to download a spreadsheet for each month (or date range I select) and see my total page like for the final day of the month.
    Is there a way I can see my Followers at the end of a month historically?
    Thanks,
    Ella

    Reply
    • Hi Ella,

      There are several places to get your analytics, so I’m not sure if this is what you mean, but have you looked at the Insights tab on your Page? This will only go back so far, however and I don’t think it’s downloadable in the format you’re looking for. To get that kind of downloadable report you’re likely going to have to invest in a program like Hootsuite, Agorapulse or a specific social media reporting program.

      Reply
  23. Thank you for a short, crisp and insightful blog post on Facebook page Likes versus Followers. I agree with you that followers seem to be more important in more cases as branding is more about being visible at regular intervals. However, your definition of Engagement rate has confused me.

    Reply
    • It depends on what engagement rate you want to figure out as they have different formulas…but it’s always basically interactions/audience. For a single post that would be interactions/reach. For your page engagement rate it’s interactions/followers.

      Reply

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