06/17/2013 05:42 pm ET Updated Aug 17, 2013

Are Brand Facebook Pages Worth Your Like?

Your Facebook 'Like' is worth $174.17. That's the average value social media specialists Syncapse places on each fan of a brand's Facebook page. If you think that's surprising, you're not alone. If you're overjoyed, don't mentally cash a dividend check just yet: That payout doesn't come for free.

The collective value of a brand's Facebook community -- many now consist of tens of millions of consumers -- can vary widely. For Oreo, which has a frequent and low-cost purchase cycle, a fan is worth $75.97; a high-value and infrequently purchased product, such as a BMW, has followers estimated to be worth $1,613,11 each.

At the other end of the scale, European fans of Beyoncé were recently introduced to the Pepsi Like Machine, a custom vending machine which offers free drinks in exchange for a Like. For a few cents, Pepsi acquired fans who are likely to be enthusiastic advocates thanks to a free can of soda. (Think of how many drinks they could have bought for $174).

But on this continuum, an important point is being overlooked: What is the value -- or at least the benefit -- of being a fan? Too many organizations fail to ask what is in the ROI (return on investment) to the consumer for allowing the brand into their personal social community.

To understand what a brand should deliver on social media, it's important to understand why people follow brands to start with. Basic motivations can grouped into four broad categories:

- Information. To be the first to hear relevant news, special offers and events.
- Exclusive access. To feel like part of the company's community. Get a behind the scenes, learn about their culture and inspirations.
- Association. The brands we Like say as much about us as photos we share. When a luxury brand is Liked, consumers indicate that they want to be a part of their world; for more day-to-day brands, the action is more pragmatic or based on an emotional connection to the company.
- Conversation. Positive or negative, consumers want to be listened to. The ability to give public feedback via social platforms can be very powerful for both the consumer and the brand.

Just as we invest time and effort in our social-media personas, brands must also invest time and effort to deliver relationships that balance the equation in the consumer's eyes. Service encompasses many dynamics of this relationship. The brand can (and should) deliver a tangible benefit to the consumer, but it can also provide a broader, more emotive range of services. A successful social presence should reward followers by keeping them informed, giving them exclusive information, providing inspiration or entertainment. Old Spice is the perfect example of how to provide social value to fans. Their content is product inspired but never sales focused, always fresh, diverse and entertaining; fans actually want and look forward to their meticulously planned posts.

Meaningless social niceties ("Like if you had a great weekend"), repurposed ads and one-sided sales pitches (does anyone want to be sold financial services from a brand they follow on Facebook)? offer little to no return on your $174.14.

Remember -- it's all too easy for consumers to get a refund: you just have to click "Unlike."