This is a question any business owner who tries social media marketing inevitably ends up asking themselves. It’s another way of saying: “What is the time and effort I’m spending really worth?”

The fact that social media is usually all about building relationships and loyalty, rather than instant click-throughs, makes this a difficult one to answer. However, there are a few things you should definitely keep in mind:

A Facebook Fan Is Probably Worth More Than You Think

The average Facebook user has around 300 friends. When you consider that simply following you is a form of endorsement, and one that doesn’t require any active effort, it’s easy to see how valuable a fan can be. Think of it this way: A person who gives you their stamp of approval online is essentially recommending you to hundreds of others.

There Are a Lot of Different Kinds of Fans

Some fans will simply be on your list because they heard of you once and they like to click everything, or because they’re hoping to stay on top of industry news or get access to a coupon code. Other fans are going to be big supporters of your business who interact with you online and tell everyone about the great work you do. That means that, just as in real life, some fans and customers are actually worth a lot more than others. Make sure you’re cultivating those stronger relationships with an ongoing effort.

It’s Up to You to Make Your Facebook Fans Valuable

While you could just sit back and hope you’ll attract those more valuable fans, a better strategy is to always be posting content, advertising specials, and otherwise go out of your way to get people involved. Over time, you might be able to turn some of those lukewarm fans into your most committed supporters.

Unless you’re managing social media marketing for a very, very large organization that can pay for large-scale testing and metrics, you’ll probably never know the exact dollar value of a new Facebook fan. Just remember that their real worth is probably more than you’d guess, and that it’s up to you to maximize the potential of those relationships.