Since the Advertising Age covered the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute’s analysis of facebook’s ‘talking about’ metric there has been a flurry of internet coverage.
The findings got reduced to a sound bite of “only 1% of facebook fans engage with brands”. Which could easily be misinterpreted. Dr Karen Nelson-Field’s result is actually that around 0.4% (ie less than one percent) of the fans of a brand actually interact with it on facebook in a typical wek.
The interaction is what facebook report as “Talking about’, and includes activity such as to like, comment on or share a Brand Page post (or other content on a page, like photos, videos or albums), post to a Page’s Wall, answer a posted question, liking or sharing a check-in deal, RSVP to an event, mention a Page in a post, phototag a Brand Page…all the activity that facebook measure.
Now 0.4% in a week doesn’t sound so bad. It sounds like it might cumulate to near 25% in a year, but this would be a heroic assumption. In these sorts of social phenomenon we usually see highly skewed distributions. There will be a small percent of fans who do most of the talking every week. So this probably cumulates to something much less than 10% in a year. Karen is investigating.
Is Karen also investigating how the 0.4%/ 10% compare to other media/ situations (not so easy to guage I suppose, but curious whether this is something you are looking into).
We already know that other media show highly skewed usage distributions. For example, most people watch less TV than the average.
See SHARP, B., BEAL, V. & COLLINS, M. “Television: back to the future.” Journal of Advertising Research 49, 2 (2009): 211-219.
Facebook doesn’t make it immediately easy to run this kind of analysis. Their Insights data (for example) will give unique “Story Teller” counts for 1, 7 and 28 day periods only. One can use these calculate the amount of duplication on a weekly or 4-weekly basis, but that doesn’t tell us very much.
Alternatively, one can use the Page data to identify core contributors over a longer period (looking only at a subset of “Stories” — say, for example, Comments, Content Likes and Content Shares.) This gives us some more insight into the effect of Facebook’s editorial algorithms (there’s a fairly constant rate at which the top 10% of commenters create between 35% and 45% of the response to admin posts; no matter what the time period.) This data collection, however, is slightly more complicated to perform.
I’m not sure how much you (or Karen) wants to dive into that, though. “Talking about” is a pretty feckless number; so much has been crammed into it that it says little about the inner workings of a Facebook Page. “Talking about” gives equal weight to new Page Likes, Comments, Posts, Content Likes and Shares. It gives equal weight to shared content that appears in the News Feed, and content that flies past in the Ticker.
In some ways it’s a brave attempt to persuade Page owners to maintain an ongoing interest in their Pages. But at the same time, it strongly rewards paid Facebook campaigns…