The New Facebook Insights — One More Analyst's Take
Facebook released its latest version of Facebook Insights last week, and that’s kicked off a slew of chatter and posts about the newly available metrics. Count this as another one of those. It’s partly an effort to visually represent the new metrics (which highlights some of the subtleties that are a little unpleasant, although, in the end, not a big deal), and it’s partly an effort to push back against the holy-shit-Facebook-has-new-metrics-so-I’m-going-to-combine-the-new-ones-and-say-we’ve-now-achieved-measurement-nirvana-without-putting-some-rigorous-thought-into-it posts (not linked to here, because I don’t really want to pick a fight).
Basically…We’re Moving in a Good Direction!
At the core of the release is a shift away from “Likes” and “Impressions” and more to “exposed and engaged people.” There are now a slew of metrics available at both the page level and the individual post level that are “unique people” counts. That…is very fine indeed! It’s progress!
Visually Explaining the New Metrics
As I sifted through the new Facebook Page Insights product guide (kudos to Facebook for upping the quality of their documentation over the past year!) with some co-workers, it occurred to me that a visual representation of some of the new terms might be useful. I settled on a Venn diagram format, with one diagram for the main page-level metrics and one for the main post-level metrics.
Starting with page-level metrics:
Defining the different metrics — heavily cribbed from the Facebook documentation:
- Page Likes — The number of unique people who have liked the page; this metric is publicly available (and always has been) on any brand’s Facebook page.
- Total Reach — The number of unique people who have seen any content associated with a brand’s page. They don’t have to like the page for this, as they can see content from the page show up in their ticker or feed because one of their friends “talked about it” (see below).
- People Talking About This — The number of unique people who have created a story about a page. Creating a story includes any action that generates a News Feed or Ticker post (i.e. shares, comments, Likes, answered questions, tagged the page in a post/photo/video). This number is publicly available (it’s the “unique people who have talked about this page in the last 7 days”) on any brand’s Facebook page.
- Consumers — The number of unique people who clicked on any of your content without generating a story.
A couple of things to note here that are a little odd (and likely to be largely inconsequential), but which are based on a strict reading of the Facebook documentation:
- A person can be counted in the Total Reach metric without being counted in the Page Likes metric (this one isn’t actually odd — it’s just important to recognize)
- A person can be counted as Talking About This without being included in the Reach metric. As I understand it, if I tag a page in a status update or photo, I will be counted as “talking about” the page, and I can do that without being a fan of the page and without having been reached by any of the page’s content. In practice, this is probably pretty rare (or rare enough that it’s noise).
- Consumers can also be counted as People Talking About This (the documentation is a little murky on this, but I’ve read it a dozen times: “The number of people who clicked on any of your content without generating a story.” Someone could certainly click on content — view a photo, say — and then move on about their business, which would absolutely make them a Consumer who did not Talk About the page. But, a person could also click on a photo and view it…and then like it (or share it, or comment on the page, etc.), in which case it appears they would be both a Consumer and a Person Talking About This.
- A person cannot be Consumer without also being Reached…but they can be a Consumer without being a Page Like.
Okay, so that’s page-level metrics. Let’s look at a similar diagram for post-level metrics:
It’s a little simpler, because there isn’t the “overall Likes” concept (well…there is…but that’s just a subset of Talking About, so it’s conceptually a very, very different animal than the Page Likes metric).
Let’s run through the definitions:
- Reach — The number of unique people who have seen the post
- Talking About — The number of unique people who have created a story about the post by sharing, commenting, or liking it; this is publicly available for any post, as Facebook now shows total comments, total likes, and total shares for each post, and Talking About is simply the sum of those three numbers
- Engaged Users — The number of unique people who clicked on anything in the post, regardless of whether it was a story-generating click
And, there is a separate metric called Virality which is a simple combination of two of the metrics above:
That’s not a bad metric at all, as it’s a measure of, for all the people who were exposed to the post, what percent of them actively engaged with it to the point that their interaction “generated a story.”
The Reach and Talking About metrics are direct parallels of each other between the page-level metrics and the post-level metrics. However (again, based on a close reading of the limited documentation), Consumers (page-level) and Engaged Users (post-level) are not analogous. At the post-level, Talking About is a subset of Engaged Users. It would have made sense, in my mind, if, at the page-level Talking About was a pure subset of Consumers…but that does not appear to be the case.
KPIs That I Think Will Likely “Matter” for a Brand
There have been several posts that have jumped on the new metrics and proposed that we can now measure “engagement” by dividing People Talking About by Page Likes. The nice thing about that is you can go to all of your competitors’ pages and get a snapshot of that metric, so it’s handy to benchmark against. I don’t think that’s a sufficiently good reason to recommend as an approach (but I’ll get back to it — stick with me to the end of this post!).
Below are what I think are some metrics that should be seriously considered (this is coming out of some internal discussion at my day job, but it isn’t by any means a full, company-approved recommendation at this point).
We’ll start with the easy one:
This is a metric that is directly available from Facebook Insights. It’s a drastic improvement over the old Active Users metric, but, essentially, that’s what it’s replacing. If you want to know how many unique people are receiving any sort of message spawned from your Facebook page, Total Reach is a pretty good crack at it. Oh, and, if you look on page 176 of John Lovett’s Social Media Metrics Secrets book…you’ll see Reach is one of his recommended KPIs for an objective of “gaining exposure” (I don’t quite follow his pseudo-formula for Reach, but maybe he’ll explain it to me one of these days and tell me if I’m putting erroneous words in his mouth by seeing the new Facebook measure as being a good match for his recommended Reach KPI).
Another possible social media objective that John proposes is “fostering dialogue,” and one of his recommended KPIs for that is “Audience Engagement.” Adhering pretty closely to his formula there, we can now get at that measure for a Facebook page:
Now, I’m calling it Page Virality because, if you look up earlier in this post, you’ll see that Facebook has already defined a post-level metric called Virality that is this exact formula using the post-level metrics. The two are tightly, tightly related. If you increase your post Virality starting tomorrow by publishing more “engage-able” posts (posts that people who see it are more like to like, comment, or share), then your Page Virality will increase.
There’s a subtle (but important this time) reason for using Total Reach in the denominator rather than Page Likes. If you have a huge fan base, but you’ve done a poor job of engaging with those fans in the past, your EdgeRank is likely going to be pretty low on new posts in the near term, which means your Reach-to-Likes ratio is going to be low (keep reading…we’ll get to that). To measure the engage-ability of a post, you should only count against the number of people who saw the post (which is why Facebook got the Virality measure right), and the same holds true for the page.
Key Point: Page Virality can be impacted in the short-term; it’s a “speedboat measure” in that it is highly responsive to actions a brand takes with the content they publish
This is all a setup for another measure that I think is likely important (but which doesn’t have a reference in John’s book — it’s a pretty Facebook-centric measure, though, so I’m going to tell myself that’s okay):
I’m not in love with the name for this (feel free to recommend alternatives!). This metric is a measure (or a very, very close approximation — see the messy Venn diagram at the start of this post) of what percent of your “Facebook house list” (the people who like your page) are actually receiving messages from you when you post a status update. If this number is low, you’ve probably been doing a lousy job of providing engaging content in the past, and your EdgeRank is low for new posts.
Key Point: Reach Penetration will change more sluggishly than Page Virality; it’s an “aircraft carrier measure” in that it requires a series of more engaging posts to meaningfully impact it
(I should probably admit here that this is all in theory. It’s going to take some time to really see if things play out this way).
Those are the core metrics I like when it comes to gaining exposure and fostering dialogue. But, there’s one other slick little nuance…
Talking About / Page Likes
Remember Talking About / Page Likes? That’s the metric that is, effectively, publicly available (as a point in time) for any Facebook page. That makes it appealing. Well, two of the metrics I proposed above are, really, just deconstructing that metric:
This is tangentially reminiscent of doing a DuPont Analysis when breaking down a company’s ROE. In theory, two pages could have identical “Talking About / Page Likes” values…with two very fundamentally different drivers going on behind the scenes. One page could be reaching only a small percentage of its total fans (due to poor historical engagement), but has recently started publishing much more engaging content. The other page could have historically engaged pretty well (leading to higher reach penetration), but, of late, has slacked off (low page virality). Cool, huh?
What do you think? Off my rocker, or well-reasoned (if verbose)?