“Useful”, because it gives us a simple measure of engagement, taking us beyond a mere count of ‘likes’ (about as useful as ‘hits’ on a website).
The ‘Talking About This’ rate measures “the number of unique people who have created a story about your Page in the last seven days”. By “created a story” Facebook means the user liked a page, posted to a page’s wall, liked, commented, or shared a page’s status update, photo, video, or other content, answered a question posted by a page, RSVPed to an event hosted by the page and so on. In other words, ‘Talking About This’ tallies up those who took an active involvement in your content over a defined time period.
I also say “Intriguing” because, as a metric, ‘Talking About This’ is not as straightforward as it seems. As Beth Kanter asks in Is the New Facebook “People Talking About” Metric Meaningless?. “…are they saying good things about the brand or bad things about the brand? More importantly, is “People Talking About” motivating or encouraging “People To Take Action” or “People to Donate” or ” People to Volunteer” or “People to Call their Legislators” or “People To Stop Drinking Bottled Water”?”
The questions we are asking as part of the Optimiser pilot are, “How does the type and frequency of Facebook posting impact ‘Talking About This’ rates and what about wider organisational and marketing activity?
At first glance, ‘Talking About This’ provides us an indicator of how well we are doing against our peers. The transparency of the metric – it’s available for public view on all pages (just click on a page’s “Likes” tab) – means we can pit ourselves against others in the sector. As a first step to seeking benchmarks in the Optimiser programme we’ve been doing just this.
Let’s look at ‘Talking About This’ rates for the Optimiser participants over the last seven days:
- Talking About This rates (number ‘talking about this’ as a percentage of total likes) ranged from 0 to 35.97%.
- The average is 6.28%.
- Only 6 pages were over 10%
- 9 pages were under 2%
Others have also been doing this. The results of Beth Kanter’s “quick flash poll” of not-for-profits shows that many have a ‘Talking About This’ rate in the region of 1 and 6%.
Blogger Ryan Levitt found “in a fit of boredom” one day last year that the average engagement level for UK brand Facebook pages is 3.6%.
Does this mean that our arts sector is doing particularly well? That if we ourselves check our ‘Talking About This rate’ today and it’s 12% we can pat ourselves on the back? And that if our competitor has a 2% rate tomorrow and we have 7% we can safely say we have a more engaged following?
Not really. The problem with digital metrics that are a ‘snapshot in time’ is the existence of variables. In the case of the ‘Talking About This’ metric there are many.
If we delve a bit further into our Optimiser participants, we find that there are commonalities amongst those who had high ‘Talking About This’ scores (10%-plus) over the last seven days. One or both of the following factors was in play:
- Highly frequent posting (daily or more often) that encouraged regular steady response.
- A major event was on (one had a fundraiser, another a contest final and another was in the lead-up to a big concert) that created a lot of activity on the page.
The cleverest participant was tapping into newsworthy events (including the Olympics) to generate brand-appropriate conversation during a time when not much else was on.
Similarly those who were under 2% were consistently in a ‘downtime’ of activity and had dropped their Facebook activity as a result.
When looking at ‘Talking About This’ rates we have to remember the impact of events and activity, high profile advertising campaigns, audience demographics and whether there has been any Facebook advertising (for obvious reasons TAT rates are always higher during and immediately following an ad campaign).
So, take the comparisons with a grain of salt unless you know you are comparing apples with apples. As with any digital metric, the real value of ‘Talking About This’ comes from tracking your own performance over time and monitoring peaks and dips in results in order to fine-tune activity and improve results.