Oct 22, 2011

Why Facebook's New Metrics are A Big Plus for Brands

With more and more changes being announced by Facebook with what seems like every passing week at the moment, it's easy to get lost trying to keep track of what this all means for your brand's page. In the past, we have seen changes to Facebook Pages come and go - profile layouts, image use, application tab changes - however, never have there been so many significant changes announced in such a short space of time before. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the latest updates announced during and since the f8 conference represent the biggest evolution of Facebook to date. As a result, many page admins, social media agencies and brands are all currently running around trying to find out not only what this all means, but what is coming next. I would suspect there are a large number of brands out there that have spent countless hours and resource creating, tweaking and optimising their brand pages, content and online PR campaigns, only to now be wondering whether the latest changes will see them right back where they started all over again. But then hype has always been a wonderful thing.
The latest changes announced earlier this week come as part of a new update to Facebook's Insight tools for pages and include more than a hint at a shift in emphasis now much more weighted towards content sharing and engagement, as opposed to fan numbers and page 'Likes' - something that we saw a brief insight into with the recent 'view share' function. Surprisingly, up until now there hasn't really been a clear way for brands to see just how far reaching their pages and content are in the way that the latest features allow. If anything, the latest updates actually present brands with a much better measurement of true engagement, something that many page admins have been requesting for a long time. In light of this, below is a quick overview of the latest Facebook Insights changes and the ways in which they represent a step in the right direction for brands and PR agencies alike. 
People Talking About - The new 'People Talking About' feature has been put into place as an additional metric for admins and users to be able to see not just how many people are fans of a brand page, but how much engagement and conversation the page has. By looking at user-initiated activities for a page such as 'Likes', posts, comments, shares, polls, photo-tagging, mentions and check-ins, the 'People Talking About' function creates an overall snapshot for how much interaction and engagement a particular page has. Interestingly, the new feature will not just sit inside Facebook Insights but will be publicly displayed as a number on every brand page, sitting below the total number of fans for all to see. This truly is a fantastic addition for brands to take advantage of and yet another hint towards the importance of creating consistent levels of engagement. Essentially, it leans more towards favouring those pages that strive to create rich and interactive content on their pages that people want to talk about and share, as opposed to those that simply rely on high fan numbers and marketing-esque product posts. It makes it more about conversation and dialogue between fans and brands. In many ways, it is a mark of just how 'social' a brand's page is. As a result, brands will be able to use this metric to not only better measure the engagement of their content, but to use high levels of engagement as a means to attract more fans and increase engagement. For example, if a user lands on a page with a high level of engagement, they would assume that there is a high level of engagement because the content is appealing, because there is conversation and buzz happening around the page. And that is something that previously wasn't nearly as visible.
Friends of Fans - Like its name suggests, 'Friends of Fans' represents the number of friends the fans of your page have. So in essence this creates a 'potential audience' figure for brands as to the total reach that any posts shared by fans could have. This is very similar to tracking @replies and retweets on Twitter, in that brands are able to get a snapshot of just how much word-of-mouth can be achieved via their current fans and followers. In many ways, a six degrees of separation-type measurement of how many people your content could 'socialise-with' through your current audience. Where the 'People Talking About' function represents how 'social' a brand's content is with regards to how many people have engaged and interacted with the content, 'Friends of Fans' is more an indicator of the potential reach of how much a page's content could travel to socialise with an extended audience. Again, another incredibly useful insight for brands to be able to see, enabling page admins to look beyond their fans to examine just how far spread their content and brand messages can go. 
Weekly Total Reach - With 'Friends of Fans' looking at the potential audience, the new 'Weekly Total Reach' metric highlights actual audience, reflecting how many people have posted about your page, mentioned or referenced your page and how much viral activity your posts and pages have had. Where previously locating this level of tracking was not so easy, 'Weekly Total Reach' really does provide brands with a additional optimisation to see what types of posts are working and which have been far reaching - be it videos, photos, polls, competitions or new product posts. Again metrics that lean more towards bringing content, engagement and conversation to the forefront, as opposed to simply targeting fan acquisition and page 'Likes'. And whilst fan acquisition is indeed important - it will always be the content, interactions and dialogue that will keep fans on your page. 
With the latest updates all hinting at easier content management, deeper insights into the performance and reach of content, and engagement-foucused metrics, it's hard to think that the recent changes to Facebook Insights are anything but a good thing. Ultimately, changes that will influence brands to put further emphasis on creating rich and engaging content as well as provide them with a better means to monitor, track and tweak the overall effectiveness of their content week-by-week.
Good news all round then for page admins and brands - that is until the next Google+ updates change the way we use social media forever... but then hype is a wonderful thing.

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