Demystifying Facebook Metrics

“If you don’t pay for Facebook advertising then your updates reach will only reach 16% of your fans.”  [Insert here some vague-ities about Edgerank, a graph, an algorithm and a sprinkling of ‘blimey, this is complicated’]

It’s a conversation that I’ve had many times.  That 16% stat has appeared on many blogs, and Facebook even admitted to it itself back in 2012… it’s become so ingrained in the lore of Facebook administration it’s now considered to be cold hard fact by most Page Managers.

But the thing is, a Facebook update could reach 16% of page fans, but it could just as easily only reach 2% or as many as 43% – the 16% is simply an average across all the 1000s of pages out there, and it should certainly not be taken as gospel.  There’s a gulf of possibilities.

This got me thinking – how many people look at Facebook analytics and really understand what they mean?  Are we just looking at the data and pulling out stats that simply sound good, or sound measurable without actively taking the time to consider what this actually means in the big wide world?  If we don’t fully understand these metrics how can we effectively report on our pages?

Facebook doesn't need to be all about algorithms, but it does need to be understood.

Facebook doesn’t need to be all about algorithms, but it does need to be understood. Photo credit:

How many Fans has your post reached?

At post level the number of fans that your post has reached can be quite easy to work out if you are a page admin as it is displayed clearly in the bottom left corner of your posts.  However, working out how many of your fans your page is reaching in total can be quite tricky.  Fan reach is only available in the Excel file export which is available for download in your Insights dashboard. You’ll find it under the label “Lifetime Post reach by people who like your Page”.   But for anyone who has ventured into the realm of the Page Data export they’ll know that this document is far from user friendly!

What does Organic Reach mean?

Organic reach translates into the number of people, fans and non-fans, who have seen a post from your page.  It ignores any views that have been generated through the result of an action but counts the views of people who are not fans of the page but have directly accessed your page or seen its content, for example, a “like box” on your site or blog.

Viral Reach – What is that?

You know you sometimes see things that your friends have done on a brands wall (like, share, comment) in your Timeline or on The Ticker?  That’s viral reach.  When you, as a non-fan, come face-to-face with a page’s content (or a link to that content).

It’s reaching these non-fans that most Facebook pages want to achieve.  Going back a few years the number of fans a page had was considered a good enough yard stick for success.  If page number went up, then something must be going right.  Right?  Well, no.  Any Facebook page manager worth his salt knows that the number of likes a page has is only the tip of the iceberg.  But this does go right back to Facebook’s mantra, and the reason that many companies use it as a brand awareness too – the viral reach of the platform allows for companies to: “recruit and engage in conversation with your fans so they talk about you with their friends.”

How is paid-for reach captured?

Facebook filters out the reach achieved via paid-for means.  This can be sponsored stories, promoted posts or just plain old Facebook advertising.  It can be both fans and non-fans.  Pretty much does what it says on the tin.

How reliable are Facebook Insights?

It’s fantastic for reporting purposes that Facebook allows Page Mangers so much access to data (“Insights”) however it’s important that these are interpreted appropriately and are reported in a meaningful manner.  Otherwise the success (or failure) of a page could get lost in translation.

Alsoback in February Facebook admitted to identifying a bug on their insights that has led to a misrepresentation of Organic and Viral reach for most pages. According to data, the way pages have been affected by this bug varies significantly from one page to another. Apparently, Organic reach has been slightly affected (between 5 and 10% more reach starting February 23) but viral reach has been much more affected with more than 300% increase in some instances – so it’s best to be doubly sure when reporting.

Each Facebook page is different, its community profile is unique, and the content posted is honed to match it.  So if we’re investing so much time and energy in our content why are we satisfied with cookie-cutter statistics to benchmark our pages?  Page owners, I urge you – take the time to know your page.  Learn what works, and what doesn’t.  Get a steer on what success looks like for you, and then strive towards it.  After all, what works for someone else may not work for you.



Why EE Needs a New Twitter Strategy

If you know Twitter, you know it’s where people go to complain. There’s something about the freedom of 140 characters that makes some people get out their soap box and start shouting to their network.  And to be fair most companies have adapted their strategies to accommodate this.  In the past I’ve had some great experiences on Twitter with @sluglettuce and more recently with @YodelOnline.  If you deal with a complaint well, companies have the power to transform discontented individuals into brand advocates… Everyone’s happy. So it drives me spare when big companies get it so utterly wrong.

My husband and I were both due mobile upgrades. He decides to stay with EE, and agrees to a mobile upgrade on Wednesday due for next-day-delivery.  Hubby is sulking a bit by Monday morning when there still hasn’t been a delivery attempt… But then goes into a rage on Monday evening when EE deactivate the SIM in his trusty BlackBerry. So not only did Hubby not have his upgrade, but EE had made it so his old phone was no more than a fancy alarm clock. So much for “Everything Everywhere” – he had nothing.

I naturally hit Twitter to voice  displeasure on Hubby’s behalf, and hope that EE would be able to do something, like possibly reactivate the SIM.

Everything Everywhere EE

What followed then was utter farce.

Understandably the EE team did not want to talk to me as I wasn’t the account holder.  However rather than directing me to a more appropriate platform to raise our issue the impersonal, robot-like interactions from EE kept doggedly on. My husband very briefly accessed Twitter (while at work) to give permission for EE to speak to me on his behalf, I then was passing a lot of information back and forth (including name, number, password, address, Twitter handle etc), to only then be told by the EE team that  they could only discuss the problem with me if my husband gave me third-party access to his Twitter account.  After nearly 24 hours of going back and forth, after jumping through all these hoops and explaining the issue three or four times,  I logged into my husband’s account as requested, and sent a DM.  The response :

Direct message from EE: "Please DM details of what you'd like help with"

I was back at square one after 24 hours of Twitter red tape.

I actually screamed.  At this point I gave up on trying to resolve the matter.

Now, the story doesn’t quite end there…  My husband’s phone eventually arrived, and he was wooed by the handset, so to some extent he’s a happy camper.  But the interactions I had with EE had left a bad taste in my mouth.  It simply was not acceptable.

By coincidence that same week Paul Sutton posted a blog about EE’s new advocacy group, and I ended up in a discussion about how EE are poor at active engagement…  Now if I’d been EE, at this point I would have got involved with this online conversation.  It was intelligent, proactive discussion after all, showing interest would have been really beneficial for the company.  But nothing.  EE did diddly-squat.

Certainly nothing public.

What happened however is that I received an email from the Senior PR Manager at EE.  One of the members of EE’s advocacy group had passed my details on.  To his credit he listened to my comments about the poor experiences on Twitter, and apologised for them (and the SIM deactivation) most strongly and promised that these would be discussed in detail with the customer support management team.

My interactions with @EE had seriously damaged my perception of the company.  I had been left feeling that EE had little interest in what I was saying.  On Twitter there was no way for me to understand who I was talking to, and clearly there was little handover between staff to ensure that ongoing customer interaction had any continuity.  EE simply seemed inept at dealing with customers.  So the email from EE’s PR department was welcome.  Great, I thought, proof EE were willing to engage and answer their critics.  At least on some level.

However I have to wonder whether the significance of having a wholly awful Twitter strategy has really computed to EE though… Nearly 70% of customers that leave companies for competitors do so because of a perceived indifference, and whilst I received a nice personalised email from the PR team, I can’t imagine that the majority of the customers that complain on Twitter do.  The central strategy needs to change otherwise EE will be left fighting a swelling fire of discontent.

Even after all of this, I’m not sure that my perception has hugely changed… Whether EE are scared to, or simply aren’t ready, clearly they are still not prepared to engage in public discussions – I told the PR team at EE that I was writing this blog and offered them the opportunity to phrase a response for publication.  And I’m still waiting for a reply…


Is Online Content Crippling Understanding?

Last week I found myself flipping through a copy of Marketing.  There were some interesting articles, and even a couple of case studies that made me dive into my bag for a pen so I could scribble down the details so that I could look up more about them online.  I wouldn’t say I was really “reading” the magazine, just flipping through it.  Killing some time at a train station and someone had abandoned it on a seat.

And yet, these few minutes have become the focus of a blog post.

Marketing magazine

It wasn’t until a few hours later, after I casually tossed the magazine in the recycling, that I realised how much I’d missed reading physical paper.

I’m used to consuming my content online.  As a social media professional, I’m never far away from an internet connection – my computer, my laptop, my mobile phone, even my e-reader are all ready land me neck-deep in information in a few taps, clicks and swipes. I flick through BBC News Online, The Guardian Online, sometimes I dip into Mashable, my RSS feed causes my choice of content to land straight in my inbox, I even Stumble.  But rarely do I pick up a magazine…

But, in the last 2 days alone this lonely abandoned copy of Marketing has come up in conversation with three different people.  I’ve found myself quoting interviews, discussing a key trend, discussing training avenues and even industry news… and I have to wonder whether the fact that I am able to remember this so clearly is because it has become so unfamiliar.

We live in a word that is all about convenience.  It’s now possible to share your reading habits “frictionlessly” across your social networks – in some ways the role of the advocate has diminished; you don’t even have to recommend what you’re consuming, the very fact that you consuming are is enough.  You can totter about the internet, stumbling from one piece of content to another by a simple click of the mouse.  There’s no need to direction, linear reading patterns or particular focus – and I am now wondering whether this is at the detriment of our understanding.  Or at least the depth of it.   We skip over content without pausing to think, because subconsciously we know that somewhere in the vast world-wide-web, there will be an article that is more interesting, or more relevant, or more to the point… I can’t be the only one to see a new post notification from a site you follow land in your inbox, and to delete it straight away without even reading the content?  I know the article will still be there later.

We are now able to subscribe to the people whose opinions we deem interesting.  We filter out so much before we even let it have a chance to have an impact on us as readers.

So I have to wonder…

Is accessing content too easy?


What Is The Media’s Obsession With Snow?

Yes.  We get it.

It’s snowing.

This morning every TV and Radio channel I flicked to seemed to be screaming the weather at me: Snow is forecast.  It will fall from the sky and carpet the roads.  There will be some traffic disruption.  People will work from home.  Winter is coming.But let’s get come perspective here.  We don’t live in the world of Game of Thrones.  Snow doesn’t equal apocalypse… to be honest, it’s been a pretty standard annual event for the last five years.  So why are we so obsessed with talking about it (I realise that the fact I’m blogging about this is all highly ironic)…?

The Daily Express is one of the worst weather-story offenders with regular front page splashes dedicated to it.  And with the media shouting stories like  “COLDEST WINTER IN 100 YEARS ON WAY” and “SNOW CHAOS TO CRIPPLE BRITAIN WITH -15C WEATHER PREDICTED” it’s not really surprising that the country grinds to a halt and people decide to work from home.

Back in 2009 when the sky suddenly dumped a foot of snow across most of Great Britain without warning, I agree there was a snow-story to be told.  Motorways became car parks, people slept in shopping centres – that was a proper snow day.  Maybe the media feels a sense of guilt for the lack of warning about that occasion, and since then has been trying to make up for it by ringing the alarm bells as soon as there is even a sniff of a flake.  But it gets people really jumpy.

Reading, Berks, February 2009

Reading, Berks, February 2009

It got fairly laughable this morning, I watched a news reporter, dressed as if for the Arctic, on the streets of London reporting that there was currently no snow.  A snow report about no snow.  I couldn’t help but snort over my porridge.

Social media isn’t helping the sense of hysteria either.  Facebook is filled with excited posts about “Snow Days”, Instagram gets clogged with snow pictures, and #uksnow trends on Twitter (you can even get it as an iPhone app for heaven’s sake)… we can track the spread of the white stuff without even looking out of our window.

It’s not a surprise the us Brits just love talking about the weather, but we really do need to get a grip on reality and some perspective.  Prepare for snow, obviously, check weather forecasts, look out of the window, make sure you’ve got a blanket and food in your car.  But it is highly unlikely that you’ll need to stock-pile tinned food…

The media fan the flames of our obsession, and we do so even more by driving conversation about them on social networks, so really we’ve only got ourselves to blame…

The thing to remember is that in a few days it will all melt away and the predicted chaos will be forgotten.  We’ll go back to talking about rain.


A Return To Blogging: Introducing Raw Discourse

Back in 2011 I wrote an open letter of apology to my blog.  I grovelled for taking time away from it, and promised to do better.  But life has a tendency to get in the way and somewhere along the way, this blog just got left behind…  It’s not that I wanted to stop writing.  Far from it – it’s always something I’ve done for my own enjoyment.  But I started writing more regularly for BOTTLE Uncorked, engaging wider in social media communities and simply having my debates on Twitter and I ended up with no reason to continue my communications blog.  I lost focus, direction and my enthusiasm slowly petered out.

Then Google started tweaking it’s algorithm.  SEO companies scrabbled around to catch up with the changes brought about by Panda and Penguin.  But then, at the end of last year things got really interesting…

Panda and penguin

Okay, so this may have been an excuse for a cute picture.

Back in August 2005 Google filed a patent for “Agent Rank” which was an indication at Google was dipping their toe in the “human” role of SEO.  Agent Rank was, unsurprisingly, all about ranking “agents” and using how their content was received online – and then using those interactions to determine how their content ranked.  But it wasn’t until the end of last year that Google’s reinvigorated “Author Rank” finally came into play.

In a nut-shell Author Rank doesn’t just take into account the content on a site, but who wrote that content.  It’s Google finally acknowledging the role influencers have to play online.  Okay, so this may be a way of making everyone use their Google+ profiles, but I genuinely see the value in recognising the “human factor.”  From a public relations point on view, when you’re trying to reach a particular target audience it is common-sense that different people, publications and websites will have more influence on your target group.  And now this all comes into play with SEO too.  It’s not just what you write on a blog, but who writes it that will make a difference to how your site rank with Google.  And so what if Google makes you jump through hoops to get there.

So with the view to full disclosure, that is partly why I’ve returned to this blog.   It’s my attempt at waving my digital arms around in front of Google’s Crawlers.  But it also with a sense of nostalgia that I return.

For the first time in a good year I’ve lavished some attention on my blog. I’ve given it  a good spring clean,  a new look,  recognised a new focus and have even given it a new name:  Raw Discourse .  I mean this blog to be a place for conversation, debate and open sharing of ideas about all things communication – from social media, to marketing, PR, offline conversation and language.

As always, please do get in touch if you are interested in contributing to the conversation.