A Simple Metric for Facebook Performance

Irish dramatist Oscar Wilde once said, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” There is a lot of truth to that in branding, and especially more so in social media!

With Facebook’s change to the timeline for brands format, the “People Talking About This” metric suddenly became a lot more visible, moving to a more visually central location, as seen in the Coca-Cola example below.

While many brand owners are still obsessed with the fallacy of fan count, a truer measure of their fans’ passion and engagement with the brand can be calculated using a simple metric I’ve named the “response density index.”

People Talking About This X 1,000 = Response Density Index
Total Fans

The response density index (RDI) measures how well your content resonates with your current fans. Essentially we are looking at how many of your fans are truly “talking about you” in comparison to how many fans you actually have. You might have a lot of fans gained through promotional activity who aren’t genuine brand lovers, and you will find the response density index to be low when you’re in conversations mode. Conversely, it’s possible to have a comparably small number of fans with a high response density index, demonstrating you have great fan passion and engagement.

How is “People Talking About This” Calculated?
Before we get out the spreadsheets, let’s look at the “People Talking About This” metric. According to Facebook:

“People Talking About This” indicates how many people are actually talking about your business to their friends.

This metric includes everyone who:

  • Liked your Page
  • Answered a question you’ve asked
  • Responded to your event
  • Mentioned your Page
  • Tagged your Page in a photo
  • Checked in or recommended your Place

Thus, when a fan interacts with content you created on your Facebook page it adds one to the People Talking About This. That action gets posted to the user’s News Feed, which is potentially seen by their friends.

Having a high number of “people talking about this” is great, as it potentially means you’re benefiting from social amplification in the user’s social graph. What is more insightful is how this compares to your actual fan count so that you can benchmark against other brands, but also your industry.

Very important to note is that this number is calculated for the last seven days, so it is very responsive to activity spikes due to promotions for example. The best way to look at it is weekly over a period of months to establish your own benchmarks.

The Response Density Index For Brands
Let’s calculate some response density indexes for some popular pages (as of mid-June 2012) and establish some guidelines.

From the sample table above we can make some observations. Off the charts of Uniqlo’s page (albeit in Japanese) with a RDI of 22.2, where they consistently post new looks and items that their fans are loving in a big way. Likewise, Nike (RDI 14.4) is hitting the content mark for their target audience. A mega entertainment brand like Lady Gaga has a very good score of 12.1, representing the hordes of passionate fans.

A previous social media darling, Skittles, has a low RDI, in spite of the comparative high number of fans. It’s likely their content strategy is getting tired and fans are no longer interested.

Compared to these, big brands like Coca Cola (RDI 7.6), Starbucks (RDI 6.4) and Red Bull (RDI 6.4) are doing well but with room for some improvement.

Having run some numbers on various brands and clients, I’ve concluded the following (it’s a little arbitrary but you get the idea):

The Response Density Index focuses on quality interactions with content, without being distracted by the fan count or the People Talking About This metric alone. In other words, is what you’re saying resonating with your genuine fans?

Remember that the “People Talking About This” metric is only for the last seven days, so track your RDI over time and start comparing to your competitors.
Then you will get a clearer of picture of whether you’re being talked about… or worse, not being talked about.

Related reading