It’s a question every page manager gets asked, and one that seems to have a few different answers.
Facebook Analytics provides engagement rates for individual posts, but it’s harder for page managers to understand total engagement across their Facebook page over a particular period of time.
Understanding total engagement is important. It enables page managers to set benchmarks, compare one content strategy to another, and most critically to provide high level reporting back to key stakeholders. So why does Facebook not provide this metric? Probably because they know page managers will fixate on that one number when a range of variables are needed to determine engagement and overall page performance.
Engagement by Post
Facebook calculates engagement rates for individual posts by taking the number of likes, comments and shares as a percentage of the total number of people who have seen that post. This percentage can be found in online Analytics by clicking on the ‘Posts’ tab and selecting ‘Engagement Rate’ from the drop down menu:
Note that ‘other clicks’ aren’t taken into account – for good reason. While these are a form of interaction, they are easy to fudge. Just post a non-standard sized image with small copy which people need to click to enlarge and voila – awesome engagement rate.
Organic posts often deliver the best engagement rate because Facebook’s algorithm ensures they are seen by people who are most likely to engage. But because this is often a small group of people, the number of people reached and interactions delivered are often low.
Posts that are supported by paid media can deliver lower engagement rates because they are being pushed out to a wider, but less engaged audience. However the number of people they reach, and the number of likes, comments and shares they attract can be higher.
If you’ve been spending heavily on media this month, then your average engagement rate might be lower than normal, but the total number of people reached and people who engaged will be higher. Ensuring you report all three of these numbers together makes it a lot easier to explain this to key stakeholders and clients.
Working out engagement across an entire page over a specific timeframe isn’t quite so clear cut.
How an overall engagement rate is calculated depends on what you need to report back on – and how much time you have as it’s likely you will need to calculate this manually using the downloadable excel report.
Some methods for calculating engagement, and their pros and cons, are outlined below.
- Total Engagement. The simplest method is to take the way Facebook calculates engagement on individual posts and extrapolate this for your page as a whole.
Using data for a specific time period – a week, a month, a quarter – allows benchmarks to be set and time periods to be compared.
However this engagement rate will be affected by your paid media activity. Pull back on paid media and the engagement rate is likely to increase – but your reach and number of interactions will drop. Spend heavily on paid media and your engagement rate will be lower, but the number of people reached and number of interactions will increase. To ensure context always report an engagement rate alongside actual reach and interaction numbers to provide a more rounded picture.
- Competitor Benchmarking. Social Bakers recently released a white paper suggesting a formula that uses interactions divided by the size of the fanbase. This formula uses publicly available data so is a useful way of benchmarking your own page against competitors and others in your category.
However, this method also struggles tell the whole story as it doesn’t take paid media and reach beyond the fanbase into consideration. For example:
If you get 1,000 interactions, and you have 10,000 fans, your engagement rate is 10%.
If you get 1,000 interactions, and you have 10,000 fans but paid media support means your content reached 100,000 people, then your engagement rate is 1%.
- Engaged Fans. Demand for this metric came after publication of a report back in 2011 from ComScore suggesting on average only 16% of a page’s fans were engaged (ah, those were the days). Just about every page manager was asked to work out how their page fared against this benchmark.
Today this metric simply doesn’t exist. While you know how many fans you have, you can’t tell how many have been reached because ‘Organic Reach’ includes both fans and non-fans.
While it seems like such a fundamental metric, knowing how engaged your fanbase is really isn’t that important. This is because the friends of your most active fans are, by default, part of your community – they will see your content because one of their Facebook friends has interacted with it or shared it with them. Facebook have always made it clear that it’s not about your fans, it’s about the total reach you can achieve through your fanbase and the way Analytics is presented reflects this.
Whichever method you use, there are three key rules to working out how engaged your Facebook fanbase is:
- Know what you are need to report on and why
- Don’t use percentages in isolation – always use actual numbers to provide context.
- Choose a methodology and stick to it – there may be issues with the methodology you choose, but at the very least you will be creating benchmarks and comparing apples with apples.
How do you measure engagement?