Facebook Lets Brands Measure Earned Media With “People Talking About This” Page Metric

On the eve of Advertising Week, Facebook last night announced that it will provide several new Page Insights metrics to marketers to help them gauge their reach on the social network. Along with total friends of fans and total weekly reach, “People Talking About This” will show the total number of stories published by Facebook users that mention a brand, including wall posts, comments, shares, and more. We’ve learned the new metrics will roll out on Wednesday.

The metrics will help brands measure their earned media on Facebook in addition to their paid ads and owned Page posts. While the Insights tab will only be visible to admins, a simple count of People Talking About This will be publicly available on a brand’s Page beneath their total Like count. This will give businesses some ability to benchmark themselves against competitors. Users can expect more purposefully viral marketing and ad campaigns on Facebook now that brands can accurately track their reach.

The annual Advertising Week sees industry leaders gather in New York to discuss the latest developments in advertising. Facebook has a big opportunity to build its business by increasing the general understanding of its marketing solutions. As we’ve discussed, more businesses might adopt Facebook Ads and other marketing products if they felt confident in how to use them. Facebook is expanding education and outreach efforts through business lobbies to solve this problem. It has also launched a new “expanded premium ad unit” to attract Ad Week attention.

Starting Wednesday, Pages will include an Insights tab in their navigation menu that is visible to admins only. It will show a graph of the Weekly Total Reach and quantity of People Talking About This with dots overlaid to show when the Page published updates. Above it will show these metrics and Friends of Fans numerically with percentage change for a time period. Below will be a list of a Page’s last 500 posts (or all published since mid-July) with reach, engagement, talking about this, and virality scores.

The public will see a “[#] are talking about this” figure above the Page’s Like count. Subtabs of the admin-only Insights Page tab app will breakdown a Page’s reach by Organic (Page posts), Paid (ads) and Viral (Page content reshared by users). This will allow marketers to determine if certain paid and owned efforts have been successful at encouraging viral sharing. Admins will also be able to see the Unique Users By Frequency which shows how many unique users visited a Page once, twice, and more.

Without these new metrics, it was tricky or impossible for a brand to determine its total reach and how frequently it was being posted about by Facebook users. They could see separate counts for post impressions and feedback, media consumption, Page views, wall posts, and mentions, but there was no way to eliminate duplicates or count all types of interactions to calculate total reach. Brands could watch their own Page wall or use third-party social media monitoring software to track public posts that mentioned them, but they couldn’t count private posts or activity stories generated by Likes and other actions to determine their volume of earned media.

Weekly Total Reach will add up all of the users who’ve been exposed to a brand’s owned, earned, and paid media, including those who’ve interacted with a Page’s content or seen its ads. This gives marketers a metric to compare to the reach of other mediums such as television or print. If marketers determine the cost to reach an audience on Facebook is lower than through tv commercials, the metric could help accelerate the shift of ad dollars from television to Facebook.

The Friends of Fans metric can help marketers assess the potential audience of a viral marketing campaign, the audience of Sponsored Stories, and how many users are primed to become fans because their friends already are. Studies by comScore cite that the top 100 brand Pages have 34 times as many friends of fans as fans, and the top 1000 Pages have 81 times more friends of fans. This audience segment may be valuable to brands, as Bing friends of fans conduct 27% more searches than the average searcher, and Starbucks friends of fans spend more and transact more frequently.

Facebook’s Native Social Media Monitoring Tool

People Talking About This will give brands an accurate, albeit basic assessment of how much word-of-mouth marketing they are inspiring. The metric will count the total number published stories when users take the following types of actions: [Update 1/10/2012 8:45 a.m. PT: The metric will count the unique number of users who take at least one of the following types of actions within a seven-day period:]

  • Liking a Page
  • Posting to a Page’s Wall,
  • Liking, commenting or sharing one of a Page status updates, photos, videos or other content
  • Answering a Question posted by a Page
  • RSVP-ing to an Event hosted by the Page
  • Mentioning your Page (Users must formally tag the Page, not just write its name in an update like with aggregated mention news feed stories)
  • Tagging a Page in a photo
  • Liking or sharing a check-in deal
  • Checking in at a Place
  • Writing a recommendation

The new Page Insights won’t reveal exactly what is being said about a brand though. Luckily, Facebook has made an API for the new metrics available, and several Page management companies including Context Optional, Wildfire, and Webtrends have already integrated it into their tools. Eventually, these or other companies could augment People Talking About This data with the actual text of public mentions of a brand, giving them an idea of the sentiment of the word of mouth.

Big brands will still want to use sophisticated third-party social media monitoring software to track feedback on other social platforms such as Twitter as well as the content of Facebook mentions. Smaller brands that don’t need to know exactly what people are saying about them will now be able to get proof of the earned media potential of Facebook easily and for free.

All brands will be able to track how marketing and ad campaigns influence the volume of mentions of their Page and their reach, which is crucial to justifying increased spend on Facebook. Still, the company has not announced any plans to offer its own downstream conversion tracking system that would allow marketers to calculate return on investment on the Facebook spend. The site does allow marketers to attach third-party tracking tags to Sponsored Stories and Facebook Ads, though.

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