Silly debate about Facebook metrics (because Facebook IS the metric)

The changes to Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm (which is the algorithm Facebook uses to determine what information you see in your news feed)  have been creating some controversy, not least because it has affected the ‘reach’ of many organisations’ Facebook pages and raised suggestions that this may be linked to Facebook’s desire to encourage page owners to pay for their reach, via prompted posts (see this post from AllFacebook).

However, the underlying, and unquestioned assumption behind all this discussion is that ‘reach’ and ‘engagement’ are the metrics we should be using to measure corporate usage of Facebook.  Why this assumption?  These metrics come straight out of the world of traditional media where the role of media was as a channel to reach consumers.  But social media doesn’t work this way.  Social media does not have scale built into it in the way that traditional media does.  Social media is not designed as a tool to reach lots of people, it is designed to allow small groups of people to connect with each other.  Creating an approach that is designed to try and add scale to a social media presence, to chase numbers in terms of reach or engagement, is a waste of time.  It is completely the wrong approach (and metric) to use.

Facebook, and all other forms of social media, are tools that enable consumers to reach brands (if and when they want to).  The only part of any Facebook page that has any relevance is the ‘Posts by others’ space and it is not the quantity of posting here that matters, but what the posts are about and how (or even if) the brand responds to them.  Since these posts are often negative, or complaints, in reality the objective for most brands should be to minimise their Facebook ‘engagement’ – which of course you achieve, not by anything you do ‘in’ Facebook, but by how your brand behaves ‘in’ real life.

Social media is not a channel and message identification challenge (as traditional marketing is) – it is a behaviour identification and response challenge and the metrics we use should reflect this.  In fact, Facebook itself  is the metric for brand behaviour, rather than something you should attached metrics to.


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