The latest croissant of absurdity from the SocialBakers

Every month I receive an email from measurement / metrics company SocialBakers alerting me to the latest  league table of performance for UK Facebook pages.  I usually avoid opening this email because it depresses me, perpetuating as it does, the view that Facebook activity and social media in general is a numbers game that is all about creating the maximum number of fans and this thing called engagement.  However, this month I took a look, just to see if things were changing.  They were not.  The part of the report that always depresses me the most, remained depressing.  I have shown it below.

FireShot Screen Capture #238 - 'June 2013 Social Media Report_ Facebook Pages in United Kingdom I Socialbakers' - www_socialbakers_com_reports_regional_june-2013-social-media-report-facebook-pages-in-united-kingdom#uNow there are two things that scream out at me from this table.  The first is the obvious one – these are not really brands, they are celebrities (with the exception of CEOP – the UK Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre).  There may be some clues that conventional brands might derive from this

The second thing is the engagement rate itself.  The most engaging brand  was scoring a rate of 4 per cent and the average engagement rate was 0.24 per cent.  Now this is a pretty poor rate of engagement.  Most traditional direct marketing activities would be expected to deliver a response rate higher than this and these activities also benefit from the fact that they actually reach a significant proportion of the target audience.  Social media will never reach a significant proportion of your target audience (except in the hugely rare instance where something becomes viral) – so what is the point of reaching a tiny proportion of your audience with an activity that creates an average rate of engagement of 0.24 per cent, and at best only 4 per cent.  To my mind it seems obvious that there is absolutely no point. (Note: remember this is 0.24% of those people who have already ‘liked’ a brand in Facebook. A brand woud be lucky if 1% of its target audience likes it in Facebook – so best case this figure is 0.24% of 1%, i.e. only 0.0024% of your target audience, i.e. functionally no-one.)

Now this is not the fault of SocialBakers, they are only the messenger here – they have simply designed an effective way of measuring the wrong thing – something that is based on the wrong assumption about how Facebook should be used, albeit an assumption that their clients want them to make.  To their credit, SocialBakers does produce one interesting chart – which looks at what they call social devotion.  This is based on the the amount of questions that brands are answering and their speed in answering them (or whether they answer them at all).  This chart is below.

socially devoted

Now this is getting closer to measuring a sensible usage of Facebook, although whether this is a valid or valuable statistic to present in the form of a league table is another issue.

To me this just further illustrates that fact that social media is a low reach, but high engagement game (whereas traditional marketing is a high reach but low engagement game) – and if you are scoring at a rate of 4 per cent, let alone at 0.24 per cent, you are never going to win.

Social media is not about audiences of people, and if you drag audience based approaches into it, you will fail.  Social media is about individuals or small groups – and you don’t treat and individual as just a very small audience if you want to create any valuable sort of engagement.


– Richard Stacy: advanced social media training –



  1. Jan Rezab

    Richard, you are absolutely right in a couple things, at Socialbakers we always take in feedback!

    You are right in:
    a) Some of these are not brands, and should have not been approved as such in the reports – we at Socialbakers pride ourselves in the fact that we categorize all these different social objects – and allow companies to then benchmark themselves to an entire category – you are fully right

    b) Thank you for sharing the SociallyDevoted thing

    c) I think with in the Engagement Rate area, you are mistaking Engagement for Reach. As we all learn from participative media, only a certain number of people always interact (engage) with content.

    Lets say a page has 100 000 fans, each post can reach between 15 – 30 000 fans (or more, depending on paid reach), and have about 20 – 100 interactions = 0,1% engagement (and thats a good one), but that doesnt mean reach is bad. If you look at your own behaviour in the newsfeed with friends, you scroll, scroll, and only if you find something interesting, you actually interact (engage) with it. Its quite comparable.

    Of course, having REACH in the mix would be nice, but REACH is not a publicly comparable metric.

    Its best illustrated by looking at this chart:

    Hope this helps.

    • RichardStacy


      I don’t think I am confusing Engagement for Reach, because in terms of the direct marketing example I was referring to response (response being an equivalent for engagement). I can see how you are trying to infer back from engagement rate to reach – but I would make two points here: first I am not confident in the maths that can derive the conclusion that 100,000 fans equals a reach of 15 – 30,000. Second, I don’t think that metrics such as reach (and frequency) are useful n social media. These are metrics derived from traditional media and audience-based marketing. Social media is about reaching a very small number of people, but creating a value with that small number that far outstrips anything we have been accustomed to generating via traditional, content-based contacts. If you want to win in the reach game, get an ad, not a Facebook page.

      This concept is fundamental to what I have explained in my book, as illustrated in the title – i.e. how to succeed by not talking to (reaching) 97 per cent of your audience. Give it a read, and write a review!

      Anyway – thanks for listening and responding. It is what all brands need to do!

      • Jan Rezab

        thank you for your response.

        1) The math actually derives that the average reach is around 18% (thus with 100 000, around 18 000), but c an be more with better paid media
        2) Reach is a metric that for example Facebook pushes quite a lot on, and I think its what the media world understand, and gives you an understanding of level of audience
        3) I have seen POSTS with higher CTRs than ERs (Engagement Rate), as ER as a public metric doesnt know about clicks
        4) Facebook ads – I think that in the future, there will only be “feed” ads on Facebook
        5) Book – I will take a look at the book, is it also on the apple book store? I would have to borrow my wifes kindle otherwise 😉

        Listening and responding is critical, also for Socialbakers. Found the tweet, read the article, and responded.

        My PR team wanted to deal with it, but with this one, I thought I would take it and explain my view on this.

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  2. RichardStacy


    Glad you decided to step in, rather than your PR team – good call and a perfect illustration of what brands need to be doing.

    I think the key issue here is your point 2. Facebook is pushing activity that responds to the agenda of the traditional media world. It is doing this because it needs to make money – lots more of it than it is currently making if it wants to fulfill the revenue expectations inherent in its valuation. (As I also explain in the book – chapter 8). And the traditional media space is about channel and message – measured by reach and frequency and more qualitative assessment of the value of content (creativity of message).

    Social media is about behaviour identification and response (hence why I like your socially devoted measure). Reach and frequency is not the game in this space (or at least not the game you need to play if you are going to create sufficient value). We haven’t yet really developed the metrics here, although socially devoted is a step in the right direction.

    The book is only on Amazon – but there is a Kindle app for the iPad I believe. Better still – I will email you a pdf


    • Jan Rezab


      first of all thanks for the PDF, I will read through it carefully next time on the plane (thats the time I have for reading books, as you can imagine).

      I think that social media is not only responsive to what is happening, it participates in its creation today. If we look at news, we spoke for 10 years about citizen journalism and it hasn’t arrived on any “citizen journalism” platform, it arrived on social media. Twitter has news today faster than any other channel does.

      On the paid media side, I think that amplifying the posts and messages a company has is “the new SEO”. And I think its pretty cool.


      • RichardStacy


        Two points. First: you are right – amplifying posts and messages is the new SEO but the question is what messages and what posts? Anything designed as content intended to be seen by audiences of people won’t work (and this is the stuff most organisations are producing). What works is information, designed as answers to questions – and this involves organisations identifying their relevant Google spaces (i.e. the questions for which their business is an answer). Also – be careful with the term amplifying. This could just be another version of pushing messages or seeking reach – which is an outdated metric.

        Second – you are right about platforms. Social spells the end of platforms (or more specifically channels) because at its heart the social media revolution is about the separation of information from means of distribution (channels). However, we still remain media, channel and platform fixated – because this is the way communications has worked since the era of mass communication started. As Marshall McLuhan said “the medium is the message” – well the medium was the message, the social revolution means the message is now the message – it doesn’t have to be shaped by the distribution channel it is forced to sit within. (See chapter 2 of my book).

  3. Su Little

    Richard, here is one for your sales report.

    I clicked on a link that you left in a comment on another article, to land here. I read your article as well as the interesting exchange between yourself and SocialBakers above. I was initially swayed in their direction of the debate as I do understand why you need to provide social media metrics in a format that clients and their CEOs will be able to digest.

    But I agree with your approach using a high-touch engagement method for long-term, authentic advocacy, so I’ve now also bought your book so I can read it from my Kindle app on my iPad 😉


    • RichardStacy

      Thanks for buying the book! Yes – CEOs need to be able to understand the metrics but there is no point in providing metrics that people can understand if these are the wrong metrics. It is always a temptation to measure the things we can measure, or want to measure rather than what we should be measuring (if indeed we should be measuring it at all, because social media is, itself, a form of measurement if you are using it correctly). I am going to be talking about this is a webinar in a couple of weeks – you may like to sign-up (it is free).

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