What Does That Even Mean? Understanding Facebook Metrics (Part 1)

    Sam Mutimer

    I used to be what I would call a Facebook Numpty. However, after spontaneously starting a Facebook page in response to the Tasmanian Bushfires in 2013, a page which played a pivotal role in the community led response and recovery (see the ABC Australian Story here), I have had to learn the ins and outs of Facebook quickly! Futhermore, my PhD topic now includes a whole bunch of data and research gathered from the Facebook page. Luckily, I have had the Facebook Gurus from Thinktank Social to help me with this transition from Numpty to Ninja!
    One of the things I really needed to know in explicit detail is what all the different Facebook metrics mean, and which ones are actually meaningful, rather than just superficially impressive.
    I did some reading, more reading, and got very confused…so contacted the team at Thinktank Social, who helped me identify what each metric was about. My queries were then transformed into a blog – in the effort to help others understand the confusing backend that is Facebook Insights.
    “Total Page Impressions”
    It’s usually a number that is big, impressive, and flashed around with much excitement by people… but it is kind of useless! Let’s go on…
    It describes the total number of times somebody, anybody, everybody, in Facebook land ‘saw’ something, anything to do with my Tassie Fires – We Can Help (TFWCH) page anywhere on Facebook. Think of it like ‘images’ rather than the word ‘impressions’ – how many times has the name or page TFWCH flashed past the eyes of people using Facebook?
    Here’s a scenario – I am the Admin of the page TFWCH. Let’s talk about an average Facebook user, Boris. Boris is scrolling down his newsfeed. Each time he sees one of my TFWCH photos, or a status update of mine, or a comment a friend of his has made on one of my photos, or the fact that Boris’ friend has ‘liked’ the TFWCH page – all these things count as ‘impressions’ – because that little piece of information related to the page appeared on Boris’ newsfeed. Anytime the page is mentioned on Boris’ computer, it counts as an impression.
    However, it does not guarantee that Boris truly saw or engaged with this content of mine. He could have scrolled down the newsfeed straight past my photo; or the mention of my post appeared in his ticker, but other news continued to arrive so that particular post was no longer visible the next time Boris looked at the ticker.
    Therefore, this is a metric for how far and wide any posts to do with TFWCH are appearing in people’s newsfeeds, but it is no guarantee of real or new engagement, and there tends to be a fair bit of duplication.
    This can be a very impressive statistic (for the TFWCH page, there were over 32,000,000 “total page impressions” in the first 35 weeks of the life of the page), but it is just not that meaningful.
    “Total Post Reach”
    It is the number of different people who received impressions of any piece of content.  
    On Facebook, people can see multiple impressions from the same post – to use an example from above, when Boris is trawling Facebook, he might see a status update on his newsfeed about the TFWCH page, and then he might see the same status appear on his newsfeed when a friend of his shares it. Then he will see it again when he decides to go back and find it because he wants to leave a comment. In this case, Boris has technically “seen” the exact same post three times, in three different places or at three different times. Not to mention the fact that he might have seen these same posts over and over again because he has just been lying around on Facebook all morning, and no new stuff has come into his newsfeed!
    If all three viewings of this same status update were counted, this would contribute towards “total page impressions” – the one we were talking about earlier. If only one viewing of the status update were counted, this would contribute towards “total post reach”. For this reason, the “post reach” figure is usually way less than the “page impressions” figure. Therefore, this metric focuses on the number of different people who received impressions of a page post, and does not include multiple viewings of the exact same post.
    An easy way to think of it is like this:
    Boris sees Post A three times = 1 reach
    Boris sees Post B sixteen times = 1 reach
    Sandra sees Post A once = 1 reach
    Sandra sees Post C twice = 1 reach
    Tim sees Post A six times = 1 reach
    That would be a total of 5 Total Post Reach, but it would be 28 to Total Page Impressions!
    To use an example from the results of my study, after 35 weeks, there was a ‘total post reach’ of 2,643,466. The “total page impressions” for the same period was 32,348,438. Therefore, it can be concluded that the same information was being reviewed or revisited multiple times by the same people – indeed, people were seeing each individual post, on average, 12.24 times a pop. This makes a whole lot of sense when considering that my page was all about helping a community after a disaster – people were trading information and solving problems, and were therefore constantly re-sharing information and constantly returning to posts to find answers or share more information as it came to light.
    Next time we explore understanding the other metrics – “Total number of people who had viewed content” and “Total page stories” and “Mean daily page engagements”. If you have any questions, please comment below or contact us.
    See you in the New Year!
    Written by Melanie Irons