Many a time I have encountered arguments between social media professionals around the topic of engagement and complaints that the public metrics of a Facebook page are heavily influenced by a brand’s media spend, and if this constitutes as a ‘true’ measure of engagement.
While I can see why this topic is a constant source of discussion, I think we all need to take a step back and look at Facebook as a platform and a business. Facebook recently went public and is now responsible to its shareholders in providing a return on their investment in the business.
Understanding where Facebook is coming from in the changes it brings to its platform and the functionalities within it are now all coming from a direction which ideally (for them) will result in a profit for its investors, and this needs to come from advertising.
Facebook have very cleverly introduced the much discussed ‘People Talking About This’ metric as a public facing metric on all Facebook brand pages indicating page ‘engagement’. While this is some indication of the activity occurring on a page, many social media professionals seem to get caught up in this metric, which is made up of a count of people creating a news feed event about the page, which is heavily influenced by media spend on the platform (every new Like on the page adds to this public facing ‘engagement’ metric). While this metric is influenced by media spend, Facebook marketers need to understand that engagement on this platform cannot and is not (currently) represented by any one metric. Other measurements on page performance such as the increase in new fans, virality, engaged users, user generated comments and more, all contribute to the overall picture Facebook marketers need to take into account when assessing the success of their efforts within the Facebook platform.
Again, many of these metrics can be influenced by the media spend of a brand. Virality and engagement, for example, can all be affected by how much money is pumped intp Page Post ads, which in my opinion, are a necessary part of successfully marketing on Facebook and engaging with your community in this channel. Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm takes into account how relevant your page’s updates are to each user based on three factors: time decay, weight and affinity with the page (if you are a social media professional and don’t understand this algorithm, get Googling or start looking for another job). Due to the way this algorithm works it is a necessary part of keeping your audience engaged by spending money on Facebook advertising to reconnect with any page fans who have not interacted wit you over time to increase your reach, impressions, and finally, engagement.
So while many an argument is fought about the impact of paid media on Facebook and its engagement metrics, the bottom line is that as Facebook marketers we need to understand the platform and its own agendas, and use this understanding to increase our own performance on this channel. We do not own Facebook and must abide by its rules in providing value to our clients (or bosses), and so should fully embrace the options it gives us. The old saying of ‘Nothing comes for free’ very much holds true in the world of Facebook and it is up to us as marketers to understand this and explain this to our clients who wish to engage and interact with its customers on the Facebook platform.