Are Your Facebook Fans Real Fans?
Michael Wu, Ph.D. is Lithium's Principal Scientist of Analytics, digging into the complex dynamics of social interaction and group behavior in online communities and social networks.
Michael was voted a 2010 Influential Leader by CRM Magazine for his work on predictive social analytics and its application to Social CRM.He's a regular blogger on the Lithosphere's Building Community blog and previously wrote in the Analytic Science blog. You can follow him on Twitter or Google+.
Hi there! This is the third article in this mini-series on Facebook Engagement, where I develop the deeper levels of engagement metrics that quantifies the full spectrum of engagement. I apologize that these posts tend to be a bit more data intensive, but these eight levels of metrics are necessary for the development of the Facebook Engagement Index, which I will reveal soon. If you missed the earlier posts in this series, I recommend reviewing them before proceeding.
- Quantifying Facebook Engagement: More than Just Counting Fans and Likes
- Deeper Facebook Engagement: Dissecting Interactivity
Last time I covered the intermediate level (i.e. Level 3 to Level 5) engagement metrics, which are all metrics that quantifies how fans interact on the fan page.
- Level 3: Thread Depth – amount of interaction
- Level 4: Unique fans per conversation – with how many other fans?
- Level 5: Average/median response time – dynamics of interaction
This time we will investigate the next two levels of the engagement spectrum (i.e. Level 6 and Level 7). We will also re-examine the meaning of fans and what it means to be a Facebook fan vs. a real fan in the traditional sense.
Are Your Fans Truly Loyal Fans?
If you are a true fan of say, a certain celebrity or sports star, would you continue to participate in conversations and/or activities about that person? My guess is “yes,” because that is what it takes to be a fan. You need to continue to participate in all the activities that other fans do in order to be a part of that fandom. And true fans often take pride in their participation. If you slow down or stop participating, then technically you are no longer a fan anymore.
So far, we’ve been looking at the statistics of the active fans who are participating in conversations. As a scientist, I am rather curious to see how many of them are truly loyal fans and actually return to the fan page and remain active over time. To answer this question, I computed the active fans’ re-engagement probability with the fan page. That is, the probability that a fan becomes active (i.e. posts something) more than once on the same fan page (see Figure 6).
According to the data, most Facebook fans are not very loyal to the fan pages. Only about 30% of the active fans re-engage with the fan page more than once (i.e. through posting). 70% of the active fans will post only once and never re-engage the fan page again!
So, most Facebook fans are not real fans in the traditional sense, because they are not particularly loyal. Facebook skewed the meaning of fans by calling any user, regardless of how passionate he is, a fan. If that is the case, we will need another term for those users who are true fans of a brand. They do exist, albeit in much smaller quantity. And we will call them the superfans.
Do Fans Develop Relationships on Fan Pages?
In the first article of this mini-series, I demonstrated the structural similarity between a fan page and a community. In my mini-series on cyber anthropology, we also established that community is where relationships are established and developed. Since a fan page is structurally a community, I wondered if it also functions like a community (i.e. enables the development of relationships).
In order to build relationships, people must engage each other actively and participate reciprocally in conversations. To see if the fans are doing this, I computed the active fans’ return probability to the same conversation. That is, the probability that a fan posts something more than once within the same thread of conversation (see Figure 7). Note that this is a very lenient criterion for having a conversation. In reality, it would probably take many more posts within a thread to have a meaningful conversation. And it would take many such threads of conversation to contribute significantly to the development of real relationship. But I am giving the “so-called” fans here the benefit of the doubt and see what the numbers tell us.
To my surprise, most fans do not participate in reciprocal conversations. The probability of a fan returning to the same conversation is very low, only about 9.6%. That means 90.4% of the active fans post only once in a thread and never return to that conversation again. This fan behavior would definitely hinder the development of any meaningful relationship on fan pages.
Therefore, even though a Facebook fan page is structurally like a community, it doesn’t function like one, because the fan page environment is not conducive for the development of relationships. I will speculate here about why this is the case, since I don’t have any hard data to prove it. I suspect one of the major reasons is due to the stream interaction style of the wall post. Streams are great for news feeds, status updates, or any content that is broadcasted for mass consumption. Users typically interact with the stream by watching its content, and they can interact with any piece of content at the moment when it flows by.
However, this type of stream interaction is terrible for carrying on a long conversation. Because as you are having a conversation, that conversation is also being pushed down the stream by new content. Eventually, the conversation will be pushed off the wall as the natural flow of the stream. Ironically, the more people participate, the faster the stream flows. So the busier the fan page is, the faster any conversation flows off the wall, and the harder it is for you to hold a meaningful conversation. This is precisely why it is so hard to develop any relationships on fan pages, because the streaming wall posts made it very difficult to have any meaningful conversation on the fan page.
Today I presented data on the Level 6, and Level 7 engagement metrics. The data suggests that Facebook fans are not really fans in the traditional sense because they do not actively re-engage the fan page. Despite that, Facebook still calls them a fan. Moreover, the Level 7 data also confirmed our suspicion in the previous post that fans typically only post once within any conversation. This makes it very hard to carry on a meaningful conversation with other fans and therefore hinders the development of any real relationships on fan pages.
With levels 6 and 7, we are almost done characterizing the full spectrum of engagement.
- Level 0: Total fan counts
- Level 1: Active fans
- Level 2: Interactivity through comments
- Level 3: Thread Depth – amount of interaction
- Level 4: Unique fans per conversation – who you interact with
- Level 5: Average response time – dynamics of interaction
- Level 6: Re-engagement probability with the fan page
- Level 7: Return probability to the same conversation
- Level 8: Dare to speculate what this level might be?
Next time, we will cover the last and the deepest level of engagement metric. If you like to speculate, I’ll give you a hint. The eighth level of engagement deserves is own post because it is a network-based metric. The data there is interesting, but given what we’ve already learn about how fan pages work, it is not a big surprise. So stay tuned for the deepest level of engagement!
In the mean time, I welcome kudos, comments, critiques, suggestions, tweets, retweets, debates, or discussion of any kind. :-) So, let’s get some discussion going before I see you again next time.
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