Deeper Facebook Engagement: Dissecting Interactivity
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 at mich8elwu.
It’s been about 3 weeks since I last blogged on Lithosphere as I’ve been busy traveling around UK and Italy for both work and play. The play part involved my wife and I traveling around UK and Italy, sightseeing and enjoying delicious food and fine wine. In UK, we visited Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Bath. And before we left for Italy we even stopped by Salisbury to see Stonehenge. Then, in Italy, we toured Milan, Florence, and Rome. And of course we couldn’t miss visiting the Vatican.
The work component of the trip involved me speaking at a number of conferences, business meetings, social media events, workshops, and interviews. I talked about a wide range of topics from social CRM, psychology of gamification, cyber anthropology, science of influence, the Facebook Engagement Index, as well as some of the more technical topics, such as machine learning, social network analysis and predictive social analytics.
Among the topics I presented, gamification was by far the most popular topic. It was heavily tweeted and several excellent blog articles resulted from my presentation at Digital Surrey (a very engaging not-for-profit community of digital professionals).
- The Science of Gamification (@mich8elwu at #digitalsurrey) by Mark Wilson
- The Science of Gamification on the gamification blog by Gabe Zichermann
- The Science of Gamification at DigitalSurrey on GameTuned by James Monjack
- Want to change behaviour? Pull the trigger on Strange Fascination by Jane Franklin
- Benjamin Ellis also took some very nice photos at the event
Now that you know where I’ve been, let me return to the topic of Facebook engagement. Last time I showed you the structural similarity between a Facebook fan page and a community. By treating fan pages as communities, we can develop a whole spectrum of engagement metric from the very shallow (level 0) fan count to something that is eight levels deep. And I talked about the first two levels in my last post.
- Level 0: Total fan counts
- Level 1: Active fans
- Level 2: Interactivity (through comments) – Commented post fraction.
Today we will examine several deeper level engagement metrics.
Since the Level 2 engagement metric looks at what fractions of the posts were interactive (i.e. commented), Level 3 hones in on the interactive posts and tries to quantify how much interaction took place in those posts. This is traditionally characterized by a metric called thread depth: the number of comments a post receives. I computed the average thread depth across all posts within a fan page and plotted the distribution on a log scale in Figure 3. The median level average thread depth is about 12.5, meaning that posts on fan pages receive about 12 comments on average.
Although the average thread depth is simple way to estimate the amount of interaction, it doesn’t go deep enough to distinguish who you are interacting with. So it cannot tell you whether it is the same fan posting 100 comments or 100 different fans posting a comment each. The latter is clearly more desirable because it means more of your fans are interacting with each other. So for the next level of engagement (Level 4), I computed the average number of unique fans per conversation (see Figure 4).
Here, the median level for the average number of unique fans per conversation is about 11.7. This means that posts on fan pages typically receive comments from 11 other fans (not counting the initiator of the conversation). Notice that this value is very close to the median level of the average thread depth. This observation suggests that most of the fans only post once within any conversation. This, as we shall see in the next post, will have significant implications in terms of the conduciveness of fan pages as a suitable environment for building relationships.
The Dynamics of Interactions
If your fans are engaged enough to post, comment, and interact with other fans, that is great. It is already quite an achievement already, but we are not done yet. The full spectrum of engagement can be very deep. The next level of engagement (Level 5) goes a step further and looks at the dynamics of the interaction between fans. That is, the timing and velocity of how fans interact on your fan page.
Having a fan who interacts with 10 other fans through 100 comments may sound excellent, but you might change your mind when you found out that it took them over a month to respond to each other. I computed the average response time between every posting and show the result in figure 5a. The median level average-response-time is about 9.8 hours. Since the response time data has large variance, I also computed the distribution of median response time between every message (figure 5b). Although the shape of this distribution is similar to that of average response time, the distribution is shifted. Now the median level of the median-response-time is only about 2.2 hours.
Do you know where your fan page stands among these distributions? Are you beating the median level? And if so, by how much?
Besides giving you a little coverage of my recent European speaking tour, we returned to the subject of Facebook engagement. Today, we dug deeper to understand how fans engage within a fan page by looking at thread depth, the unique number of other fans they interact with, and the dynamics of these interactions. By doing so, we covered three more levels of engagement metrics. So our spectrum of engagement is five levels deep now.
- 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 – with how many other fans?
- Level 5: Average/median response time – dynamics of interaction
The Level 3 (thread depth) and Level 4 (unique fans) data suggest that most of the fans only post once within any conversation. We will see if this is indeed the case next time. This is a very important point, and we will discuss some of its consequence in subsequent posts.
Although we are already at Level 5, we are not yet at the bottom. There are three more levels to go! In subsequent posts, I will reveal more data on the deeper levels of engagement. But for now, let me know what you think about this spectrum of engagement metrics. As usual, kudos, comments, suggestions, critiques, and discussions are always welcome. Stay tuned for even deeper level of engagement...
And by the way, I will be participating in the Big Data Analytics for Social Media panel at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston next week. So if you happen to be in Boston from June 21--23, then we are probably destined to meet. :-) Please stop by and say hello. See you next week in person, or till next time on Lithosphere.
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