In preparation for our Google vs. Facebook working lunch tomorrow, L2 has been busy delving into several recent changes observed across these two platforms. In particular, the “People Are Talking About this” metric appearing on Facebook brand pages has inspired much internal discussion among the research team.

This metric reports the subset of a given page’s overall fan base that is actively interacting with a page’s content, aggregating across a wide set of specific actions.

When we examine the ratio of Facebook fans to “People Talking About This” within a given industry, we get the opportunity to compare and contrast this new benchmark with levels of fan engagement restricted to the Wall.

For the Magazines Industry, we observe a very linear relationship between fan base size and “People Talking About This.” As a community grows in size, the associated interaction rate shows little variation or “spread” around the sample average (3%). This is unusual, in that L2 typically observes an inverse relationship between community size and engagement rates – generating the same proportion of likes/comments relative to community size becomes progressively more difficult to maintain as a community continues to grow.

As seen on the scatterplot, Reader’s Digest constitutes a major outlier within this sample, achieving an interaction rate exceeding 20% of its community size. To help explain this discrepancy, it should be noted that Reader’s Digest has recently experienced some of the most dramatic growth in its Facebook community observed across the entire sector. On July 15th, Reader’s Digest had less than 200,000 fans. Today, it has over 800,000 fans – effectively quadrupling its fan base within the space of three months. During that period, the level of fan engagement observed on the Wall appears to have declined slightly, consistent with the general rule noted above.

While much more research is needed, the “People Talking About This” metric should be approached with caution within the magazine industry. By not disaggregating between distinct types of fan actions (i.e., liking a brand page vs. liking a brand’s Wall content), this aggregate metric can demonstrate bias toward macro-changes in a given fan base’s constitution.

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