3 Facebook Metrics That Don’t Mean What You Think They Mean

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facebook metrics meanings confused 3 Facebook Metrics That Dont Mean What You Think They Mean

[NOTE: Master all of the metrics that matter and sign up for my Insights training course.]

There are dozens of Facebook metrics. Even the most popularly used metrics are largely misunderstood (make sure you check out this glossary of terms!).

This is especially the case for admins whose source of metrics knowledge is within posts or within web Insights only. I encourage you to look beyond these surface level metrics and dig into your exports — this is where marketing gold is found!

Access this data by clicking the “Export Data” button within your web Insights.

facebook insights export 3 Facebook Metrics That Dont Mean What You Think They Mean

So here are a few of the metrics you are probably currently butchering, along with their actual meanings and the metrics you are looking for…

Total Reach or Organic Reach

The Reach metric is the most unnecessarily obsessed over while also misunderstood. It’s so misunderstood and confused that admins are confusing multiple metrics while none of them mean what they think they do.

Two of these metrics are Total Reach and Organic Reach. Total Reach can also be expressed as “[X number] people saw this post” under posts on your Page.

saw this post facebook 3 Facebook Metrics That Dont Mean What You Think They Mean

What You Think It Means: You think that Total Reach, [X number] People Saw This, and Organic Reach all tell you the number of Fans who saw a post. News Flash: They don’t!

What It Actually Means: Total Reach (or [X number] People Saw This) tells you the total number of people who saw a post. That includes Fans and non-Fans, and it also means reaching people with and without ads. It means reaching people within their News Feeds, on your Page and as shared by friends. The key word here is “TOTAL.”

Organic Reach is the number of unique users (Fans or non-Fans) who saw your Page post in News Feed, Ticker or on your Page. Organically, of course, and not as the result of an ad.

What You Probably Want: If you want to know the number of your Fans you reached with a post, you need to dig into your Post Level Export. The name of this metric is “Lifetime Post Reach by People Who Like Your Page” and it is in column X of the Key Metrics tab.

facebook fan reach 3 Facebook Metrics That Dont Mean What You Think They Mean

Of course, if you’ve been whining about your Total Reach being under 16% of your total Fan base, you’re going to be in for a rude awakening. This number will be even lower!

Also note that if you want to dig even more into your Fan-only data, there are seven columns of data there for you to discover!

People Talking About This

Everyone knows about the People Talking About This metric because it’s displayed immediately under your Cover Photo.

people talking about this 3 Facebook Metrics That Dont Mean What You Think They Mean

What You Think It Means: You think this is the number of people sharing, commenting on and liking your Page content. Oh, it includes those actions. But it’s more than that!

What It Actually Means: This is the number of people generating stories about your Page during the past week. So this includes post comments, likes and shares. But it also includes Page likes, check-ins, event RSVPs, Offer claims, mentioning your Page and writing on your Timeline.

The Page Talking About This metric isn’t necessarily terrible. But it’s easy to manipulate with ads (especially driving a lot of Likes), and it doesn’t focus on post quality, which is likely what you’re looking for.

What You Probably Want: What you probably want is Lifetime Talking About this on a post-level basis, and it can be found within your Post Level Export. The total count can be found in column Q of the Key Metrics tab, but you can get a breakdown (Comments, Likes, Shares) within the Lifetime Talking About This tab.

facebook post comment like share 3 Facebook Metrics That Dont Mean What You Think They Mean

Unfortunately, there isn’t a Talking About This metric for all posts, but only on a post-by-post basis.

Post Clicks

This is a new metric that is found only within web Insights under Posts.

facebook post clicks 3 Facebook Metrics That Dont Mean What You Think They Mean

What You Think It Means: You think it’s link clicks. Nope!

What It Actually Means: This is the total number of clicks on a post, not including comments, likes and shares. So this includes every other type of click you can imagine (photo view, video play, reporting spam, expanding to read a post, expanding to read comments, clicking profiles within comments, etc.).

What You Probably Want: You want Link Clicks! This is a very valuable metric that is buried within the Post Level Export under Consumers and Consumptions. Look under the Lifetime Post Consumers by Type and Lifetime Post Consumptions by Type tabs. In each case, column I is for Link Clicks. That’s your baby!

facebook consumptions link clicks 3 Facebook Metrics That Dont Mean What You Think They Mean

Consumptions is a great metric to get to know. It’s my favorite metric because it allows me to dig through just how valuable engagement on a post was, separating fluff from substance.

Your Turn

What metrics do you confuse — or do you find other marketers regularly confuse?

Let me know in the comments below!

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About Jon Loomer

Jon Loomer is a digital marketing consultant with a unique perspective on social media. He was introduced to Facebook in 2007 while with the NBA (back before Pages) and has been using Facebook for business ever since. Stay in touch by liking his Facebook Page (Jon Loomer Digital).

  • Adam Gerber

    I think link clicks is in itself a little misleading. Facebook should call it “(some) link clicks” since security settings on individual’s profiles limits how these get tracked. Using an external URL shortener like bit.ly helps here.

    I’m also at a loss for what to do with the social impressions, social clicks, social CTR. I know what they mean, but I’m not really sure how to use them. Some posts get high PTAT but the social CTR doesnt necessarily correspond. Any advice?

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      I can’t be much help here, Adam. I pretty much ignore social stats, at least in terms of being something actionable.

    • http://antoniocalero.com/ Antonio Calero

      Hi Adam

      Social metrics are great to track performance in industries where WOM is key. It also works great if for example you know your target audience to be very…”social” (e.g.: teenagers, Star Wars nerds like myself, etc…)

      In the case you mention, you could have a high PTAT and low Social CTR if, for example, your second degree audience (friends of followers) are not very keen to follow what others are saying in fear they could be associated to an ideology or lifestyle. I’ve found this with some cases, but the most interesting one was the owner of a page associated with a website for adult sexual encounters, who had exactly the same problem you mention. Finding the reason behind his problem (and fixing it) required to go beyond Facebook and do some human behavior analysis.

      You may have given me a good topic for a blog post…thank you!

  • reallifesarah

    I always get confused between “People Talking About This” And “Engaged Users.” Is there a difference?

    • Adam Gerber

      the simplest way to think of these is that engagement is about people engaging and PTAT is about people talking. when they engage, it can be a private thing (like clicking a link) or public thing (like sharing or liking).

      but, when someone talks about something, its inherently public and gets seen by others (so, likes, comments, shares and certain link clicks only). In this regard, PTAT is the same as the number of people making stories on their friends news feeds about your post. I hope that helps!

      • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

        What Adam said!

  • http://www.twirp.ca/ Anita Hovey

    Ok WHEW. I read a headline like that and think “oh crap”, but I was good this time. Thanks for explaining!

  • Joanna Gasdogas

    Thank you Jon for posting this. I was asking myself the same questions just today! What a coincindence. Why is facebook trying to confuse people? I think they are trying to get more and more Promoted Posts.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      They aren’t trying to confuse people, Joanna. They give people a bite-sized, easy to consume area to view some of their stats. Those stats are only the top level of the top level. People need to dig beyond that.

  • reallifesarah

    Also, it seems that the total reach – “[X number] people saw this post” under posts on your Page” does not take into account viral reach? FB routinely says that organic reach is 100% of our reach, and we may have 200-1,000 shares for that post.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Probably, Sarah. As you know, I couldn’t care less about Reach stats in most cases. Inaccurate, buggy, inexact science, imaginary number…

      • reallifesarah

        Exactly! You’ve won me over on that one!

      • reallifesarah

        The other day, we ran an ad for a page where we were asking for email signups. It was so empowering to be able to calculate how much we paid per new contact, rather than use more ambiguous reach (and even engagement) numbers.

        • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer


  • http://www.postplanner.com/ Scott Ayres

    Some good explanations. Luckily everything I assumed was right! :P Also I doubt most are ever exporting their insights. I think I’ve done this once ever on a page. But I’m not a numbers guy so maybe that’s just me. Downloading it made me angry because it was too many numbers! I closed it and moved on to watching cat videos..

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Man, Scott. Honestly, if you’re serious about your Facebook marketing (which I know you are), I don’t know how you ignore those exports. You don’t need to look at all of the stats. You don’t need to look at them all that often. But there are so many valuable stats in there that you can’t get from your web Insights that it’s pretty darn important.

      In particular: Fan only stats and Consumptions (which includes link clicks). The funny thing about the fan only stats is that I’d say 99% of people complaining about their fan only stats have never looked at them.

      • http://www.postplanner.com/ Scott Ayres

        Yeah I think that stuff is hidden so deep most page owners have never heard of it. And most probably don’t want or need that deep of analytics. I’m not a numbers guy so I know for me personally I’d never dig into it that deep likely. Just talking about it gives me hives I think!

  • http://www.OnlineMarketingIntro.com monicamcpherrin

    This was so helpful. I did have some of it confused. I’m going to print this out and study it until I’ve committed it to memory. By then Facebook will have changed everything again and it won’t matter…lol

  • Mark Leo

    As often happens when I read an article about Facebook, I follow along doing each step in the article – and lo and behold, my Facebook is different. In this case, I downloaded the Excel file and the only column that has the word Lifetime is “Lifetime Total Likes”. In column X is “Daily Viral Reach”. I went through all the columns one by one and none match the description like the one you have pictured. I also opened every tab in the workbook – nada. The only one that comes close is “Daily Organic Reach” [The number of people who visited your Page, or saw your Page or one of its posts in news feed or ticker. These can be people who have liked your Page and people who haven't. (Unique Users)], the difference being that it includes folks who haven’t Liked my page. Fortunately I have gotten used to daily Facebook frustration – just wish one day could be hassle free.
    Overall, I focus on engagement and sort of judge progress and success by the amount of conversation generated.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Mark — You’re looking at the Page Level Export, not Post Level.

      • Mark Leo

        Oy, see, I knew it would be me. Thanks.

  • http://antoniocalero.com/ Antonio Calero

    Another metric I find my clients confuse a lot is Engagement. Most of them think of Engagment as “PTAT”. This especially affects some B2B pages, where they have a very low PTAT (you know, business people always bussy…) but they get surprised when I tell them they have a very high Engagement. They don’t undertand that clicking on images, links, etc… even if it doesn’t generate a story, it also counts as Engagement (although clearly the viral factor is very low)

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Yep! That was originally part of this article, but it was too similar to PTAT (also on this list), so I left it off. Definitely one that gets people!

  • Archie

    Looking forward to the metrics course, when do you think it will be available?

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Shooting for end of the month, Archie! Like with the Power Editor course, it will likely be available on pre-pay first.

      • Keith James

        I’m looking forward to this training as well. I’ll listen for the announcement on the podcast.

  • Elizabeth Bray

    I really enjoyed reading this article, this was very helpful. Thanks for sharing it.. http://www.linkagoal.com

  • Lenny

    I would like to know what in the world video plays for a link post ad means. Could it be that those actions stats capture whatever activity one person clicking the ad performs for the whole day? crazy!

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      I believe Facebook measures the video plays that this person made with your content, not just that post.

      • Lenny

        ocpm has gone wild lately, sometimes near 20 bucks. insane!

  • Julian_Adorney

    Thanks for the post Jon! This was very helpful. I’ve suspected that Facebook’s top 3 metrics weren’t what I thought they were, but this helped clarify. The ‘Post Clicks’ part was especially helpful; I didn’t realize it could include clicking to see More Comments, clicking on a commenter’s profile, clicking Read More, etc.

    I’m starting a Facebook page for my new company in a couple weeks, and I’ll definitely export the metrics and dig into them. No more being fooled by ‘Talking About This’ or ‘Post Clicks’.

    That said, exporting the metrics seems like it uses a lot of math and complex numbers. Are there 3-4 key metrics you’d recommend Facebook page managers really focus on?

  • sara

    i’ve always disliked using ‘talking about this’ on page level as a metric for engagement when page likes are included! must better to dig deeper into post level stats for more insights into what posts are and are not engaging fans and whether your organic reach had any influence on this (ive found the last few months my organic reach per post has been dropping – has this happened to anyone else?)

  • Jen Picard

    Great article, Jon – that export can be quite intimidating when you first look at it, so it’s great to see some information on what to look at, and what it means! I’ve added this article to my weekly round-up of epically awesome social media blog posts so more people can benefit from your excellent advice: http://www.meltwater.com/social-media-blog/this-weeks-epically-awesome-social-media-blog-posts-101113/

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