Why Facebook’s “People Talking About This” Metric isn’t very useful

I have read a lot of blog posts over the past few months telling Facebook community managers that the key metric for them to measure is People Talking About This (PTAT). For those who aren’t familiar with the metric, it is a public facing number that shows the world how many people are generating stories about your brand page. The metric totals the number of people who have liked your page or engaged with your content in a way that generated a story (likes, comments, shares, event RSVP’s, etc.) over a period of time.

I understand the attention this metric has drawn. If it is low, people perceive your brand as not being engaging on Facebook. And, if you have switched to Timeline, people can track this trend over time and see whether or not your engagement is decreasing.

I, for one, have found this metric to be useless. If it only took into account engagement with content, I could see some value in it, but it includes acquisition, which greatly skews the results.

For any brand running paid media to acquire new fans, this metric will always be high (if they are spending enough anyway). Once you cut off your ads, the metric drops overnight. This creates the perception that people are less engaged with a brand on Facebook, but in reality engagement may have stayed at a steady rate if not a bit higher than usual.

This was a smart business decision by Facebook, I do agree. This may drive brands to spend more money on the platform to maintain a high metric. But, at the end of the day, it doesn’t tell you much about the success of your social program.