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Dark Data and Measuring Invisible Impact in Your Facebook Community

In digital communities, good brand managers spend their time observing and interacting with the hundreds or maybe even thousands of fans who engage daily by commenting and posting. These vocal fans are incredibly important, but they represent only a part of the story. Over 80 percent of brand fans are lurkers – quiet fans that neither comment nor post.

As the largest social community, creating Facebook posts that appeal to your silent majority is as important as engaging your loyal brand advocates. The silent majority refers to fans that are being reached by your brand, but don’t take the actions to Like, comment, reply or share that we typically see from top advocates. They’re statistically some of your most informed and loyal customers, potential future Superfans, and the primary providers of the social currency needed to foster your active advocates: validation.

To appeal to these fans, brands need to gain insight into what they aren’t doing. Marketers need to start focusing on three key metrics to read the dark data that often slips through the cracks for this fan segment: clicks, churn and engagement over time.

Measuring silent fans: Clicks, churn, and engagement over time.

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Even though this is dark data, measurement is still possible. Some of this information is available immediately within the data Facebook already provides, and some, like fan history and tracking engagements over time, is more readily available through 3rd party technology providers. There are a number of supporting metrics like your subscription rate; ratio of fan replies and Likes to fan comments; and interaction on fan shares that you can layer in to give you a more nuanced perspective, but the basic lurker landscape can be derived by looking at clicks, churn, and engagement over time. 

Clicks are a key metric provided by Facebook on a post by post basis, as well as a weekly aggregate. They refer to fans who have clicked into a News Feed post but then didn’t otherwise engaged with that post. With Facebook’s new definition of their Engagement metric that now tracks clicks, this metric can be used as a powerful proxy to determine lurkers’ dark activity.

Facebook clicks/engagement

The most effective way to monitors clicks is looking at clicks/engagements and clicks/reach. Engagement is a catch all that includes shares, Likes, comments, and clicks. Watching how clicks as a ratio of engagements and of reach perform across different post types will give you a good indication of what best hooks your lurkers, and may vary greatly from what hooks your active advocates. Be aware though, that the occasional uncropped recipe photo or hotel pool shot might still appeal to lurkers in the feed without requiring a click through.

To combat lost clicks, one way to start measuring dark data from lurkers would be to work teaser photos into your post mix. Teaser photos are visually grabbing, intentionally cropped photos that hint at a punch line or fuller story that can be reached by clicking through to an externally hosted image or page. Compelling clicks in this manner provides a positive fan experience while presenting a very low obstacle to engagement.

Churn rate, or the rate of fans leaving your page, is a key measurement to determine what silent fans like and don’t like about your brand. Measuring your churn rate regularly and tying it to specific posts or campaigns can act as quantitative analysis that will, over time, allow you to create content that appeals to your fan base as a whole. Since dark data pertains to the majority of your fan base, overall churn rate provided by Facebook serves as a useful reflection of what resonates with your silent majority.

Facebook Churn Rate

Timing of engagement is a crucial piece of dark data when measuring individuals in your Facebook community. For active fans, use a technology provider or manual research to see how much time elapsed between when they initially Liked your page and when they first engaged. A long average time suggests you’re bringing lurkers along for an enjoyable ride until they’re ready to post, but if the vast majority of your fans engage immediately or not at all, you’re likely not appealing to your passive fans.

Measuring timing between engagements and week over week retention from active fans can also provide valuable dark data on what resonates with these fans; if they start to post more frequently or go through inactive periods, mapping that data to the types of content posted can inform brands about how to stimulate the best discussion with varying segments of their fan base.

Using Dark Data for Good

Once you’ve identified your silent fans, keep track of new engagements as a percentage of overall engagement. Pay attention to the content and initiatives that reliably bring back hardcore fans week over week, and see if it differs from the efforts that get newbies to engage or lurkers to look. This unique perspective can be informative beyond Facebook to influence underlying values of your brand marketing.

Think of dark data as a type of sonar - you’re constantly sending out signals, and now learning to pay attention to what comes back as a method of measuring the shape of your community. As such, benchmarking and reliable measurement over time is essential.

Respect the Silence

Remembering that the quiet majority has both inherent brand value and tangible monetary value can make a huge difference for your business. Understanding that passive fans are not just bad fans or non-performing potential advocates, but a valuable asset with a unique set of identifiable motivators will have the highest return on investment in the form of a self feeding community ecosystem that provides a great experience for all your brand fans.

Have you found additional value in your quiet fans or had success in converting quiet fans to engaged fans? What strategies have you used to create a whole fan experience? Let me know on Twitter: @danielmsullivan.

Join The Conversation

  • MCCCODE's picture
    Mar 18 Posted 3 years ago MCCCODE

    Dan thanks for that insighful comment.

    Not only on facebook but other Networks out there. And simply to expand a friend of mine openned a Fan Page on Facebook, he is an artist so it revolves on those topics. As a normal and comon practice he invited to like his page, a friend being a friend i did. Within the time lapses a saw several updates on his posts and images on my personal feed; and that was fun and i new that by liking his page i would get his updates. On a particular image that a really enjoyed i decided to click "like", moreover share it an comment on it (it simply catch my attention), 24 hours later i got dozens of friends request (people i have no idea who they are), my facebook signals were astonishgly high (my first thought is that i forgot my anniversary, again) and while going thru the list, it became clear that these people where piggy back riding on that simple comment i made on that Fan Page.

    Now it can be induced that this particular post was promoted or exposed via lurky methods of sharing. Ok fine, but for me as a simple user of my personal account on facebook was an unwanted experience. My most comon practice now days is Like, even comment and MUTE immediately, not because you did something wrong, let's be honest i clicked like because i wanted to; but it does not mean i need to suffer the consequences of that like. How will that reflect on your brand? potentially anyone may remember it "yeah i got myself spammed on Facebook".

    In my opinion is time that facebook begins some more intelligent type of platforming content, maybe create a search engine for the network, allow a multi-facet feature on my profile, similar to page owners and personal. e.g. Me (personal), Me business, etc.

    For now on Facebook as a simple user, i will be not likely to advocate for any brand even if i like it, even if i hit the like button (the post will be mutted) and your brand will be able to reach me; and again is not your fault is the risk of the like (BTW good title for an article).

  • Dan Michael Sullivan's picture
    Mar 18 Posted 3 years ago Dan Michael Sullivan

    Thanks for the kind words, glad you enjoyed the article. Yours is a really interesting perspective, where you are actively reading brand content and following the conversation, but you're hesitant to chime in for fear of being buried with updates. I know on Twitter, mentioning a certain brand name might certainly leave you open to competitors reaching out. On Facebook, if I comment on a brand post, I'll only receive notifications if someone replies or likes my comment, not the hundreds of subsequent fan comments. The brand can also reply to my comment (and I'd get a notification), but I have to comment first, they can't initiate with me. I've had to walk brand marketers through that breakdown before, so I think you present a really valid question; are fans being given enough information to know what to expect when they interact with a brand, and is that limiting brand communities?



  • MCCCODE's picture
    Mar 18 Posted 3 years ago MCCCODE

    what a great article.

    The main reason for lack of interactivity on Facebook and other networks is the fact that your stream and even email may be flooded with unwanted updates. Lets supose i like you post on your fan page on facebook, i may be expose to hundreds of updates i do not really care about, moreover the bother me. Sure it can be argued that you can always mute the or unfollow the post but most users care little for that feature, in the span of time it creates the fear of liking.

    what would you propose to overcome that?

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