After Timeline, Top 50 Brands See Facebook Comments Dip 11%, Likes Rise 11%

On February 29th, Facebook introduced Timeline for Brands, allowing brands to have a nifty cover photo but also eliminating their ability to have a default landing tab (something I would still very much like back). By March 30, all brands had to switch over to Timeline.

Since I’ve been tracking the 50 largest branded Facebook fan pages for more than two years, and since I’ve done previous analysis on how they perform relative to which have the most active fans, how often they post, the impressions they generate and their value, even if certain brands attract more outgoing fans than others, I wanted to analyze how engagement has changed post-Timeline.

There have been several other studies looking at this already. Some say it has had no impact and that engagement was down for everyone. Others say it lead to a 46% increase in engagement.  Others point out that since most engagement takes place in the news feed, engagement should not materially change.

Tracking the Biggest Brand Pages

Thanks to an exclusive arrangement we have with Expion, a rather unique social media management software that allows you to track data from any page you want, I was able to pull data on every public post made by the Top 50 Branded Facebook Pages for two weeks both prior to Timeline (2/16 to 2/29) and after (4/1 to 4/14). We excluded posts in March, as brands changed to Timeline at different times throughout the month.

All in all, we analyzed 871 posts before and 725 posts afterwards, or 1,596 posts overall.  These posts attracted a total of 410,379 comments and 6,634,632 likes, so there was a fair amount of data for our brilliant analysts to comb through and this certainly would not have been possible without Expion.

Here’s what we found:

The Average Post Gets 30 Fewer Comments

  • February, Average Comments per Post: 271.06
  • April, Average Comments per Post: 240.39
  • % Change: 11.31% Fewer Comments per Post
  • Absolute Change: 30.66 Fewer Comments per Post

The Average Post Gets 437 More Likes

  • February, Average Likes per Post: 3,958.44
  • April, Average Likes per Post: 4,395.63
  • % Change: +11.04% More Likes per Post
  • Absolute Change: 437.18 More Likes per Post

Total Comments + Likes Increase

Generally speaking, Facebook Comments are worth more than Likes in terms of helping your page grow, because they have higher Edge Weight, a component of Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm, so the decrease in comments is troubling.

Having said that, if you combine Likes and Comments, the total volume of interaction of these pages increased nearly 10%.

  • February, Average Comments+Likes/Post: 4,229.50
  • April, Average Comments+Likes/Post: 4,636.02
  • % Change: 9.61% More Likes+Comments per Post
  • Absolute Change: 406.52 More Likes+Comments per Post

What’s It All Mean?

Good question. There’s lots of data here, on the very largest brand pages on Facebook (by my definition at least). But my good friend Tom Webster would remind me that correlation does not prove causality. In other words, we know that Timeline was added and we know that Comments declined. What we cannot show, however, is that Timeline caused Comments to decline.

In fact, Facebook is routinely tweaking their algorithm and I’d expect changes there to have much more impact than Timeline. As the Magic Bean blog wrote, “There are too many factors affecting engagement; including fan growth, paid activity, competitions, and – well, simply ‘good content'” to be really sure.

Whatever has changed, it doesn’t doom you or set you up for success. We see that 19 of the 50 pages increased their average Comments per post and 30 of the 50 pages increased their average Likes per post. So, while Timeline may dramatically reduce your tab impressions (a separate topic), I don’t see anything in the data to suggest that it will definitely help you or definitely hurt you in your work building a brand’s presence on Facebook.

What are you seeing?

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