Word of Mouth at Scale with Facebook: Understanding PTAT

This is a guest post by Hussein Fazal, CEO of AdParlor, an ad management and technology company for Facebook campaigns. AdParlor manages over 1 billion daily ad impressions on Facebook for clients such as Groupon, Audi, American Express, OMD, Mindshare & Starcom.

One of the most exciting characteristics of Facebook if you are a brand marketer is the ability to achieve word of mouth at scale. Hearing from a friend carries a lot more weight than hearing from the brand itself – and Facebook interactions such as likes, posts and comments can spread through the social graph extremely fast.

In October 2011, Facebook launched the People Talking About This (PTAT) metric in order to help brands track engagement on their page and hence measure the ‘word of mouth at scale’ they are achieving. However, while most brands understand that PTAT measures engagement, they still don’t fully understand how important it is, how it interacts with the other Facebook Insights, and how it can guide them toward creating viral content that resonates with their audience.

So, What Is PTAT?

Prior to the introduction of PTAT in the Fall 2011, most marketers relied on a mashup of metrics – including the number of Likes, active users, comments and other performance indicators – to measure the health of their page.

PTAT brings everything together by measuring all of the individual Facebook users who have engaged with a page’s content and created a “story” in their News Feed and their friends News Feeds in the past seven days.

For instance, if Casey Customer visits your Facebook page for the first time and decides to “Like” it, her action will be appear in her friends’ feeds (driving word of mouth at scale) and this action will become part of your page’s PTAT score. Or, if Brendan Buyer RSVPs to your one-day-only sale event, that will also be reflected in your PTAT score.

The essential value in PTAT is that it encompasses the engagement and activity your page sees. Additionally, since each point on your PTAT line is the sum of the unique users who have created stories about your page over the past seven days, it also shows you how your page’s engagement rate changes over time.

According to Facebook the different types of stories measured in your PTAT score include:

  • Liking your page
  • Liking, commenting on, or sharing your page post
  • Answering a Question you’ve asked
  • Responding to your event
  • Mentioning your page
  • Tagging your page in a photo
  • Checking in or recommending your place

You’ll notice that this list includes people who have Liked your page. It is important to be aware of this, especially when running a Facebook ad campaign. Once your ads start running, you’ll see a big spike in your PTAT, even if users are not interacting with your page. Thus it is important to look at your PTAT net of the paid fans you are acquiring.

The below screenshot is from AdParlor’s dashboard, and it shows how PTAT can change over time. Between July 12 and July 24, this page’s PTAT hovered around 20,000 to 28,000 – indicating that 20,000-28,000 people had shared this page’s content in the seven days prior to each data point. Sudden spikes in PTAT, like the one between the 24th and 26th, could be a result of an ad campaign, improved and more frequent content creation, or even a single viral post.

What Does PTAT Tell You?

PTAT tells you much more than just the total number of people who have interacted with your page. PTAT is also available on a post-specific level. You can tell which posts have garnered the highest engagement rates in their first 28 days, so you can determine which type of content performs best among your fans.

While it’s great to be measuring engagement, Facebook also provides demographic data on people talking about your page, including their gender, age, location and language. This information is invaluable to the savvy marketer who wants to clearly define her brand’s target audience, and can inform the type of content to post to that page in the future.

For example, you may realize that your 18-24 year old female fans engage with your content far more than your 24-29 male fans. You can use this data to help you define your targeting parameters when creating page post ads for your content.

Top 5 Ways To Grow Your PTAT

To grow your PTAT, try the following tactics:

  1. Smart posting: Create content that is short and to the point, contains a call-to-action and is consistently of high quality.
  2. Photos: Facebook users love photos. Regardless of your industry, posts with large, clear photos will drive up your PTAT.
  3. Promotion: Buy page post ads for your most engaging posts to further drive engagement.
  4. Right Timing: Using the demographic data from your Insights panel, publish your posts when your audience is awake, online and most active.
  5. Engage: Lead by example and consistently engage with your fans’ content – respond to their comments, Like the photos they post on your page and thank them for their participation to show them you appreciate their contributions.

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3 Responses to “Word of Mouth at Scale with Facebook: Understanding PTAT”

  1. Monthly Marketing Tip: Get Engaged! | Random House Random Notes says:

    [...] to tell their friends about brands they like. One helpful measure of engagement is Facebook’s “People Talking About This” (PTAT) metric, which is public information about a Facebook Page. Actions that count towards a [...]

  2. A Great Underdog Story Featuring a Facebook Campaign | Social Assurance says:

    [...] Facebook post by any bank. The bank currently has a following of 1,773 on Facebook and a meager PTAT score of 3, but on the picture below they received over 19,000 [...]

  3. 10 Questions Your Facebook Marketing Consultant Better Be Able to Answer - AllFacebook says:

    [...] What’s the people talking about this figure on your Facebook [...]

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