Measuring Facebook Engagement: a Scientific Study

by   |  July 31, 2014

The Scientific MethodNot everybody uses Facebook in the same way.   Some people share lots of photos and frequent status updates.   Other people enjoy looking at their friends’ posts but not sharing new content regularly.

I was curious to learn about my friends’ various patterns of engagement.   I wanted to see if there were any behavioral patterns I could observe, and if any such findings could help me predict behavior.

Like a good little student, I wanted to follow the scientific method while doing this.   I formed a hypothesis based on my previous observations.   Then I ran my experiment, analyzed the data, and formed conclusions.

I separated my friends into age groups to see if I could observe any age-related trends. To protect my friends’ identities, I assigned them  numbers in age-order as their only means of identification.

Question / Purpose / Objective

Why do some people get tons of likes on their Facebook posts while others don’t?   Does this have anything to do with their age or level of activity on Facebook?   Does each user’s response rate correlate with his or her relative level of engagement?

Hypothesis / Prediction

Younger people are more active on Facebook and consistently get more likes on their posts.

Predictions for the Facebook Experiment

Procedure / To Do List

1)           Brainstorm a list of names of my friends whom I know to be very active on Facebook.   (My most active Facebook friends are all women.)

2)           Make a chart to organize helpful information regarding user engagement.   Divide my list of friends into age groups.

3)           On each friend’s page, take note of how many friends she has and how many of those friends liked a recent, popular post of hers.   Record these numbers in the chart.

4)           Determine the level of user engagement by dividing the number of “likes” by her total number of friends.   Fill in the chart accordingly.

5)           Now create beautiful graphs to help analyze the data and draw conclusions from it.

Experiment

I followed the steps above.   After creating beautiful charts, some of my findings were surprising in the analysis phase.

Facebook Engagement Table

Analysis

There are several predictable patterns based on these three age groups, as well as some inconsistencies and surprises.

1)           Age 18-25 ““ These users tend to be the most active on Facebook.   They take pictures frequently, share them, and have many comments relative to the response rate found in other age groups.   They also like and comment on their friends’ posts at much higher rates than other users.   Those in this age group have a wide range of friends.   Some have relatively few, which is not entirely surprising considering their age and fewer years of life experience compared with older people.   However, this age group is most likely to accept friend requests from others, which can lead several users in this age group to have very high number of friends.   Given the high level of user engagement, this age group is at a high risk of predation.   Parents should advise their children in this age group to beware of bogus friend requests and stalkers.

2)           Age 25-34 ““ This age group also has a wide range of friends.   Some have relatively few, while others have many.   In this sample, the total number of friends is less for this age group than it is for the younger age group.   This age group has the lowest average engagement rate, which surprised me.   It did help me feel better about my response rate on Facebook compared to others my age.   I also noticed that, as I had predicted, my international friends had higher engagement levels than those of my Anglo Saxon American friends in this age group.   Typically, women ages 25-34 are in a less transient and more stable phase of their lives, settling into their careers and / or motherhood roles.   As such, they don’t have or take as many opportunities to make new connections as women ages 18-24.

3)           Age 55-64 ““ This age group tends to have a lower number of friends, which is not entirely surprising.   My friends in this sample tend to use Facebook more for keeping in touch with old friends and family members.   Several of them use the social media site to keep tabs on their children’s friends and love interests.   Engagement varies widely in this age demographic.   Some users have very high engagement rates while others don’t.

Conclusion

I am always skeptical of defining characteristic behavior on the basis of age alone.   While age groups do often exhibit somewhat predictable patterns, there are many other factors to consider with engagement.   Lifestyle and personality are two key elements that can cause considerable variance in behavior within different age groups.

The patterns that emerged during this study were interesting ones.   Females ages 18-24 were the most active on Facebook as well as those who received the highest number of responses to posting their content.

Females ages 25-34 showed the least amount of engagement on the social network.

Females ages 55-64 had the most surprising results.   Some users were extremely active and showed high levels of engagement among their friends.   Others did not.   Many within this group are the type of users who will share content the least frequently of the age groups.   These users will  look at others’ content and occasionally “like” and comment on things that stand out to them.
 
In a more  controlled setting, I would love to dig more deeply into these numbers to draw out even more  meaning  from the findings.

More on: Astonishing Data, Insights, Marketing, Strategies, Technology
About the Author:

Mimi West is a consummate entrepreneur, brand and marketing expert. This retired opera singer and Founder of My Dream Teacher is now pursuing her MBA at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business Administration. You can follower her on Twitter: @MimiGuynnWest.
Publshed: July 31, 2014  | 
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