If you look only at public comments on Facebook for a piece of research, you’re cheating yourself.
The real news is in the total volume of all Facebook interactions. We’re not talking about a whisper campaign – it’s simply this: If you’re not seeing the full altmetrics picture, you’re missing out on what is capturing the public’s attention.
Facebook is the world’s largest social network with 1.59 billion active users. Increasing your research reach on Facebook demonstrates public interest and engagement in your work. No surprise there. Measuring your reach gives you the ability to understand what is currently happening, communicate it to others, and make plans to improve. But what if you don’t know about all Facebook activity, and only have a sample from users who have posted publicly?
We are now giving our customers a deeper way to understand what’s happening on Facebook by measuring all Facebook interactions, including any time their research is shared, liked or commented on – even if the discussions are limited to a Facebook user’s tight social network. This feature complies with Facebook’s privacy Terms of Service.
Why Friends-Only Interactions Matter
Private interactions on Facebook are where the real conversations happen – conversations between individuals about what matters to them. (This is in contrast to public interactions, where companies, institutions and other entities often post promotional information about themselves.)
Facebook Shares, Likes and Comments help you measure the visibility in the real, everyday interactions users have with research.
Public Facebook comments provided in some other altmetric platforms give a small glimpse of the conversation around a piece of research. Why a small window? Because public comments are only a fraction of total Facebook engagement. This fraction might be much larger for different pieces of research. Counting only public comments is an unreliable metric for understanding the scope of engagement. It does provide the entire view of interest in your research.
How Does It Work?
PlumX users can now accurately track private interactions happening on Facebook for a piece of research within the ‘Social Media’ category. When an individual shares, likes or comments on research, PlumX counts this metric.
This helps answer important questions about specific research such as: “With which articles is the public engaged?”, or, “What social media strategies are successful?”
Previously, Plum Analytics followed three different Facebook metrics:
- Facebook Comments (under the ‘Mentions’ category)
- Facebook Likes (under ‘Social Media’)
- Facebook Shares (under ‘Social Media’)
Facebook provides a public search that allows you to see all public posts about your work. For this article, the results aren’t very informative; They only provide a single public comment.
Monitoring the volume of engagement happening between Facebook users tells you much more.
Why Else Does This Matter?
Facebook itself uses ‘Share,’ ‘Like’ and ‘Comment’ counts to determine whether a post surpasses competing content for a place in a user’s news feed. This count helps users not only understand how much interaction their research generates – but also how many Facebook users are seeing notice of this research in their feeds. We want you to be able to measure this visibility. It marks the true interest in your research.
Are Facebook Shares, Likes and Comments Metrics Transparent and Auditable?
Yes. Facebook provides these metrics for any URL you’d like to search via its ‘Graph’ API. For example, for the link above, this API call returns the metrics for the artifact highlighted above. These metrics anonymize the users interacting with the research. Publishing or using this information does not contravene Facebook’s Terms of Service. You can’t click to see individual comments that Facebook users have shared about a particular piece of work. Facebook doesn’t publish the content of a non-public comment, or the identity of comment providers, preserving privacy.
As promotion becomes an important part of the research puzzle, gaining a deeper understanding of what happens in social media is vital. Measuring the more personal conversations of Facebook can provide a worthy indication of promotion and attention. Just make sure you choose a platform that measures this important altmetric.