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Why PTAT Doesn’t Correlate with Engagement on Facebook

Engagement has become a nearly universal social media KPI.

However, Facebook’s infamous People Talking About This (PTAT) metric puts a bit of a wrench in this equation. Typically, engagement is an aggregate measure of content interactions which give us a consistent way to compare networks, campaigns, or communities. You would think that PTAT correlates with engagement metrics, but that isn’t always the case.

If you’re adding PTAT to your social media KPIs, it’s important to know what drives PTAT and the often disconnect from engagement. Using Nike Golf’s Analytics on Facebook as an example, we can clearly see how PTAT doesn’t correlate with engagement.

Why Don’t My PTAT and Engagement Trends Match?

The first place your PTAT and engagement stats diverge is in time series data.
Nike Golf Analytics on Facebook Trend
Why? The biggest driver here comes down to the fact that PTAT is a trailing 7 day metric. This has a smoothing effect on the data as you can see above when compared to the main underlying drivers (content engagement and page likes).

Rapid Fan Growth Skews PTAT vs. Engagement

Competitive context can help expose this connection. The fastest growing page will typically be the PTAT leader instead of the engagement leader. Nike is growing fans like crazy – so their PTAT leads.
Nike Golf PTAT 1

But, the engagement story is much different, as the chart below highlights.
Nike Golf PTAT 2

Why? This also comes back to the definition of PTAT: “Total number of unique people who created a story of any kind about your page or on your page. This includes page likes, wall posts, mentions, and any engagement with one of your posts.” Page likes aren’t included in engagement metrics, and tell a completely different story.

PTAT Can Have an Inverse Correlation with Engagement Rate

Nike Golf PTAT 3
Why? Again, this comes back to aggressive fan growth driving PTAT instead of pure engagement. Pages that grow fans like crazy but do not keep pace with engaging content, we see PTAT trend up and engagement rates fall. In these cases, PTAT can be a misleading indicator for performance.

Crushing Your PTAT Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Your Crushing Your Content

Nike Golf PTAT 4
Again we can see how Nike Golf has the largest PTAT, but posts less frequently than industry average. PTAT doesn’t give you much guidance about the volume or quality of content being created.


PTAT certainly has a place in your Analytics on Facebook, but it’s important to keep it in context with your other engagement metrics.

To get deeper Analytics on Facebook and competitive benchmarks, request a demo of Simply Measured, and be sure to follow @simplymeasured on Twitter for more insight and analysis.

Adam Schoenfeld

Adam is the Co-Founder and VP of Strategy at Simply Measured. In 2010 (aka the dark ages of social marketing), Adam joined Damon Cortesi and Aviel Ginzburg to found "Untitled Startup, Inc" with the goal of helping marketers and analysts use social data to do their best work. The company quickly evolved to become Simply Measured and the trusted leader in social analytics. Outside of Simply Measured, Adam is a golfer, breakfast enthusiast, and long-time data geek.

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