There are 3 measures of an engagement rate that we like to use. If you’re not a numbers geek, just skip to the bottom for the highlights.

Gross Engagement Rate (monthly)

In women’s fashion, we see that Victoria’s Secret has 16 million fans, while players such as Lane Bryant have only 467,000.  Yet, Victoria’s Secret has a 1.6% engagement rate vs the 8.7% on Lane Bryant. Engagement rate here is measured as the sum of interactions over the last 30 days (likes, posts, comments) divided by the fan base.

Some folks say that quality is better than quantity– to have engaged fans versus just a lot of them.

People Talking about This (weekly)

Recently, Facebook made “People Talking About This” publicly available in the graph API. This metric tells us how many unique people have interacted with us over the the last 7 days– taking an action that could be possibly shared with their friends.

Average is 2-3% for most brands, but that varies by industry and page size. Big pages will have low engagement rates– Coke at 36 million fans has a PTA of only 200,000, about half a percent. However, the House Rabbit Society has 484 PTA on a base of 11,000 fans, which is 4.4%– almost 10 times that of Coke.

Feedback rate (per post)

In the post below from Lane Bryant (full disclosure– BlitzLocal is their social media agency), we see the number of impressions, comments, likes, and shares on a post. In this case, they have 60,460 impressions, which is 12% of the audience (factoring in uniques). And of these impressions, they generated 2,946 interactions (likes + comments + posts), giving a feedback rate of 5%. That means 5% of the folks who saw the post took some form of action.

Depending on what you’re saying, you could be shooting for interactions (click LIKE if you love ice cream), driving sales (we have a 40% off sale and free shipping this weekend), or gathering market feedback (which of these products would you rather get as a gift?).

And you should compare stats only against posts with similar goals– not against everything you’ve done or even what some guru said you should shoot for generically. Even time of day makes a big difference– and what works for someone else in one timeframe might not work for you. Some self-proclaimed scientist said the best time to post is Wednesday at 3 pm– this may or may not be right for you.

What does this mean?

What are your business goals– more awareness, fans, leads, or sales?

Start from the end goal and work backwards.

Let’s say that you want to collect more emails from Facebook. If you assume that roughly 5% of users will give you their email address (depends on whether you have given them an incentive to do so) and that you want to grow your email list by 50,000, then you would need a million more fans (50,000 divided by 5%).

Maybe you run a consumer packaged goods company or are in network television. In this case, you probably want to have an audience larger than your competitors, and of higher quality, too. If your fan count is below target, run Facebook ads (a particular ad unit called Sponsored Like Stories) or push users from your website and email list to your Facebook page.  If your engagement rate is low, then try asking more questions or running a particular ad unit called a Sponsored Post Story.

In the competitive grid of women’s fashion we saw earlier, we see that Victoria’s Secret has 259 thousand interactions and 294 thousand PTA– quite similar, while Lane Bryant has 40 thousand interactions and 9 thousand PTA. All else equal, it means that there are more people talking about Victoria’s Secret, but few of them have more than a single interaction. Lane Bryant’s fan base, though smaller, has a ratio of 10 interactions per storyteller (person who is talking about the brand). The ratio between interactions and PTA is also governed by time. With PTA being calculated on a rolling 7 day basis, it could be that you had stellar results two weeks ago (perhaps it was Cyber Monday), which then caused last week to look relatively shabby.

Use these engagement figures in combination to determine the health of your Facebook community versus your competitors and to troubleshoot what you should do to continue optimizing. Know when it’s time to fill the top of the funnel versus letting your loyal fans know that today, it’s time to buy.