“We should be improving the reach of our Facebook page. I think we could accomplish this fairly easily if we can manage to make at least one post from the ISSA Facebook page a day. It could be as simple as a funny atheist-themed picture, or it could be a link to a controversial r/atheism post that is designed to foster discussion.”
Eight days later, I clarified:
"My hypothesis is that by buying into the popularity of internet memes and hot topics in the news, we will be able to grow our base of Facebook followers. This, in turn, will result in more attention paid to serious content we develop on the blog. Ultimately, this should give our members something to engage with over the summer."
The following is my evaluation of the impact our more frequent posts have had – which I hope you will find interesting. But that’s not quite enough – I want to know what you think! If at any point you disagree with my conclusions or have something to add, please weigh in.
Now, let’s get down to business…
Below is a chart showing an excerpt of our Facebook page’s total lifetime “likes” since the beginning of this year.
The black line represents the date that I launched this initiative. The chart seems to indicate that our Facebook page has been growing at a noticeably slower rate for the past two months. One reason I believe this may have happened is very simple: The spring semester ended. Many people left campus or graduated, and the combined effect of their relative inactivity and/or formal departure from the group may have adversely affected our rate of growth. Unfortunately, Facebook only provides data for the past year, so in writing this report I frustrated to find that I have no base of comparison that I could use to support this claim. It’s possible that the reason our rate of growth has slowed is because the new direction we took our posts has been extremely unpopular. To find out for sure, we’ve got to go deeper…
On this chart we have the total activity of our members (either liking or unliking our page, not our posts) broken down by day, starting May 12. The green and orange bars denote the CFI and SSA conferences, respectively. The first thing to note would be that the number of people unliking our page has been minimal. So far, we haven’t had any catastrophic response to this new initiative. Second, it’s clear the SSA conference was responsible for many of the new “likes” we received in the past two months. Strangely, we had a lot of people unlike our page on and after the SSA conference. My best explanation for this would be that during the conference we had several people “like” our page just to check us out, then unlike us afterward. Regardless, what increased activity we had was more than likely a result of the SSA conference, and not due to anything we were posting at the time.
Here are the ten posts that have had the most lifetime total reach since May 12. As you can see, five of the ten are some variety of meme/image post, one was a viral video (Jesse Galef on CNN), two were discussion threads (Draw Muhammed Day and Reagan meets the Taliban), and two were regular status updates ("Time to meet at Murphy's again" and "Reasons you haven't ordered your t-shirt"). I take this as evidence to support my initial hypothesis: that content designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator attracts more people to our page. The still-unanswered question is whether this will ultimately provide a greater reach for our serious content and a more active community.
Looking at the posts with the maximum total reach for the whole year of 2012, the top four posts were made before May 12. These were our National Ask An Atheist Day post, a post about the Bey/Pearson Debate, a status update about Bowling Night, and Franklin's blog post on why religious people associate morality with faith. Clearly, these posts have a higher reach because our officers (and some members) "liked" and "shared" them more. That's pretty much the only reason something like Bowling Night could have such a long reach. While it's good that our officers like and share our content consistently, the only way we can expect to grow is to have more and more members involved in the same way. These initial results suggest that we're on our way to accomplishing that goal.
The one clear conclusion I can draw from the data we have so far is that there is no one clear conclusion to be drawn. The past two months have left us with decidedly mixed results: On the one hand, a majority of the most popular posts we made on Facebook in the past year have been made in the last two months as part of this new initiative. On the other hand, the fact remains that the rate at which people are "liking" our Facebook page is growing at a slower rate, and was likely helped along by our presence at the SSA conference. That’s exactly why I want to hear from you firsthand! I am open to any and all suggestions. Don’t be shy – if you don’t want to post something publicly, you can always feel free to get in touch with me personally.
So tell us: What can we do to make ISSA a more engaging internet community, both this summer and long term?