Facebook pages have been a common subject of academic research as a means for analysing the object of study. Generally investigators are eager to grasp interaction, content or page management in order to comprehend and evaluate specific topics (e.g. collective actions or self-representation, catastrophes, elections), events, and actors (network). To do so, different approaches are used; content or descriptive analysis, (N)etnography, qualitative or quantitative, statistics, computational, etc. However, among these, digital methods approach is (still!) rarely considered a central part of research design for social scientists, traditional methods are still the main tool for researchers, at least in Portugal; investigators dependent on manual data extraction and offline-based references (Omena & Rosa, 2015).
In Portugal (between 2011-2014) the main focus of the studies on Facebook covered four dimensions correlated with one another, and followed by specific research interests (see chart below): i) Users (utilizadores) with a major interest in understanding how they interact with posts, identifying the most compelling posts, and also user’s gender; ii) Interaction (interação) in an effort to identify and analyse users or posts, and quantify the interaction process; iii) Pages (páginas) with the intention of verifying the daily posts, number of likes and comments, and posts types; and, finally iv) Posts, aiming to categorize, examine interaction, and distinguish pots that have the greatest impact.
Beyond media/news pages and Paulo Coelho, here are examples page´s posts with high talking about count in Pixuleco´s network: Movimento Contra Corrupção – post id: 901294779982791, Partido Anti-PT – post id: 1743875885878211, and Sargento Fahur – post id: 1048607208569572 . Facebook has recently removed this latter page (with more than 1 million likes) due to violent content and harassment, but page’s owners created a new one. Now, regarding the most active pages in Pixuleco´s network; after Youtube and media/news pages, we have Movimento Contra Corrupção (again!), Juiz Sérgio Moro (a Federal judge), Jair Messias Bolsonaro (Brazilian Federal Deputy that publicly supported the military coup in 1964) and Movimento Brasil Livre (Free Brazil Movement or MBL that since early 2015 is considered one of the main leaders of pro-impeachment grassroots movements in Brazil). Find below examples of the type of posts published by Movimento Contra Corrupção (post id: 901294779982791) and Sargento Fahur (post id: 1048607208569572).
When opting to evaluate Facebook Pages under their like network, it is recommended to be aware of attributes like post activity and talking about count. Now, changing subjects from participatory politics in Brazil to UEFA European Championship. Portugal first won the Euro Cup 2016 playing against the host country; France. Driven by curiosity I collected the page like network (depth 1) of Seleção Nacional (Portugal National Team) and Équipe de France de Football (data extraction: 13 July 2016) in order to explorer in-degree (indicates page popularity) and out-degree (indicates page activity). Before moving on with analysis based on degree, I propose an exercise, here it goes post activity and talking about count of Seleção Nacional and Équipe de France for your appreciation. In addition, I added diagrams also showing fan count.
A great number of possibilities for analysing Facebook Pages can be found here, and I have not mentioned all options practically available. However, regarding post activity, talking about count, page’s popularity or activity, one of my main concerns would be finding a balance between ‘data you got plus all possible strategies of analyses’ and ‘choosing appropriated attributes, metrics or strategies’ to have rich insights in you research. In other words, why picking outdegree instead of post activity? From which perspective shall one measure popularity (e.g. post’s engagement, fan count, talking about count, indegree)? Is time range being considered? Social context matters just as well a socio-technical appreciation; they shall be together and not be separated.