New Facebook Tool Sparks The World’s Biggest Popularity Contest

Facebook’s Audience Optimization yields extensive, sometimes surprising data on what people talk about.

New Facebook Tool Sparks The World’s Biggest Popularity Contest
[Photo: Flickr user highwaysengland]

Who is more popular, Jimmy Page or Katy Perry?


According to Facebook’s new Audience Optimization feature (and the resulting data aggregated by The Verge), the Led Zeppelin guitarist wins out over the star of the most-watched Super Bowl halftime show in history. Page has a total Facebook audience of 167,746,500, while Perry is popular with 103,003,350 people on Facebook.

Facebook on January 21 announced Audience Optimization, a “targeting tool to help publishers reach and engage their audiences on Facebook.” This includes the use of interest tags, which publishers can add to reach certain kinds of people. Facebook then made the interest data public, revealing the number of Facebook users talking about given words or phrases, from proper nouns to specific emotions.

Facebook uses measures such as liked pages, statuses, and shared content to determine the total audience for any given topic.

The Verge sifted through hundreds of thousands categories to build top 10 lists in categories like celebrities, gadgets, politicians, and even “most hipster interests.”

The data offers interesting insight into what becomes popular on social media: “Love” has a greater audience than “envy”; “tears” are less common than “laughter.” The iPhone has more of a Facebook audience than the Samsung Galaxy by more than 300 million. And other celebs with a bigger audience than Perry? Vin Diesel (136,008,970) and Japanese pop duo Puffy AmiYumi (139,218,340).

Though, as in the real world, being the most popular doesn’t always mean the most beloved. Take Donald Trump, for example, who tops The Verge‘s measurement of presidential candidates with an audience of 29,184,270. Hillary Rodham Clinton, on the other hand, clocks in at 3,196,570, ranking at No. 8 after Jeb Bush, Bernie Sanders, and others.


The fascinating trove of data offered by Audience Optimization forces us to reckon with Oscar Wilde’s famous proclamation: “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

Check out The Verge‘s roundup of the most popular topics by category here.

About the author

P. Claire Dodson is an assistant editor at Fast Company. Follow her on Twitter: @Claire_ifying.