As a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs, I have enjoyed discovering other fans on Facebook, Twitter, etc — and enjoy the posts, the art, the discussion. A week or so ago the question popped into my head — is it like this for every grand old author? In other words, does Kipling have a community like this out there? Tolkien? Rider Haggard? Mark Twain? H.G. Welles?
What do you think?
I honestly was just curious and had no particular expectation when I went into this. What I found was pretty amazing. Let me take you through it.
The Edgar Rice Burroughs Facebook Community
First, I thought — I’ll document the ERB Facebook Community. Let’s see what’s there. I know a lot of it, but maybe there’s more out there that I don’t know about. So I did a comprehensive search through Facebook for “all things ERB.” Here is what I found (and if I missed something — tell me. I would like this to be complete.)
Not bad, methinks.
So then I started checking out other authors who I thought might have a similar presence on Facebook — authors whose place in lit history is, if anything, publicly acknowledged as equal to or “greater” than ERB.
Am I sure I picked the right ones? No. Maybe there will be readers out there who will give uggestions to improve my methodology or choices of corollaries. But here is who I looked at: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, J.R.R. Tolkien, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, H. Rider Haggard, J.K. Rowling, Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and for good measure — “Science Fiction” as a genre.
I honestly had no idea what I’d find. What would you expect to find?
Here it is:
So … in terms of the number of groups, pages, etc — ERB clearly rules.
Would you have expected that? I can’t say that I did. Sure made me proud, though.
But it’s interesting — look at how many Author “Likes” ERB has — a modest 22,000. Then check out Mark Twain (1.9M), Tolkien (1.7M), Conan Doyle (680,000)
ERB definitely is nowhere near the top in terms of number of “Likes” on his author page.
My thought: Is there any kind of preliminary conclusion that can be drawn from this?
My answer: This would seem to suggest that ERB has a smaller but much more committed and engaged fan base than the others.
If this is true, then how could this be measured?
My thought: Let’s look at the aggregate number of fan posts about each other during a given 7 day period. That should give us some idea.
The “Level of Activity” Sweepstakes
First, you need to understands some things about Facebook. The place where we’re going to see fan posts are in the groups. Take an “Author” page for example — the only thing for a fan to do there is “like” the page. In groups, however, the members can all put up posts, so it’s the groups that are truly interactive.
Right away, however, this limits most of the others because, as you can see — most of them don’t even have groups associated with them. So in terms of the number of groups — ERB has 7, and no one else has more than 1. And many have zero.
But then again – the one Sherlock Holmes group has 27,000 members, and that’s a lot bigger than any of the ERB groups.
So, to avoid giving undue weight to a daily fluctuation, I tracked the postings in each group for a week.
Here are the numbers. Brace yourself, it’s pretty amazing:
First of all, I’m sure there’s somebody out there who will figure out a way to rain on my parade. I’ve chosen the wrong authors. I’ve chosen the wrong way of ranking them. It’s only Facebook. Many of the ERB fans are in multiple groups so they’re counted more than once. Okay, fine. I welcome any pushback. But here’s what I see.
First, it’s one thing to pass by the Author page for any of these guys and click “Like” and never come back. Almost all of these authors have more Likes than ERB. That seems to track in some fashion with their level of literary fame. Burroughs had a greater level of literary fame than some of them at a certain point (say, the 60’s) but that’s not the case now.
The level of passion and engagement of ERB fans is unmatched. I mean … it’s not even close. 346 posts in one week compared to 40 in the second place finisher — Sherlock Holmes/Arthur Conan Doyle. That is a truly extraordinary number.
As for the distribution of posts within the ERB community — what can we learn from that?
First — ERBzine, the grandaddy of them all, comes in first, followed closely by ERB Worlds of Adventure and Fantastic World of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Everbody that’s associated with any of those groups deserves a big thanks from all the rest of us. I’m tempted to start naming names of the people behind these groups, but then for sure I’ll leave some people out so let’s just stay with the group names.
Huge congrats to the Big Three.
I’ll leave it there . . . . . it was a fun exercise. I’m proud of ERB and the ERB fans.
Onward for another hundred years!