Facebook Analytics Coming of Age

Facebook is the Big Kahuna of social media. Eight hundred million users from around the world spend considerable time on the platform, and 350 million users access it through a mobile device.

Reports on the amount of time spent on Facebook are astounding, if not expected. Nielsen, in its third-quarter study on social media habits, reported that US Internet users spent 53 billion minutes on Facebook in May 2011 alone. HubSpot estimated that one of every eight minutes spent on social media is spent on Facebook.

It's not surprising, then, that analytics developers are beginning to regard Facebook metrics as more than merely ancillary to Website measurement. Fortunately, Facebook is making such metrics easier to gather.

For the first few years of its operation, Facebook had some unique coding requirements that hampered measurement efforts. For example, developers couldn't simply apply JavaScript tags for analytics to Facebook fan pages, as they could to other Website pages. To circumvent this, Web developers came up with inserts. Webdigi developed an open-source plug-in to insert the Google Analytics JavaScript tag on a fan page.

In the first positive move, Facebook announced reduced support for its own variation of HTML, FBML, in favor of HTML5. In doing so, it eliminated many coding hurdles, including the aforementioned JavaScript restriction. It also paved the way for the creation of a robust analytics developer community.

Second, Facebook upgraded Facebook Insights, its analytics dashboard, to monitor the activity caused by Likes selected and Share buttons clicked. This gives fan page and app developers a means to understand fans and app user engagement within Facebook. As one benefit, users get a more refined optimization choice between ads and post activity. This means page owners can better determine whether an ad or a post would spread a message more effectively.

Moreover, Facebook analytics providers PageLever and Google Analytics have launched new solutions. PageLever groups its results into three nuanced reports of fan page activity: growth of fans, visibility of posts, and engagement resulting from the posts. PageLever and Facebook Insights chart fan page posts, displaying dates and varied metrics detailing who is following and why. Google Analytics' Social Plug-in can track actions from Facebook buttons, as well as other social media, alongside Google+ on tagged Websites. Though the code requires some modification, you can compare a social media campaign against other traffic referrals and manage the digital presence of your business.

As measurement of Facebook and other social media gets incorporated into standard Web analytics tools, we may see clickthrough rates lose their status as the yardstick for campaign success as the emphasis on sharing grows. How activity flows from one source to a forum must be considered. Itís not enough to have an accounting of posts or the number of comments on a page. Marketers, who are accustomed to presenting a number representing volume, will need to find more useful dashboard presentations -- ones that show trends and activities across a campaign.

With the latest changes, Facebook measurement is coming of age. Given the global acceptance of Facebook, coupled with the growing Facebook-Google+ rivalry, this development will profoundly influence Web analytics in 2012 and beyond.

Pierre DeBois, Founder, Zimana

Pierre DeBois is the founder of Zimana, a small business analytics consultancy that reviews data from Web analytics and social media dashboard solutions, then provides recommendations and Web development action that improves marketing strategy and business profitability. He has conducted analysis for various small businesses and has also provided his business and engineering acumen at various corporations such as Ford Motor Co. He writes analytics articles for AllBusiness.com and Pitney Bowes Smart Essentials and contributes business book reviews for Small Business Trends. Pierre looks forward to providing All Analytics readers tips and insights tailored to small businesses as well as new insights from Web analytics practitioners around the world.

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Re: And none too soon
  • 12/11/2011 9:59:43 PM

Seth again you point out the great missing link - a filtering mechanism is needed in Insights.  That should be offered, since web analytic tools offer a way to eliminated IPs addresses from sources thgat should not be contributing to your data.  But for FB, the mechanism must eliminate comments, an aspect that may not have been created yet.  We'll see over time if a filter is developed. I for one would applaud.

Re: Facebook-ROI
  • 12/11/2011 9:54:34 PM


I understand.  Despite the improvements, Insights is still designed around a specific environment, tracking Facebook assets in the same way a platform like Hootsuite tracks only twitter clicks using the ow.ly shortener. I think what this will drive more specialized dashboard creation - to understand any ROI means combining data from various platforms.

Re: And none too soon
  • 12/2/2011 11:17:59 PM

There will be always be competitors trying to give you false results.  When a company test drives a new product or promotion in an area, a competitor when they find out will often try to do things that skew the results such as offering their own promotion in that area.  

That's one danger of text analysis. What if it's really a competitor praising the things not so great about a product and downplaying the good?  

Re: FaceBook Accepts It's Responsibility
  • 11/23/2011 8:38:22 AM


Definitely. The sheer volume of users is definitely what Facebook needs and has to step into this advertising industry. One thing for sure is they've already taken a great leap forward by providing advertising in-depth analysis which you cannot even get on Google Adwords. Analytics such as age group, male/female, even their likes. Can you imagine if you're a marketing firm that sells iphone accessories and you already know how many users that are between the ages of 16 and 30 “Liked” the iphone page?

Re: FaceBook Accepts It's Responsibility
  • 11/20/2011 4:22:08 AM

Absolutely a very good sign for FB. I think they should do it asap because they do have a quite a number of users fom whom they can make profit out of.

Re: FaceBook Accepts It's Responsibility
  • 11/19/2011 11:54:09 AM

It's a good thought process to think of Facebook including analytics in the near future. We know Facebook is not getting much revenue from its ads, as the fan pages do most of the advertising. They are losing revenue share to other search engine ads. It is cool to know that Facebook will introduce analytics, which I'm sure will help to earn revenue it "deserves".

FaceBook Accepts It's Responsibility
  • 11/17/2011 4:48:19 PM

Pierre,  Nice to see FaceBook coming to terms with the analytical aspect of their enterprise.  With 350M users it obvious that Facebook is in a position to experiment in areas others don't have the ability to.

And I like how this pioneering spirit will utimately help the Social Media Analytics Industry as a whole. 

Way to go Facebook !

Re: Facebook-ROI
  • 11/17/2011 2:54:58 PM

Ah! The ever-challenging (and at times ever-elusive) ROI! I would imagine there'd be sort of a "grace period" at some companies as they adjust to and try figuring out how to use Facebook. But then the demands to prove ROI will kick in good and strong. 


  • 11/17/2011 10:43:30 AM

Pierre it good to see that Facebook is coming of age in building increased analytics however the question remains how do we understand the actual Facebook behavior as it pertains to the bottom-line. The predictive criteria are still critical in getting an ROI.

Re: And none too soon
  • 11/17/2011 8:36:08 AM

Right. Someone posting to the company page most likely has altering motives and/or are loyal fans who are already brainwashed by the brand. Ransoms on the other hand my be expressing true reactions to a brand they're still coming to appreciate or dislike.

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