Facebook yesterday announced that it will be updating Page Insights. While this will not get them as much press or attention as the new timeline or hashtags feature but you should be very pleased if you use Facebook for marketing your business.
For those who don't know, Insights is the analytics dashboard that Facebook provides for page owners to help them understand how their page and posts are performing. Facebook provides the same data through APIs for third party applications and many of the social media and marketing analytics tools make use of it.
Why should you care?
Facebook Insights are broken. Yes, there is so much wrong with the data that Facebook provides and how it provides that, 'broken' is a fitting way to describe it.
I can't overstate the importance of marketing results in making better business decisions. If you are a Facebook marketer, you need much better data than what you are getting. Also, how Facebook has handled the issues with its Insights has some good lessons to learn for startups.
What is wrong with current Insights?
Let's take a quick look at the problems with what is currently available.
1. Misleading data representation
On your Facebook Insights Overview page you see a beautiful graph and a bunch of numbers that highlight how your page is performing. At first glance it looks useful, l but look closely and you will find it hard take anything actionable from that data.
Look at the image below (values in red are added by me) to understand what I mean.
See that? Growth figures for different parameters are for different periods and you don't get to know it unless you hover over each one. Now if you have any experience in reporting or data representations, you would know how wrong and misleading this representation is.
Also the fact that this is all as per Pacific timezone adds to the complexity. See how much of a difference that can make to your post's timing.
2. Numbers that make no business sense
Also the graph is showing you Weekly Total Reach, which is a rolling sum of last 7 days' data. Most businesses we have talked don't understand what this rolling graph means and find it hard to understand the data presented.
What does it mean if you Weekly Total Reach was 5,000 yesterday and it is 6,300 today? Does that mean you did something right today? I don't know.
3. Scattered and hidden data
Many page owners have no idea about some useful information available in Insights - where are your fans, how are they coming to you, how many people are hiding your posts from their newsfeed? This data is scattered across and some of it is just too difficult to get to.
You need to clock the Engagement value for each post to see if anyone gave a negative feedback for your post (like clicking on Hide in the newsfeed).
4. Delayed or missing data
Facebook Insights are usually delayed by up to 48 hours - and that's an official number given by Facebook. In the last 9 months while building Markitty, we have noticed that the delay is usually longer than that and sometimes it has been unavailable for as long as seven days.
Also, Facebook updates the insights data only for up to 28 days after the post was first published. Though I don't think this has much impact as most posts have an active lifespan of less than a day.
Finally, Facebook is going to update Insights
It will be a few months before it becomes available to all but at least its announced. There is very little information about what will change but here are a couple of things from the official announcement:
- Page level insights will be combined in one place for easier access and understanding
- Virality will be changed to "Engaged users" and will also take in to account clicks on the post
- More data about who engaged with your posts, even non-fans
Read the official announcement for more details. If you are a developer using Insights API, read the last line - no change will be made to the APIs at this point. I am not yet sure if this is a good thing or a bad, but we will just have to wait and see.
My Wishlist for Facebook Insights
As a marketer, I would like to see
- Page level statistics updated daily (no 48 hours delay) and simplified to daily or weekly numbers (not rolling weekly)
- Referral data - from where did the user come to my Facebook page or post, including details of external referrals
- Break up of user actions -- what did a fan do with my post -- expanded photo, clicked on a link, shared, liked, commented, or hid.
- What paged/tabs did users see on my page?
I don't think most of these things will be coming in the next release but having it will make a good case for Facebook to replace the need of a separate business site.
Lesson for Startups
For a while forget that you are a business owner or a marketer. What is the value of Insights for a Facebook user? Zero. Mark Zuckerberg gets a lot of flak for not being a good CEO and not creating more wealth for stock holders, but Facebook's user focus is remarkable and one that all of us must learn from. Mark has always maintained that Facebook exists for its users, and not for advertisers or investors.
Insights didn't get any updates since October 2011, and since then the number businesses who use Facebook for marketing has probably grown by 100x, not to mention that they went public. During the same period Facebook added a number of new features for its users, and also improved its advertising platform.
How Facebook allocates it resources is a good example of putting your money where your mouth is.
About the Author
Nilesh Bhojani is the Co-founder of Markitty, an online marketing tool for small businesses. He has worked in and with small businesses managing projects, leading teams, and improving business processes. Nilesh writes at Markitty.com/blog and you can find him on Twitter @nileshbhojani.