Stop Looking at Facebook’s Insights

by Ken Mueller on December 20, 2012 · 22 comments

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Facebook insights Stop Looking at Facebooks InsightsI’m gonna get myself smacked by a few friends on this one. But I’m going to say this anyway:

Stop looking at your Facebook Insights.

That’s right. You’re spending way too much time looking at the analytics for your Facebook page.

Now, before I go any further, let me stress that I’m not anti-analytics. I believe that it is important to measure both our online and offline marketing efforts, and that analytics are incredibly important.

But I’ll say it again,

Stop looking at your Facebook Insights.

There has been a lot said about Facebook’s changing algorithm for EdgeRank, and a lot of folks are bemoaning the lack of reach they get from content they post on their Facebook business pages.

I get that.

But by  isolating Facebook insights and by obsessing over them, we’re missing the big picture.

Clearly the system is broken and the constant tweaking is changing things. It confuses my clients when they see something working really well, and then a week later the numbers plummet while doing the same thing. I honestly put very little weight in Facebook insights. They change how things are measured on a regular basis, and if you spend any time poring over the numbers, you know they clearly don’t add up. I wish they did, but they don’t.

The good news is, when I look at other analytics, and factor in anecdotal evidence, I don’t worry so much about the numbers on Facebook.

So while I think that numbers are important, and I’m a proponent of tying data to your goals and results, here is why I worry less about the specific insights as provided by Facebook:

1) Facebook does not exist in a vacuumFacebook, in and of itself, is not a strategy. If you are not tying it to your overall communications plan, and measuring it as such, you’re doing it wrong.

2) Online does not exist in a vacuum – In the same way, your online efforts do not exist in a vacuum either. Anything you do using traditional offline methods, new online methods, and even face to face or on the phone, can have a cumulative effect.

3) Looking for ROI from one platform is going to be increasingly difficult – One client isn’t seeing direct sales from Facebook. But since we implemented a  new plan for using Facebook to drive traffic to his website, he is seeing some progress. He has one goal: to sell his product.  The items on his website range in price from $25,000 at the low end to $450,000 on the high end. While our new Facebook strategy gave us a dramatic and immediate increase in web traffic, he wasn’t sure if he could tie that to any particular sales. While the straight traffic from Facebook to the website didn’t ‘indicate that, what we did notice is that he was getting an increase in inquiries. Just because a person travels from Facebook to your website and doesn’t purchase anything right away, doesn’t mean Facebook isn’t working. With products of this price range we realized that visitors often return directly to the website without going through Facebook. Also, we are now seeing direct inquiries happening withing the Facebook messaging system.

4) Facebook isn’t just marketing – It’s fairly easy to measure efforts that are strictly marketing, particularly in terms of ROI. But what you are doing on Facebook isn’t necessarily marketing. You might just be answering questions, providing customer service, or merely just offering useful information. You can’t look at each individual status update as a marketing message that can be measured. Your entire presence on Facebook creates a much more complex entity that is more difficult to measure. Don’t look at it as a merely a snapshot in time.

5) Your most important numbers will happen off of Facebook – Are you trying to drive traffic somewhere, such as your website? Look at those numbers in your other analytics. What is your purpose for using Facebook? Remember, it’s not just out there on its own. What are your goals? How are you using it? Hopefully it’s not just about Facebook. Hopefully it is helping you drive traffic elsewhere. Perhaps your website, or perhaps even the doors of your brick and mortar. There are ways to measure both of those, so be prepared to do a little work.

Rather than focusing on who you are  or are not reaching, focus on the quality of the experience for those you are reaching. Determine why you are using Facebook, and what your goals are for the platform. I suggest the goals should be less number centric, and more content and engagement centric.

Yes you should measure, but only when it makes sense. Not everything can be tied to a number.

Facebook is less about what you are doing online, than it is about how you are running your business. John Jantsch, in his post The Far Reaching Implications of the Social Business Model notes,

“My belief is that the real opportunity is to build a fully social business model, one that addresses the total picture of social behavior. One that moves beyond social tactics to a place where social is the business, is a part of every consideration.”

Stop focusing on Facebook for Facebook’s sake, and focus less on the insights. Focusing so much on the insights is like putting a timer on your customer service reps and expecting them to create a sale in a certain period of time. That makes a mockery of the process.

Yes, I believe in research. Yes, I believe in numbers and analytics. Yes, I believe in the importance of measuring ROI.

But, not everything can or should be measured in the same way.

So go ahead. You have my permission to go back and look at your Facebook insights. Just do so with the understanding of what they can tell you and are telling you.

And feel free to comment below, as I’m sure there are plenty of you who will disagree with my approach here. 

 Stop Looking at Facebooks Insights
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18 comments
AlexRG
AlexRG

I have a sort of high end bakery that can't mass produce. We use facebook to communicate with our customers, to post pictures of what is coming out of the oven, to make announcements. We have a small site we don't really use or take care of (I know we still should), our customers are all over the web and a site is too small a place, but facebook is what many people use every day and they see the pictures of what is coming out every day and are informed of what is going on. I find people in the street who identify me and they tell me about what they saw on facebook to start conversation about the bakery. Our other ways of communication of course are the face to face, email and phone (and a little twitter that reposts facebook updates). Having said that, insights are a nice thing for us to follow, but not that important. People don't have to make a click or comment to see what is going on with us for one. The measurement of the success is not always what we are looking for. A lot of engagement rarely means a lot of purchasing action, at least not immediate. I do like to check insights as a hobby and it is good to check them as to enter this silly game where you want to improve them and so you post more, which is good for keeping yourself alive in the customers' minds. Good insights can be an indicator that you are using the tool decently and I feel that's my main use. So what I want to say is that facebook, in some businesses, can be an great main tool, but I do agree Insights aren't in themselves as crucial as they might appear. I don't spend on facebook ads, btw, we did for a couple of months somewhat soon after we started the fb page, but that's it.

Hajra
Hajra

I worked as a team member for a website and the boss wanted to increase the interaction on FB to attarct more people on the website and she told us that she is going to spend money on the ads to make her insights look nice. The ads went nice, the insights jumped and showed pretty nice results and all and it showed interaction jumped over 300% and all that. But did it produce a similar effect on the website. Sadly, no. They overlooked the fact that FB insights don't necessarily mean traffic to the website. And money spent was really not money spent for what really mattered.

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askdebra
askdebra

You are so on the money here! Based on the other commentators, seems you've been talking about this for a while now! (I once heard obsessive Facebook Insight-checking called "ego-checking.") I couldn't agree more with your statement that what you should be measuring is what is happening off of Facebook, like the website action center or an e-commerce area. I do think that looking at Insights to gain knowledge of what fans are engaging with is quite valuable, especially using that information to leverage action based on engagement with a post. That definitely leads to ROI, and to allude to what you mention earlier, Facebook is also about customer service (or stakeholder engagement) just as much as ROI.

annelizhannan
annelizhannan

Sometimes it takes a smack of good sense to refocus our perspective. 

LizJostes
LizJostes

You and your Facebook Insights... :-) I can't even talk to you about them without hearing about how much they don't matter! And I'm not one to spend a lot of time on them either.Having a client who is a retailer with 5 store locations (plus an online catalog), I can tell you that the store managers absolutely see foot traffic (and purchases!) that directly relate to the Facebook posts I put up. Also, to further prove your point about analytics and measurement, the FB posts that highlight products never get much engagement even though customers are acting with their wallets after seeing them.

KDillabough
KDillabough

As Einstein said:  "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." Great post. Cheers! Kaarina

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

Awesome post. My favorite line: "Your most important numbers will happen off of Facebook."    Here's the irony: it took me A LOT of evangelizing to get some of my small biz clients ONTO Facebook to market.  Many of them became FAR too reliant on it...  and now I'm having to preach, hard, that they need to USE it as a tool, but not rely upon it as part of THEIR own platform.  Great, great post.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@Hajra  The only way it's going to have an impact on your web traffic is if you link directly. That's one of the things I did with this particular client, and then we did occasional promoted posts, not ads. But every case is different. You really have to think through the entire process to make sure it makes sense.

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KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@askdebra I beat this one into the ground. I think it's important to measure, but we have to measure the right things.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@LizJostes And that's the thing about measuring ROI from one thing. People may see things on Facebook that drive them to action, and they might be reinforced by seeing the same thing in the store, or even in a traditional media ad. And sometimes we just might not no, as people aren't prone to walking in and announcing, "Hey! I saw this on Facebook and now I want to buy it!". That just doesn't happen very often. And yes, me and my Facebook insights. I kept thinking about you and what your reaction would be to this as I wrote this. 

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@KDillabough Thanks, Kaarina. Great quote that fits in really well here. Numbers are important, but we can't use them to strip away the human element, which is what Facebook is really about.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@AmyMccTobin Thanks, Amy. I think it all comes down to our cultural mindset within our business. I preach on this all the time and this is just another angle of it.

BeckyGaylord
BeckyGaylord

You said it, Ken! Great post. Great response. Thanks. And congrats: Ragan.com picked up this post. I shared it via that site.  @KenMueller @askdebra 

LizJostes
LizJostes

@KenMueller Right. I had one instance just recently that within 2 hours of posting about a specific toy being in stock at one of the store locations, that store sold 2 of those items to people who happened to specifically mention they heard that location had it in stock on Facebook. So if 2 people actually SAID they came in because of Facebook, you know there had to be a bunch more.The thing that makes me laugh with you and Insights is that I've only ever talked to you about trends and changes I've noticed to see if you were seeing the same thing. And you STILL were all preachy (and sensitive) about the value of Insights.

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