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Facebook Page Insights: 8 Dos and Don’ts for Measuring Your Facebook Presence

“No matter how many explainers Facebook writes about its News Feed, we commoners will simply never really know.” – Tim Herrera, writing in the Washington Post.

Ah, Facebook! If you had some expertise using Facebook last week, odds are you are an amateur this week.

Not only is Facebook the most widely used social network (with no serious competition in this measure), but post-IPO Facebook has been fearless to implement changes (I think everyone has their “favorite” Facebook transmogrification – mine is the video ads add). Just last week Facebook announced (another) change to its capricious news feed and started more rigorous enforcement of its “real-name” policy.

So Facebook is the biggest platform in social media and the rules to use it perpetually change (pause one second…. and something on Facebook just changed). The way that we bring order to this chaos is by measurement. And the tool that we have to measure our effectiveness on Facebook is Page Insights.

If you’re not familiar with Page Insights, here’s a great primer on some of the information that you can glean from it (and here’s a slightly older primer on Facebook Insights by the awesome Stacey Miller). For those familiar with Insights, what I want to do in this post is to give you eight “dos and don’ts” to appropriately contextualize the measurements that Insights provide. If you have more tips I hope you’ll leave a comment at the end of the post and share these.

1. DO take time to understand all of the metrics; DON’T get too fascinated by the “big three”

Facebook Ads for PR Pros

 

“It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best.” – W. Edwards Deming

The “big three” high-level metrics that Facebook Page Insights gives you are:

  • Page Likes
  • Post Reach
  • Total Engagement’

That’s a winner, right? After all, if you get 100 new Page Likes, your post reaches ten thousand people and a boat load of people are commenting about your extraordinary post – you are sitting pretty. But what if 99 of your new Page Likes are from Indonesia, the ten-thousand people you reached are primarily in Belgrade, and the comments on your post all start with a variation of “my best friend’s step-aunt makes $61 an hour on the computer.”

Now, imagine you’re doing PR for a Mark Morrison concert at the local state fair – that audience isn’t who you need to reach. Even if two-time world champion basketball player and esteemed Gonzaga alumnus Adam Morrison were to emcee the event (with his ties to Belgrade from his time playing professional basketball overseas), it would still be quite a stretch to say you are reaching your intended audience.

The challenge with total Likes, Page Reach and Engagement are that each Like, view and interaction is weighted the same. But that’s not true in real life: the search for a “quality” context dictates that we dig a little deeper.

The good news is that Page Insights allows you to dig down into the details and qualify your audience and engagement beyond big picture numbers that may not offer any confidence that Facebook is serving its intended purpose for you.

Want to prove the value of your PR efforts? Get the free Measure and Maximize PR Impact white paper now!

2. DO use Insights to inform your ad spend; DON’T use Insights if you’re using Facebook for organic reach

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“This isn’t an academic exercise. Facebook Zero is a reality now facing every brand and business with a presence on the platform. Action is required, and specific decisions will need to be made with regard to content planning, paid support for social media activities, audience targeting and much more.” – Marshall Manson, social@Oglivy

This is probably the point where Vocus would like some deniability for the statement that I’m about to make: the views stated forthwith are mine and mine alone (although I want to make the case that they should be yours as well):

If you had an email list with 1000 customers and each email you sent out may reach ten of them (randomly, you would have no control over which saw the email), how much time and resource would you spend using that communication channel? If your clickthrough rate was 20% (you write great copy), two people of 1000 would click through for any email you sent out.

You wouldn’t spend any time in an email channel like that, but those are the same circumstances that businesses face on Facebook. So why would you spend more resources for similarly abysmal results?

Insights allows you to break down your post metrics by paid and organic reach. Which if constructed appropriately would help you to measure {wait for it} return on investment: dollars in divided by dollars out.

I’m not arguing that Insights gives you poor data for organic results, I’m just saying that there are more effective tactics to be using if you’re not boosting posts or buying advertising on Facebook.

Facebook Reach3. DO use Insights to measure (some) external site performance; DON’T inappropriately apply Facebook metrics to site metrics

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“We are getting a lot wrong about the web these days. We confuse what people have clicked on for what they’ve read. We mistake sharing for reading.” – Tony Haile

Britney Spears’ website gets less traffic than most bloggers get. This might cause you to extrapolate that’s her popularity has completely dried up, but it hasn’t. Britney Spears’ social profiles are among the biggest on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.

What I’m suggesting is that a healthy or unhealthy Facebook Page isn’t indicative of anything other than the the health of your Facebook Page. Google Analytics and other tools can help you to gauge the health of your web properties more accurately.

4. DO use the best time to post feature; DON’T be obiescent about it, though.

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Facebook Page Insights has a cool feature that shows you when most of your Fans are on Facebook:

(Posts-> When Your Fans Are Online)

Of course, it is common to want to post at the most appropriate time for most of your Fans to see something. However, there are a couple of points you should consider that may ease your worry about posting at the exact right time:

  • Remember you’re paying for a “boost” (see point #2), so it is incumbent upon Facebook to make sure that your content is seems by a larger swath of your fan base, not perfect timing.
  • Recently a reporter documented his news feed and found that it wasn’t at all presented with any chronology. This may be an antiquated thought now that Facebook is again changing their algorithm.

5. DO qualify your Fans using demographic data; DON’T let your Fans count give you a false sense of importance

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“The World will be a better place when everybody’s beige.” ― Suzanne White

Facebook Page Insights give you a wealth of demographic data that will allow you to qualify your Facebook audience. Occasionally, this may communicate that the actual power of your Facebook Page is much less than the social proof that it conveys to outsiders. It’s important to understand both of these aspects of Facebook Pages and to measure accordingly.

6. DO use the time feature to benchmark your measurements; DON’T forget context.

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“Taken out of context I must seem so strange.” – Ani DiFranco

Many of the reports available on Facebook Page Insights offer a time span: for instance you could compare 1Q 2014 to 1Q 2013. This is a somewhat helpful tool.

What’s important when viewing these reports is context. For example, Facebook has been consistently reducing Page reach for a few years now. It is accurate to look at a year-over-year comparison and draw conclusions of the effectiveness of tactics on Facebook, but it’s probably not apropos to draw conclusions about the quality of externally produced content from Page Insights data.

For most things Facebook, the environment isn’t the same year-over-year.

7. DO watch for trends; DON’T ignore “outliers” and”black swans”


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“Usually, the presence of an outlier indicates some sort of problem.” – Wolfram MathWorld

Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Malcolm Gladwell have both written fascinating books about outliers: people who perform at the extreme of a normal distribution curve or events that happen unpredictably.  While they both tell interesting and compelling stories, it should be pointed out that: statistical outliers skew prediction models.

Outliers are things that happen outside of a typical narrative. For the purposes of Page Insights, you may have had one content post that performed exceptionally well but you shouldn’t expect all of your content to perform equally well. You need to consider disregarding outliers from your forecasting – don’t take everything that Facebook tells you at face value (you knew this, right?).

8. DO follow how your competition is doing; DON’T keep up with the Joneses

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“Before you try to keep up with the Joneses, be sure they’re not trying to keep up with you.” – Erma Bombeck

One of the differentiating features of the newest iteration of Facebook Page Insights is the capability to have an overview of competitor Pages for comparison sake. This is an interesting tool, it doesn’t give you a whole lot of detail but just enough to see what type of content or fan velocity a competitor is getting.

The point that I want to make is that competitive analysis is good, but in the case of Facebook Insights, I’m not sure that it is particularly actionable. I can’t think of a snapshot metric that Page Insights gives you that would cause you to take action without some additional research.

What I wanted to do was to show some key considerations for using Facebook Page Insights to properly contextualize your Facebook data. If you’re not using this tool to understand the specifics of how Facebook is working for you, hopefully this helps you to do it (or you’re not boosting your posts and are focusing on other amplification tactics).

About Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty is a featured contributor to the Cision Blog and his own blog, leaderswest. His areas of interest include statistics, technology, and content marketing. When not writing, he is likely reading, running, playing guitar or being a dad. PRSA member. Find him on Twitter @jimdougherty.

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