First Glance: Facebook’s New Analytics Beta Features
Blog post written by Leilani Graham-Laidlaw, analytics associate at Outshine.
With the launch of new features in Facebook’s Analytics Beta yesterday, we excitedly dug through some of the new tools available for our clients. Here are our first impressions.
Off the top, this is a really attractive tool. That’s important. The charts are consistent and the colours are well-considered. There aren’t excessive options for each data grouping, and the charts available tell a story suited to the type of data you’re looking at.
Past the surface level, you can dig into the data presented pretty easily once you’re familiar with the reports. The combinations of metrics make sense (and can be very powerful in a few of the reporting views, which we’ll get into below).
If you’re set up with events you should be able to dive in once everything loads. You’ll need a thorough understanding of your website and what’s tagged as an event for a lot of the “Activity” section reports to make sense, and in the “People” section, you should know your existing audiences and potential changes over time to spot patterns.
For most marketers, this is perfect.
The ability to look at analytics on a user-first model is very powerful, and the cross-channel issues that other tools struggle with don’t exist as much for Facebook.
The main caveat is that you have to be set up and tracking events (especially Purchase events) through the Facebook pixel for most of this to work. A minor caveat is that they’re still figuring out how to include metrics that aren’t strictly user-based, and knowing what information is coming from your pixel and how it’s matched to Facebook audience data isn’t always clear.
Because we’ve invested in thorough event tagging (typically on accounts with heavy investment in Facebook ads), it’s turnkey. If you’re not using the pixel for much, you won’t get the same results.
There’s an investment that needs to be made in Facebook’s ecosystem for this to be a useful tool, and a lot of the emphasis is on consumer ecommerce or app-based businesses.
For B2B or SaaS, there are a few ways we could ‘hack’ the ecommerce-style funnels to work well. Bot metrics are also a potential highlight, but we’re not seeing too much in here so far. Messenger activity is only available as of August 3rd, and they’re still refining that reporting.
Here’s what we’re finding most useful in the two main sections:
The Activity Section
This is where the fun stuff lives, and most of the newest features. For clients with robust pixel setups, we’re getting the most value out of the following tabs:
Lifetime Value also has potential, as does Revenue.
The Funnel tab allows you to build a funnel from any user activity, over whatever time period makes sense, with clearly calculated conversion rates, time to each step, and user counts.
It's probably the best feature in here.
It’s based entirely on the users Facebook can identify, so it’s not your entire funnel, but it’s probably going to cover most users and is a very good model on which to base assumptions.
Note that it’s a linear funnel, so it only models one set of interactions, but you have the flexibility to define that path and if you can figure out a clear path to conversion it’s going to help clarify a lot of your reporting.
Retention & Cohorts
The combination of cohort analysis or retention + segmentation has already turned up a few patterns for clients that challenged and stretched some of our assumptions about behaviour
(in a good way).
These are the reports where you’ll want to give yourself time to consider how you think people are behaving, and then build a few models to see how people are actually behaving. It’s really interesting, and the segmentation and time filters available give you a lot of flexibility.
On the useful-but-not-perfect side, the Overlap tab offers a neat trick for meetings and looking at cross-device use by segment, but it’s more of a ‘tool’ than a report you’d look at regularly.
If you are newer to using events, the Event section is a good overview page for monitoring that’s not overwhelming. The Event Debugging section is a bit too detailed to be useful at a glance, but it could potentially turn up patterns of issues as you work on the setup. An export would be very handy here, but the filters work well enough.
The People Section
The demographics here are excellent, and mirror a lot of what’s available in Facebook’s other tools (most notably my favourite, the Audience builder tool).
That said, the limitations of those tools apply here in that the metrics are generally consumer product-based and you can’t get too granular for privacy reasons, so you need a pretty significant amount of data.
The Highlights tab is a good dashboard-style report with the ability to segment, although you can’t apply a date filter to it. There’s no export or save function for the dashboards* (aside from saving it to your desktop), so these reports would have to be consciously saved somewhere to allow for comparison over time.
The ability to add charts to a custom dashboard is still in beta and not open to everyone, which limits the ability to save most things. (The charts with the potential ‘save’ button are limited in general, although the custom chart builder within the dashboard section is handy.)
* Quick tip: if you hit the “View All” link on charts that have it, you can export the specific breakdown in a CSV file, using the little arrow button at the top right. You have to do this for every chart and segment combination, and they have to be based on a big enough data set. Any segments you’ve applied to the page do carry over to the newly generated charts.
A lot of the ‘channel’ charts (and ‘app version’ or ‘Facebook login’ charts under the Technology tab) are relatively useless unless you’re using those features. There’s a bias in the language toward “your apps demographics” that reveals why those charts exist, and if you don’t have an app or use Facebook login on your website, these tabs won’t give you much.
Page Likes & Demographics
Page Likes has a lot of potential for advertisers and the segmentation and filtering options are really good. The Demographics tab is similarly useful and fairly standard. The ‘view all’ links on each chart and the ability to apply segments are where you can really have some fun, although you’re limited to 28 days of data.
This tab is great for consumer-facing marketing and is powerful as a source of personal information, but it’s built for apps and consumer ecommerce. Spending methods and household size don’t matter very much for B2B, although the lifestyles and income brackets are interesting to note.
Issues & Challenges
Analytics can be confusing when you first look at the list of accounts, which is a definite issue. Grouping reports based on “Event Source Group” makes sense from a data perspective but you end up with a long list of (often duplicate) account names and it’s not clear which ones should be looked at. As with most tools, the UI at the start takes a bit of time and familiarity to figure out.
No data is never a good sign. While Facebook’s strength is its user base and this user-first approach is powerful, there were a few gaps.
In a lot of ways, the behavioural data at the user level—for Facebook users—looks like it’s going to be better than some of Google’s current cross-device user profiling (at least for free or more basic Google Analytics implementations).
Still, there were a few points—geographic data most notably for one client—where GA would show us a much more complete picture of where people in this audience were.
More gaps may emerge, and it’s important to keep in mind that this is going to be only a partial view of your overall audience’s behaviour, based on a user-first perspective.
It’s an interesting point of view on what people are doing, but that doesn’t mean it’s in any way an omniscient view. (We probably don’t want Facebook or Google to get to the point of omniscience, really.)
The weighting of interactions, and what makes a good ‘user’ interaction heavily favors Facebook’s key page events (reactions, comments, and shares.)
A lot of the assumptions about how people behave online betray a kind of closed-loop mentality where people go from Facebook to your website and back again without taking into account other marketing efforts or channels.
While that’s not entirely untrue given the most recent Q3 reports on active users—we are living in Facebook’s world just as much as we’ve been living in Google’s—it’s worth considering if that model is a good fit for your current audience and marketing strategy.
Integrations, Cost Data Imports & More
Overall, this is an excellent tool but it doesn’t play well with others. There’s no clearly marked export function on most charts, and while that’s perfectly understandable from Facebook’s point of view, some of these tables would be great to integrate with cost data, other platform data, etc. Cost data imports (or even just Facebook cost data) is the most surprising omission given the focus on revenue, LTV, and event conversions.
Ad measurements will be coming at some point. The events and some of the funnels are built on assumptions of an ecommerce model, which works beautifully in the demo, but may not be a good fit for certain businesses. The events are tied to how you set up your Facebook Pixel, which could be an investment you might not have made yet.
So, What Do I Think?
Overall, I’m pretty impressed with the new options from Facebook. The visualization are consistent and easy to read, and the behavioural paths are clearly articulated in a way that’s easy to explore and play with.
That said, it’s very clearly a Facebook-first product designed to measure and encourage marketing strategies on Facebook. It doesn’t integrate well with some of the more complex software we rely on with Google Analytics (like Clearbit or Funnel, for example). And cost data for advertising, in general, is a big miss, although the UTM support is great to look at campaign-level information across other channels on your website.
For clients with heavy Facebook traffic, particularly with thorough pixel implementations or solid ecommerce strategies built on dynamic product feeds (or even just with strong Facebook organic/paid strategies at the top-of-funnel level), it’s fantastic for behavioural analysis and broad marketing funnel analysis over time. Many a persona could be written from this data, and the stories you find are compelling and easy to read.
For clients that aren’t as heavily reliant on Facebook as a channel, or are more focused on ABM at a level where online purchasing behaviours and consumer patterns don’t matter as much as a person’s position and company size, it’s not quite the right fit.
To paraphrase what I immediately wrote to a co-worker (omitting the all-caps): this is very much my jam!
What do you think of the new features?
Leilani’s passion lies at the intersect of data and storytelling. A certified Google Analytics and AdWords professional, Leilani works with clients to collect, analyze, and understand their marketing data, turning metrics into actionable next steps. Find Leilani on Twitter or LinkedIn.