What is Facebook Analytics and how can businesses get value from it?

Google Analytics isn’t the only way to see how your business app or website is performing

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Facebook now has more than two billion active users and you can bet good money that many people eating lunch will be doing so with a sandwich in one hand and a scrolling Facebook feed in the other.

Whether you love it or hate it, Facebook's pervasive clutch on the social media market makes it one of the most efficient and cost-effective methods for building an audience for a business, which is why a solid understanding of how to grow it is paramount for business development.

This is where Facebook Analytics comes in. You can make informed decisions regarding your marketing strategy by harnessing the deluge of data provided by the tool such as the age, location, gender and interests of the people interacting with your posts - your true audience.

Google Analytics was previously the royalty of the analytics tools but when Facebook released its own for free with rapid data delivery within minutes rather than Google which can take days, it quickly became a favoured tool for businesses with Facebook presences. We go in-depth into what Facebook Analytics is, and how you can make the most of it to grow your business in the age of social media.

What does Facebook Analytics do?

Facebook Analytics was first released as an app analytics platform to help Facebook app developers to understand how people were using their creations.

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However, at this point, there was little data shared with those producing applications and insights didn't offer a lot up for those wanting to understand more about user data.

A year after its rollout, Facebook Analytics was upgraded to offer cross-platform analytics, allowing organisations to collect data about those using their applications and websites they owned on multiple devices.

Now, businesses could see how its users were interacting with more than just apps, but also on the platform as a whole, as well as how they were using bots within the Messenger app. If a user had dismissed the bot, they could try and ascertain why this may have happened and tweak the tech as a result.

As the social network began adding more and more features to its platform, it made the decision in 2017 to rebrand Facebook Analytics for Apps as Facebook Analytics, during the company's F8 conference.

"We're extending omni-channel analytics for Facebook's family of apps and services with the addition of Facebook Page interactions, such as post reactions and shares, so you can measure and understand the interactions people have with your Page alongside their other activity on your website, app, and bot," said Amit Finkelstein, engineering manager of Facebook Analytics, in a blog post at the time.

"For example, an e-commerce business can measure if people who comment on an item featured in their Page post go on to view an item on their website, or purchase it in their app. The ability to view customer behaviour across different channels gives businesses a unique ability to learn about and optimize their full customer journey to drive growth.

"We're also giving you the ability to see how people's online interactions translate to in-store purchases with the addition of support for offline conversions. By closing the loop between your online and offline channels, you won't have to wonder if people browsing items on your website translates into sales in your physical store."

At last year's F8 Conference, Facebook once more unveiled a catalogue of enhancements, including the Journeys feature, which has been designed to bring together different data points to work out a user's journey and touchpoints on Facebook.

The company also introduced machine learning to help advertisers automatically detect the most frequent routes a user takes within an app or site, and the tool now has a full-fledged mobile app available on iOS and Android. With the platform's scope widening, Facebook Analytics for Apps was ultimately rebranded to Facebook Analytics at the company's F8 conference in 2017.

How can businesses get value from Facebook Analytics?

The main idea of Facebook Analytics is to give organisations a better understanding of who engages with their brand and how they do it. Facebook provides a treasure trove of user information and its analytics platform allows businesses to gain almost unparalleled levels of insight into their customers, whether that be where they live, how old they are, their gender, or even the device they use to access the internet most regularly.

While it's generally up to an individual business how it derives value from all this data, one of the most recommended uses is to create targeted advertising from analytical data based on user habits and their activity history.

"If you rely on Facebook ads to attract customers, it's important to have a way to track them," advises Hootsuite's Ad Espresso blog. "Blindly spending money on Facebook ads without any insight into their effectiveness is a waste of time and effort. If you're not tracking the results, you'll never know if your campaigns are generating a return on investment."

Facebook's Finklestein, meanwhile, says the tool can also help track a customer journey across multiple platforms, thanks to its multi-channel monitoring feature.

"For example, an e-commerce business can measure if people who comment on an item featured in their Page post go on to view an item on their website, or purchase it in their app," Finklestein says. "The ability to view customer behaviour across different channels gives businesses a unique ability to learn about and optimise their full customer journey to drive growth."

"We're also giving you the ability to see how people's online interactions translate to in-store purchases with the addition of support for offline conversions. By closing the loop between your online and offline channels, you won't have to wonder if people browsing items on your website translates into sales in your physical store."

Facebook Analytics competes with Google Analytics by linking actions to users rather than cookies, which allows businesses to trace a specific user across all of their browsers and devices when signed on to Facebook. Google Analytics, however, uses cookies that only let businesses track users in a single browser. 

For those not running an e-commerce business, Facebook Analytics can help track social interactions, enabling businesses to increase social engagement and adapt posts according to what has worked in the past (and what hasn't).

Overall, Facebook Analytics is a powerful tool that can be used to increase ROI, and any business with a Facebook presence would be well advised to add this to their analytics toolbox.

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