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The end of third-party analytics?

04 May 2012
The end of third-party analytics?
Imagine a world where you have access to vast amounts of relevant data, fully analysed and displayed in an easy graphic form. For free.

It doesn’t sound bad, does it? In fact this world already exists and is called Facebook Insights.

Unfortunately too few marketers realise the full potential of these tools and are clinging to third-party engagement scores, a single number that attempts to show how well they are connecting on the world’s biggest social network.

Such numbers might have been useful 12 months ago – a lifetime in social media – but today they are as likely to confuse as illuminate.

Engagement scores really took off in 2011 as marketers realised the importance of Edge Rank; Facebook’s fabled algorithm, which ranks social interaction based on engagement history.

The problem was that measuring Edge Rank was not easy. Engagement instead became the key measure but even this was not a simple proposition.

Companies and agencies looked to third-party analytic tools, which offered easy-to-understand overall engagement scores – or rather single "success scores".

But while this is a step up from counting fans – the key metric pre-2011 for most brands – it is still a flawed approach. The problem with these scores is that they are very often generated by third-party algorithms that are every bit as mysterious as Edge Rank itself.

It’s hard to understand how and why a Facebook page has been a success and to apply such engagement scores to the every day management of social media strategy is almost impossible.

The arrival of a new generation of Facebook Insights, however, finally offers marketers the tools they need to intelligently manage their pages.

Relaunched in late 2011, Facebook Insights offered a range of new practical metrics that could be used every day, including "Talking About This" and "Engaged Users" and the more general terms "reach" and "impressions”.

A massive step forward from Facebook Insights 1.0, this new tool has truly upped the ante in relation to analysis of social media strategy. It offers a huge source of data and operational information.

At Mediacom Denmark we’ve created a benchmark-based approach that tracks success right through the social journey of a marketing message.

It enables us to assess success via both traditional media-buying metrics like reach and frequency as well as new social media metrics such as engagement, virality and likes (still a somewhat important number at the end of the day).

The strength of this approach is that it is based on Facebook's own figures. We can accurately analyse the status updates that have created the most enthusiastic users and which have created most viral spread and combined with reach and frequency metrics it allows us to constantly optimise Facebook pages based on real, clear (and free) data.

Facebook Insights has become a powerful and professional tool in the on-going battle to understand Facebook performance. We have given up engagement scores in favour of an understanding of what creates engagement and virality -and why it is created.

The days of relying on a single “blackbox” number that might rise or fall for a number of unknown reasons are over. Smart marketers should ditch third-party analytics and take a look at the real numbers.

Martin Lund is a social media specialist and researcher at Mediacom Denmark


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