The 7 Big Questions to Answer Using Facebook Insights

If you have an aggressive social media presence for your company, odds are that you’ve at least explored your Facebook page’s Insight page. It’s a masterwork of dashboard design, showing you the data and interpreting the trends in a simple, easy-to-follow layout. Each subsection allows you drill down just enough to give you a few highly focused datasets, providing a wealth of data about how your page is performing.

Those details, however, are only as useful as your ability to interpret them. To get the most out of Facebook’s Insight system, you need to not only be able to see the data, but understand the story those numbers and graphs are telling you. You also need to know what information is genuinely meaningful, and what sections you can safely ignore.

Although no two businesses are the same, there are seven major indicators any business can use to track the true effectiveness of its Facebook presence.

1. What brings people to your page? One of the biggest Insight mistakes is also the easiest to make: False correlation. You may think that a spike in traffic on the day you posted a link to a company blog post means that the people are excited by that post, when in reality it was the result of a great photo from weeks before being shared by a group of people who just happened to discover it on the same day. In fact, it may be that your fans overwhelmingly love your photo posts, but find your links or status updates yawn-worthy. It happens.

To avoid this problem, pay special attention to the “All Posts Published” section under the “Posts” tab, where you’ll see exactly what recent content worked and why. For a broad overview of the kind of content your fans prefer, also take a look at the “Post Types” chart in the same section.

2. What drives them away? “Unlikes” are normal for all business pages on Facebook. It doesn’t take much for a News Feed to become cluttered, and the first thing to go for many people are marketing messages, even from companies and brands that they like. Unfortunately, Facebook can be pretty cagey when it comes to giving meaningful data about why people unliked a page. This means you may need to do a bit of detective work to uncover spikes and patterns in the number of unlikes.

One good place to start is under “All Posts Published.” Find the posts that were published on the day of the “unlike” spike, and click on each post’s title. This will bring up the metrics for those posts, including the “Negative Feedback” details. If people are hiding the post, hiding your page as a result of that post, marking it as spam or unliking it, this is where you’ll find out about it.

3. Who are they? One of the most powerful features of the Insight system is the “People” section. Not only can you learn about the demographics of the people who “Like” your page, you can also delve deeper into how good your content is at reaching them. Under the “Your Fans” tab, you may see that women aged 25-34 make up 65% of your page likes, but that only 33% of those who were engaged by your content fall into the same category. That means your page’s content isn’t what the people who like your page actually want to see. It’s not hard to see how this could become a problem if left unaddressed, so make sure to keep an eye on the “People Reached” and “People Engaged” tabs.

4. When are they active? Much like Twitter, Facebook is a live medium. If you don’t post when your audience is paying attention, your content will soon be buried under a constantly forming sediment of other posts. This makes posting the right content at the right time extremely important, particularly for companies with a national or global reach. Thankfully, Facebook has made finding this data easy, placing it right at the top of the “Posts”  section under the “When Your Fans Are Online” heading.

If you use a third-party dashboard system to view the exported data, pairing this with the geographic information from your page’s “People” section can provide some interesting hints about where your message is resonating best.

5. What do they share? Like other social media, Facebook has its share of “influencers.” These people are often followed simply because they are exceptional curators of content, giving the posts, links and photos they share a much greater reach. Although it is tricky at best to influence an influencer, it is relatively easy to determine what kinds of content they’re most likely to share from your page.

To start, take a look at the “Likes, Comments, and Shares” graph under the “Reach” tab. One of the lines on the graph indicates the number of shares on any given day. Simply by clicking on a day with a high number of shares, you can see the engagement data from all posts on that day. By selecting the post with the highest engagement numbers and examining the data and the comments, you can get a much clearer picture of what caught the influencers’ attention. By creating more content like it, you can dramatically increase your Page’s overall reach.

6. When does boosting a post actually make sense? If there’s one controversial element of Facebook’s increasingly monetized structure, it’s the “Boost Post” option. There is little reliable third-party data about how effective post boosting actually is, and it opens a huge discussion about the most effective use of a marketing dollar within the Facebook system itself.

That said, if a post has some runaway popularity – that rare “viral” appeal – and it’s actually resulting in more visits to your actual website, increased conversions or some other concrete indicator, it’s a safe bet that boosting the post will at least temporarily increase the trend. If you are already using Facebook Ads, and already have a budget in place, picking the right content to boost on a regular basis can have reliably positive results.

7. What do you do when Insight isn’t insightful enough? As beautiful, informative and well-designed as the Insight dashboard can be, it is fundamentally limited. Facebook has taken great pains to provide their users with a tool that ultimately serves a dual purpose: To help users’ grow their audience, and to provide a sales funnel for those same users to increase their results through post boosting and other ads. As a result, Insight offers little in the way of customization of reports, and has very limited options for combining datasets.

If you wanted to know how well a racy series of photo posts performed with men aged 35 to 44, and what the loss was in terms of unlikes from females aged 45 to 54, Insights won’t provide it. Most of data is there, and could be teased out in a labor and guesswork intensive manner, but if you really want it you’ll have to use a third-party system. Thankfully, almost everything Insights tracks is available via exported CSV and XLS files, allowing you to create specific reports, as well as compare data from your other social networking efforts.

There is a lot to like about Facebook’s Insight system, and it truly is an exceptional example of dashboard design. By understanding how to find the best answers to these simple questions, you’ll be able to make the best-informed decisions for your social media strategy.