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Turning Raw Data into Actionable Knowledge

Facebook provides an incredible amount of data available for reporting. From reach and frequency data to insights about people taking action, these metrics can provide clarity and, if used properly, helpful business knowledge that can help you improve your campaigns and marketing strategy. More often, however, the amount of data available results in a phenomenon called analysis paralysis, in which decisions are avoided because there’s simply too much information to process.

What we need to know in performance reporting is determined by what we are trying to understand. Data doesn’t matter in a vacuum.

As a simple example, let’s say you need to know your audience’s engagement with your brand compared to your industry's benchmarks for success. Facebook’s Reach metric doesn’t tell us a lot on the surface because there are too many variables to dig in to. However, combining Reach and Engagement metrics forms a benchmark to measure your own posts against as well as your industry peers.

Let's push this same example a little further. You can also use click-through rates to understand how many people value your content enough to learn more by clicking. Then, by incorporating Google Analytics data, you can identify how long these people stayed on the website and the additional pages they visited. By understanding your need, we can build a reporting structure that turns an abundance of data into easily digestible and actionable information.

How to Know What to Know

We've established that understanding what you need to know is an important part of building a strong foundation of reporting, but how do we know what we don't know? Lucky for you, there are a couple easy ways to turn ambiguity into clarity in your digital marketing efforts.

First, you need to understand the platform you are targeting, which, in this instance, is Facebook. Knowing how to best utilize the platform to actually connect with your audience will clarify your initial goals. Second, creating trackable key performance indicators will provide the benchmarks to track performance against. Let's dive into each in a bit more detail.

Know Your Purpose

I was recently on a panel at an event put on by the Springfield Chamber of Commerce (which I'm sure brought many of you here) with Kyle Drenon of Murney Associates. Kyle outlined the importance of knowing your purpose. And we don't mean some esoteric concept of your deep purpose on Earth—rather, knowing what your people want when they go to Facebook. Spoiler: they aren't there to buy your product or even learn about your brand.

As Kyle Drenon put it during our recent panel, ask yourself one question: "Why would they care?" This insight is detailed by Jeff Rosenblum in his book Friction (emphasis mine):

Traditional advertising is based on a reach and frequency model, which focuses on how many people brands reach and how frequently they can reach them. While the industry has spent decades perfecting this model, it hasn't stopped to think what the frequency is based on: interruptions!

In virtually no walk of life are interruptions considered a powerful tool for building relationships.

Understanding your purpose can lead to more entertaining, creative content that can potentially generate an emotional response from your audience, which is more likely to result in approachable and relatable content that increases views and shares. Additionally, asking these types of questions will open the door to conversations about what you are actually hoping to achieve within a reasonable set of expectations. Sure, increasing sales leads 100% is a fun dream, but is it realistic after considering your purpose to your audience?

Create Objectives to Track Against

Once you've got a firm understanding about what your audience wants, the next step is to put the upfront work into understanding the business and marketing objectives your campaigns are striving to achieve. If the results of your campaign is the destination, your key performance indicators (KPI) are the route you will take and the milestones you will pass throughout your journey. By understanding your KPIs, you can create a better reporting strategy that not only delivers an understanding of performance, but indicates where strategies may be falling short.

For example, if one of your KPIs is to grow your audience through page likes as a manufacturing supplier, you could begin by asking these questions:

  • How fast are comparable industry peers growing?
  • What is the industry average in total page likes?
  • How fast do you intend to grow your audience?
  • How are you providing value for your target audience?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What type of audience are you building?

These questions should lead to trackable answers. By setting firm key indicators, Facebook's metrics will allow you to clearly understand your performance. These example answers would allow for effective tracking:

  • Our industry peers are increasing page likes by an average of 1.4% per month.
  • We are providing value by delivering free insights into equipment trends.
  • Our target audience are CEOs and COOs at manufacturing companies with 50 to 100 employees.

In contrast, here are some examples that won't allow for effective tracking:

  • Our largest competitor has a lot more likes than we do.
  • We are providing value by posting content on Facebook several times a day.
  • Our target audience is people interested in our products.

Not only do these answers do not provide trackable indicators, but they'll leave you guessing your campaign's performance based on what feels good or bad about the campaign—not the quantitative and qualitative results.

Nuts & Bolts: How to Measure Success on Facebook

You've got a solid foundation to begin tracking your success on Facebook through a variety of metrics measured against your KPIs. Let's run through the checklist you should have completed up to this point:

✅ You learned what you need to know.
✅ You uncovered your purpose to your audience.
✅ You established trackable KPIs.
✅ You created a great Facebook post.

It's time to get tracking. The last missing piece of the Facebook reporting puzzle is to understand the metrics available to track against and creating a reporting system that matches the information required to make clear connections between your audience and your KPIs. The reporting system you establish can then be used to understand your marketing efforts' performance compared to your business objectives. Step one is understanding the metrics available on Facebook and what their purposes are.


According to Facebook Insights, the Engagement metric consists of post clicks, likes, shares, and comments. As a metric, engagement shows your audience's interest in a post and can be especially powerful in understanding the percentage of people taking an action when partnered with a metric such as reach and total page likes. Broad benchmarks for engagement, according to Michael Leander, are 1% or greater being good and 0.5% and lower being average. Anything below those benchmarks would require adjustment.

The often overlooked benefit of engagement is the viral nature of the metric, as posts are shown to additional people as your audience continues to like, share, and comment on your posts (like a snowball effect). You can also invite anyone who likes, comments, or shares your posts to also like your page, which is one of the easiest ways to increase your audience.

Page Likes

The Page Like metric measures your popularity and total audience of your company on Facebook. Users choose to like company pages, which provides them the opportunity to follow along with the business' updates. The easiest way to grow your page likes is to invite your own friends and family. The next best way is to invite people who have engaged with your brand (by clicking the "X People Like This Post" link and inviting people through the modal that pops up). Lastly, the "pay to play" method can help you grow your audience—meaning that you run Facebook ads aimed at garnering more page likes.

Outside of those efforts, page likes can be increased by posting regular, engaging content that lives within your purpose and marketing strategy. The more opportunities you create for your target market to see the value you provide, the more likely you are to organically grow your network.

People Talking About This

The People Talking About This metric is an extension of the Engagement metric. Facebook defines People Talking About This as actions that create a story, displaying the user's action as a story on the user's timeline. For example, when a user likes a page, friends will often see that they've liked the page. Other user actions include posts on a page's or individual's wall, post likes, post comments, post shares, mentioning a page, people tagged in a photo, location check-ins, page reviews, event RSVPs, or recommending a page. According to Kunle Campbell of Practical Ecommerce, you should expect 1% to 10% of your fans to fall into this metric.


If you live in the world of marketing, the odds are great that you've heard of Reach. This metric dates back to more traditional advertising methods and relates to how far your message is traveling. Because reach is an old-school metric, Facebook's definition is even more important to understand. Facebook defines reach as the number of unique people who saw your content. The content included in the reach metric include posts, your page, organic views, viral views, and paid views. If you're looking for the metric that includes a little bit of everything, reach is it.

However, the broadness of reach can also be its downfall. While important and all encompassing, when viewing reach in a vacuum, it is easy to misread the data or make inaccurate assumptions. An easy solution is to use reach in combination with another metric, like engagement, to create a benchmark for your content's performance. By knowing the total reach of a post and the total engagement of a post, it is easy to determine the percentage of people you're engaging on each piece of content. This information can be especially valuable when running ad campaigns with different spends and organic views.

Other Metrics & Tools

While the metrics listed above account for the most relevant metrics to get started, as you continue to explore Facebook's reporting features, additional metrics will begin to add levels of understanding into your reporting system. In addition to Facebook's built-in reporting, there are a number of paid and free tools, such as Google Analytics and Heap, that will create additional, valuable metrics.

When combining an appealing marketing strategy, clear KPIs, an understanding of key Facebook metrics, and third-party tools, your reporting system will be capable of guarding performance while surfacing valuable insights in other areas of your business.

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