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Alert: Facebook’s ‘New Insights’ May Be More Accurate, But Imposes New Time Period Restrictions (For Now)

Posted by Sam Marx on February 6, 2012

Back in November 2011, Facebook announced that the company would begin to phase out the ‘Old Insights’ (Facebook’s free statistics and analysis tool for Pages) on December 15. Whenever Facebook makes a change, there are people who have strong reactions or think the changes should be optional. But, like life, Facebook changes and we adapt. This latest round of changes to Facebook Pages Insights presents a new challenge to nonprofits : tighter restrictions on viewable time periods.

For most of our clients, their Facebook Page is among their top drivers of traffic to their main website, so the ability to have accurate tracking, trending and reporting is key. The new Insights tool provides some very informative categories, and breaks them down in the easy to use navigator on the left side of the page. These categories include Likes, Reach, Talking About This, and Check-Ins. Within these categories, there are actually so many new  features that Inside Facebook has been kind enough to post a reference guide for what all of the new Insights indicators actually mean. The challenge, as previously mentioned, is that none of this data is accessible for a time period greater than 90 days.

Why 90 days? In a blog post on Barefoot Social Media, Garret Ira writes, “That’s about how often you should do a comprehensive review of Facebook analytics.”

For Fission and our clients, the most valuable function of the ‘old’ Insights tool is the ability to look at data from any time period desired. One can see how many page Likes a client or my company has received -- whether it is over the past month, the past five months, the past year, or since the page was created. When performing a social media analysis, an organization may want to compare the first half of 2011 to the second half of 2011, or compared statistics from the entire year of 2011 to those of 2010. This is extremely valuable information, as it helps in understanding what the most important and popular posts were, what events or actions spurred the greatest page growth, or when ad buys were effective in growing a Facebook presence. The ‘old’ Insights tell a story of the page, and more often than not we am interested in telling our  clients a story across an substantial amount of time regarding the performance of a given campaign. Yet being able to view information over a maximum 90 day period may prevent users from accurately capturing the big picture over time.

With ‘new’ Insights, the analytic values are available for export into Excel (.xls) or comma-separated values (.csv) formats, but there is no data available for dates before July 19, 2011. This is more helpful than the frustrating 90-day limit, but does not come in the attractive, user-friendly tool many of our clients may recognize. And with Timeline rolling out for all users, every status update, post comment, etc. ever is available, but pages information is mysteriously only accessible for the last (almost) eight months. We urge Facebook to consider allowing a longer duration of research and analysis, which would be a great boon to nonprofits, whose work often takes months, even years, to yield fruit.

Just last week Data Center Knowledge reported Facebook’s new data storage facility will cost $210 million for the first phase, so we hope that Insight information will not be restricted to these time periods for too long. But in the meantime, download your Old Insight information before February 15, 2012. Otherwise, it may be lost forever! And be sure to schedule downloads of your Insights every 3 months (we recommend monthly) so that you can ensure your organization is able to track your Facebook Page’s progress successfully over time. Let us know if you’d like more strategic guidance on how best to manage your Facebook Page and its Insights -- an essential tool for any successful online outreach and organizing strategy.

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