If Content is King, How Do Facebook’s Ongoing Changes Make Analytics Queen?

According to guest blogger Reggie Bradford, CEO of Vitrue, those in our industry fully understand the need for comprehensive and detailed analytics to monitor, measure and make sense of social data so the best social strategies can be identified and put into play. Facebook underlined that importance this week with new analytics tools for Pages.Bradford explains why he sees that the need for analytics, as well as advanced social marketing technologies, has just been kicked up several notches.

Reggie Bradford is the Founder and CEO of social marketing software provider Vitrue. Reggie brings nearly two decades of technology leadership and experience to Vitrue, which he founded in 2006. Follow Reggie on Twitter on @ReggieBradford and @Vitrue.

As an industry, we fully understand the need for comprehensive and detailed analytics to monitor, measure and make sense of social data so the best social strategies can be identified and put into play. Earlier this week, Facebook underlined that importance with the announcement of new analytics tools for Pages and an API that allows third-party companies, like Vitrue, to build on top of it to provide brands even more comprehensive and robust resources.

Clearly Facebook’s recent f8 changes and its evolution kicked the need for analytics, as well as advanced social marketing technologies, up several notches. Why?

A number of reasons, as Facebook is undergoing many changes, like adaptations to its content algorithm, to name just one, which helps drive what content does and doesn’t get into users’ news feeds, as well as the continuing sophistication of the medium.

Like several others, we have heard loud and clear the concern being expressed across the industry that some of the consumer-focused changes are harmful to brands, especially in regards to how their content will now be surfaced and engaged with moving forward.

So, we analyzed activity before and after the GraphRank changes by taking a lens to our customers and analyzing the data from posts published via Vitrue Publisher. While Impression Rates decreased considerably, with a decrease in impressions per fan count by 47%, Engagement Rates increased by 71%. EdgeRank Checker published a study on Friday that showed similar results for brand Pages: Impressions decreased by 33% but Comments and Likes increased by at least 17%. [Data is culled from Vitrue’s SRM database, comparing changes before f8 (September 14 – September 20) and after f8 (September 21 – September 28.)]

And what does all this mean?

Well, we can’t say exactly for sure, although there are a number of factors at play here including a tougher algorithm which surfaces only the most engaging content (and the push down or “decay” of other non-engaged content), the fact that the ecosystem of Facebook is always changing and a reported “bug” that affects certain Page posts. Of course, it’s still early (and as we continue to review our data, we plan on releasing a more comprehensive study later this month). The bigger picture, however, is that a brand’s engagement and impression landscape on Facebook has changed and gotten more competitive with the recent changes to GraphRank. But brands can seize this as a great opportunity.

I’ve always believed that content is king. That statement has never been more applicable on Facebook. Renewed emphasis must be placed on creating engaging content that will be able to compete with a user’s friends and family. Frequency and timing of posts must be examined and brands must know what represents the most engaging kinds of content for their particular target audience, determine the best tactical and strategic ways, as well as time and frequency of posting it, then execute that content to the creative maximum.

This brings me to the importance of data and advanced social marketing technologies. Without access to advanced analytics tools and data to compile and make sense of your consumer engagement and exposure, you’re wandering around in an intensely competitive environment completely in the dark. Has your content engagement dropped off? Impressions? If so, why? What type of content dropped off? When did it happen? What kind of content is working and what isn’t? Brands must have advanced social technologies for creating, publishing, monitoring, analyzing and more to set your brand up for success on the “new” Facebook. Facebook’s new Insights Dashboard is a great asset, but it’s only a piece of the puzzle and brands will increasingly need additional resources.

Social media is maturing, and as Facebook increasingly becomes the fulcrum of marketing success, I believe that every major brand and midsized marketer will be using some sort of social marketing software platform to manage their growing and sophisticated social communities. I used to think this would happen in the next 18 months but now, understanding what Facebook is doing, I actually think it’s much closer to 12 months.

Bottom line: brands need to temper any doom and gloom speak. While they do require some understanding and a slight learning curve, these Facebook changes are offering tremendous opportunities for brands. First, change always paves the way for innovation. Second, Facebook has to make the user’s experience a top priority, because without an active and growing user base, no one benefits from Facebook. Third, Facebook would not, and is not going to disregard brands. Look no further than Monday’s analytics and new advertising announcements.

You can bet Facebook is constantly thinking through the best-case scenarios for all of its audiences in the larger ecosystem of users. You can also bet additional changes to brand Pages are right around the corner. Brands with the right partners and social resources will be the first to see and capitalize on all of the new opportunities being presented to us.