Web Analytics for Facebook: Applications, FBML, and Facebook Engagement

By | September 2, 2014

Facebook’s emergence as the platform du jour for social networking and the Internet marketer made me start thinking about how to “do web analytics” on the Facebook platform. Apparently Facebook is thinking about Web 2.0 measurement too. Facebook claims to be measuring engagement based on touch-points in applications across four areas:

  • Canvas Page Views
  • Link Clicks in FBML
  • Mock-Ajax Form Submission
  • Click-to-Play Flash

They are calculating a number of “Daily Active Users” from midnight to midnight each day by “putting” the touch points together. Well that’s dandy, but it assumes all touch points are equal and biases the measurement toward applications that have more touch-points… In fact, they’re only measuring engagement with applications in the most liberal of definitions. These metrics measure Interaction. Where are the frequency and time measures necessary for engagement?

Regardless it’s a good start for creators of Facebook applications! But what’s a Facebook user to do? Well I’ll tell you, my fine reader.

Over the last several months I’ve learned that there are several methods:

  • Facebook’s API and FQL. The Facebook API is a REST interface, like Feedburner’s. You can use it to add “social context” to a Facebook application using profile, friend, photo, and event data. Facebook’s FQL is a SQL-like language for querying the platform. Cool. Developers are psyched.
  • FBML and Google Analytics. You can use the FBML Google Analytics tag to count the number of page views you’ve had on the canvas page of your Facebook application. That’s one part of the FB engagement metric.
  • Facebook Applications. I’ve found a whole bunch of cool Facebook applications that provide unique ways of understanding the Facebook network. Each application provides a slice of analytic-like functionality.

Here are some of the social media analytics applications that I’ve been playing around with on Facebook:

  • Friend Wheel. Spin an interweaving mandela of ties to your all your nodes. This cute app captures how all my friends related to each other, and also uses Web 2.0isms like “click to embiggen.”
  • Friend Grid. This app displays a little grid of your friend’s Facebook pictures. It updates itself too. That’s handy when you have a loose Facebook friending policy, like me. Or like The Scobleizer who just today reached the limit of 4,999 friends on Facebook. Because of Friend Grid I now know what some of my Facebook friends look like. Heh. Do you recognize any of these people? I recognize most of them. 🙂
  • Friend Sets. Create multivariate syllogistic like visualizations about dimensions of your Facebook friends as you define them. Don’t know what I mean. Check it out below (and note that I did not create any of these sets… they are ”presets” from the creators):
  • Interactive Friend Graph. This app is a cute little tool that provides a multinodal visualization of the ties that bind your Facebook friends. You can rollover a circle to view the persons full name and an overlay mapping of their connections. Then you can click on the circle to view their Facebook profile, send a message, poke, or add someone to friends.
  • Socialistics. By far this super cool application is my favorite for doing analytics on Facebook. It gives you a bunch of insights into the relationships between your network including an intriguing amount of demographics and influence-based characteristics. It can generate a multitude of tag cloud visualizations, pie charts, and assorted visualizations about things like gender, location, influence, relationships, and more. Check out these cool screen captures below.

Here’s a distribution of the educational institutions of my Facebook friends, those Ivy leaguers:

Here’s a distribution of the political beliefs of my Facebook friends, those liberals:

Socialistics also has tag clouds of my Facebook friends. The tag cloud on the right shows the popularity of friends within my personal network by name. The one on the left by picture. I’ve shrink it all to protect the identities of the guilty (mostly 🙂 )

As Facebook goes more mainstream and social networking become more ubiquitous in the business world, we’re only going to see an increasing demand for tools that help measure activity, behavior, demographics, opinions, and influence on social networks.

While these applications aren’t enormously powerful and or very engaging for business purposes, they represent a widgety beginning of new type of new media analytics. I’m excited to see how all this Web 2.0 social networking stuff will continue to play for out for “web analytics.”

Integration of social networking analysis features into current offerings from web analytics vendors could take social media measurement into new exciting areas full of profitable revenue. I envision many uses of social networking and social media analytics for online business:

  • Helping companies realize new products. Imagine the lessons to be learned from 227 groups with thousands of people discussing new product development.
  • Identifying social trends impacting their business. Anyone want to learn about social characteristics of those who believe in alternative energy and/or boycott Exxon, Citgo, and Shell?
  • Enabling larger enterprises to more proactively respond to the voice of the customer and manage risk. Are companies like Walmart, Coke, McDonalds, and Nestle listening to the thousands of voices?
  • New revenue models for behavioral marketing and targeting campaigns. Maybe this is a long stretch, but could cost-per-target (CPT) ads be very far way? It seems obvious to me to say that social network analytics will be used to target ads and offers in smaller batches focused on high-value niche segments that are typically hard to reach using mass media broadcasting techniques. Facebook seems to already be investigating this niche.

Do you Facebook or use other social networks? Are you interested in analytics for social networks? What do you think?

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