In today’s competitive market there’s nothing advertisers and e-marketing gurus are talking about more than the social wonders of Facebook marketing. As a brand, business, or organization, it gives you a platform to interact with fans, reiterate your branding, and build rapport. But what do all of those hours spent building your social media presence mean if you can’t measure their effectiveness? The analytical data behind the interaction is arguably the most important component of a social media campaign. It tells you the effectiveness of your current strategies, and “insights” about which practices you should continue or abandon.

With a clear understanding of the importance of social media analytics, your next decision will be whether to buy analytics software, or utilize the free services offered by Facebook Insights. Maybe you don’t like the functionality of Insights, and are seeking a program that spells the results out more specifically for you. Or, maybe you’re a non-profit or young start-up with a budget that doesn’t quite allow for pricey analytic software. Whatever your company’s situation, it is important to understand the facts and make the most informed decision about your Facebook analytics.

Facebook Insights

Insights provides a concise look into the breakdown of your social success. By viewing your Daily Active Users Breakdown, you can see how many users view, comment, like, or return to your page each day. This data also provides you with a simplistic look at which days you received the most engagement. Insights also enables you to see how many likes you gain (or lose) during any specified time period.

Hopefully, your insights provide you with great news: new likes, frequent activity, and high engagement levels. But where did all of these fans come from? Insights can tell you that too. By reviewing your Like Sources, you can see if those new likes came from ads, other profiles, or a like box on an external site. Once you discover the source of your new found fan base, check out your daily page activity to see how often fans are posting on your page or tagging you in your own posts.

The last important feature of Facebook Insights is the demographic data. Here, you are able to view a breakdown of the gender, age, countries, and cities of your fans. From that data, you can calculate your own ratios for reporting. This might seem like a bombardment of analytic information if you’re new at Facebook, but many social media experts are certain that Insights does not dig deep enough.

Purchasable Analytic Software

There are innumerable companies popping up around the world offering extensive data solutions for your social media plan. Common features of these solutions include limitless date ranges, unique and repeat impression reports, and a breakdown of engagement via computer or mobile devices.

The main advantage of purchasing software such as PageLever, BuddyMedia, or Webtrends is their widespread availability of data. With their help, you can identify virtually any specific statistic you’re looking for. Another major advantage is their ability to tell you what the data means. Where insights leaves the interpretation up to you, most of these companies offer services that will tell you exactly what to post, where to post, and when to post it, all based on analytics.

Many large corporations have begun to purchase in-depth analytic software for their immense social media campaigns, and there’s no doubt that leveraging this data works well for them. If you fall within the likes of Coca-Cola, Microsoft, or YouTube, managing a large fan base and engagement patterns that change faster than you can login to Facebook, this is definitely the right choice for you. But if your social marketing budget lies a bit below those of corporate giants, a few simple tips can make Facebook Insights work for you.

First, identify one specific staff member or outside agency that is going to manage your social media plan. If they aren’t already an expert, there are endless training opportunities for Facebook Analytics. Attend a seminar or webinar, and consistently keep up with social media blogs and news. Next, spend some time learning what each aspect of Insights can tell you. From there, determine your own system or calendar of when you check the analytics, what aspects of it you report, and what action you take based on those results. Finally, stay up to date on Facebook advancements by reading sites like socialmediaexplorer.com or mashable.com. The analytics features of Facebook are constantly improving, and you’ll never miss an opportunity to gain insight if you’re keeping up with the latest in social media progress.