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Analytics isn't easy, but just about every marketer knows how important it is. That's why so many companies have invested significant sums in their analytics strategies.

Unfortunately, the rise of popular consumer hangouts that are walled gardens, namely Facebook, has created multiple 'internets', and according to AdAge, that poses a number of challenges for companies and their analytics strategies.

With more of marketers' "owned" media -- i.e. their online relationship marketing programs -- now hosted within Facebook, that only becomes a bigger challenge.

...determining which of numerous digital media gets credit for a sale or a targeted behavior when the same person has been exposed to many ads and offers, is hard with Facebook because the site limits the data it will share.

Facebook, of course, does provide its own analytics data to companies using Facebook Pages. But for companies heavily invested in third party analytics solutions, there's no integration. And as Hemen Patel, president of CRM Metrix points out, comparing Facebook metrics, such as 'fans', to non-Facebook metrics, such as unique visitors, isn't an apples to apples exercise.

But are walled gardens as troublesome from an analytics standpoint as they might appear? In my opinion, the answer is no, and there are two primary reasons why:

  • Many -- if not most -- companies aren't looking at platforms like Facebook as standalone, self-contained entities. Oftentimes, they're using them to drive actions off-platform. For instance, a status update might contain a link to a promotion hosted on the company's website. Or might entice a user to send a text to participate in a mobile contest. These actions can easily be tracked using an analytics solution of choice.
  • There's nothing stopping companies from developing Facebook-based marketing campaigns that are designed to produce actions that take place off of Facebook, and that can therefore be tracked using an analytics solution of choice.

The key point here is that however wonderful a Facebook Page is, it's not going to do much for a company's bottom line if the company is hoping that the Page itself is going to convince a fan to go out and buy a product, pay for a service, or tell a friend how wonderful something is.

Obviously, this logic won't necessarily apply to companies that are interested in branding more than they're interested in action. But there too, I don't think analytics is a stumbling block. Instead, common sense is. As Patel told AdAge, "Even though the platform may be free, the agency is charging $250,000 to $300,000 to maintain it. Then we see figures like 300,000 fans, but only 300 do anything actively. ... The question becomes am I really going to sell $1,000 worth of Tide to this one person over a lifetime?"

Walled gardens like Facebook may be able to do a lot, but for companies looking to achieve specific goals, it's important to pick platforms on which those goals can not only be achieved, but on which it is possible to prove that those goals are being achieved. If you select goals that can't be achieved because you can't account for the KPIs you need to prove that they're being achieved, you either need to choose a different platform or set different goals.

Analytics has never been perfect, and the companies that really get something out of analytics are usually the ones who know what they want and know how and where to find it -- walled garden or not.

Patricio Robles

Published 23 August, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2392 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

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Gavin Parkinson

Walled gardens can be a menace for those of us on tight budgets; who require concrete metrics to justify new eMarketing channels.

I ran a podcasting service; it's really difficult to get a rounded view on the popularity of the service - a mix of direct downloads, landing page views, customer comments and RSS feed monitoring... Apple iTunes is an important "garden" for us - we can clearly see that we're relatively popular as our podcast ranks top 10 for government podcasts worldwide. However, try as we might Apple will not tell us how many people had subscribed and how many of them were reguarly listening.

You're right, it's not the end of the world - it's one of many channels, but it makes things difficult to justify in an "austere" world.

about 6 years ago

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Babar Bhatti

Patricio, you've brought up an important point. It is a question of awareness. At MutualMind, we offer a rich set of Facebook analytics which go beyond what you get from Facebook. Our platform seamlessly integrates Facebook page analytics with other social media and web metrics. The results are exportable in various formats and available via an API as well. With all this available, it is not a technical challenge, but it is about education and readiness.

I like Gavin's example of iTunes as a walled garden. 

Babar

Co-Founder, MutualMind.

about 6 years ago

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Brewster Barclay, Managing Director at Clickstream Technologies PLC

Hi Patricio,

I am sure that Omniture, Webtrends and Google Analytics have integrations with Facebook Analytics. They are not perfect but you must have data if you are going to make business decisions.

Regards,

Brewster

almost 6 years ago

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