Facebook Ads API: You Can’t Measure What You Can’t See

Dennis Yu is Chief Executive Officer of BlitzLocal, a Webtrends partner that Builds social media dashboards to measure brand engagement and ROI, specializing in the intersection of Facebook and local advertising. You can reach him on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, his blog, or good old-fashioned email at dennis@blitzlocal.com.

Continuing a three-part series on the Facebook Ads API. In Part one, I looked at how Facebook Ads vendors have done little with their exclusive access to the API and instead have tried to game Facebook's system through ad multiplication. In Part two, I'll discuss how the API can be used to gather the data needed to measure true performance.

Better Analytics

Surprisingly, folks who use the Facebook Graph API aren’t using the Ads API and vice versa. The chicken and the egg in Facebook marketing is that advertisers don’t want to spend money unless they can prove ROI. And while the “get more fans” slogan has proven to be popular and effective in selling advertising campaigns, today it’s starting to wear thin. Marketers are saying, “Hey, I already got a lot of fans” and “What are my fans worth?” Facebook doesn’t have an answer yet, but the good news is that via the APIs, they provide you with the data you need to deliver here.

By the way, we haven’t had a peek at the new Insights coming out, but are excited to see.

A business owner or marketing person looks across all their marketing channels to determine ROI. Facebook happens to be an amazing word-of-mouth channel, which means that the impact of great Facebook marketing is likely to show up on the website, in the store, in more searches for your name on Google, and more people whispering good things in the street to their friends. This is largely beyond the realm of any form of electronic tracking. We have yet to see anyone tie together analytics from Facebook (graph API), their website analytics, offline impact, ad campaigns, and so forth.

This concept is called “owned, earned, and paid”— your website you own (so you can place tracking tags), places like Facebook you earn (you’re dependent upon the graph API for Feed and wall stats, and ad campaigns you pay for (AdWords API, DART, etc.). Sum up “owned, earned, and paid” impressions and clicks to get the true brand picture. Run a big Facebook ad campaign and see the impact in organic search results in Bing, for example. Nobody is doing that measurement, to our knowledge, and it’s not that hard to build.

Facebook did come out with something called “pipeline reporting” last year, but we haven’t heard further from the Ads API team. It was a way to link users together by determining the first person who did something and the subsequent chain of people this person influenced. The implementation of it was tricky, since each user in the chain added a token to the URL. The processing of these URLs is not for the faint of heart, similar to the challenges of path reporting from ten years ago—so many potential paths possible to compute.

The other sticky wicket of social analytics is attribution; deciding how to assign credit to marketing events when there are multiple clicks in a user’s clickstream prior to conversion. This is called the “last click attribution problem”, where the last click gets all the credit. Google makes a ton of money here because people mistakenly assume that the last click gets all the credit—or worse, they don’t know that their “conversion rate” is last click reporting, by default. Facebook ads influence the eventual conversion, which often occurs in another marketing channel. Whoever can solve the attribution problem for Facebook will have cut the mythical Gordian Knot of marketing.

Be sure to read the next Marketing article: Facebook Ads API: Optimizing from Good to Great