What’s the Difference Between Data, Analytics, Insights and Why Should I Care?

I’ve spoken at and have attended quite a few conferences during my career. One major theme that speakers and conference goers continually talk about is analytics, data and generating insights from both. It’s not uncommon to hear speakers lecture on the need to focus on data and how data is going to be the future of marketing.

While they are not wrong, many times speakers and leaders confuse data, analytics, and insights and use them interchangeably. This happens so frequently that we often forget that these three topics are very different and how we go about thinking about them within our businesses needs to be different as well.

So let’s explain the differences and how that information will help you propel your business forward.

Defining Data, Analytics, and Insights. What’s the Difference?

Data

Data is, simply put,  the points along the road. Data by itself is relatively useless without context. It doesn’t really help with our understanding of what is going on when we only look at a singular data point but collectively, it can help us see patterns we would have never seen otherwise.

You can’t optimize or extract knowledge from something that you’re not measuring. Every business is going to collect data differently because they all have different needs and will be focused on different objectives. Asking the question “what is important to our business” is a starting point that will help guide you in trying to figure out what data to collect.

Another thing to pay attention to is the context of the data that you are gathering. Data without context can easily lead to bad decisions because it won’t reflect the reality of what’s going on with your business.

Analytics

Analytics is the process of discovering patterns and trends from the data. Business Dictionary states the goal of analytics is to help a company by “gaining knowledge which can be used to make improvements or changes.”

Individuals and businesses can’t really do anything without analytics. Useful analytics almost always comes from ratios. Single data points don’t provide much actionable information but when combined into a series of data points or ratios, trends become much easier to see and understand.

If your website receives 30,000 page views a month, is that good? Is it bad? Are you improving or do you need a website overhaul? Just looking at that single data point does little to help you understand almost anything about your website performance. But if you look and see that you have improved your monthly site traffic by 25% year over year or 10% month over month? That helps you understand a little bit more about whether or not your efforts have been effective.

Segmentation

Once you start looking at your analytics, make sure to start segmenting your analytics. As you start to put like-minded customers/visitors together, it will help you with the next section that we are going to go into which is insights.

The purpose of segmentation is to better understand your customers and individuals who interact with your company. Segmentation allows you to reduce the number of variables when it comes to your data so that you have a better context to understand the analytics.

A few examples of possible segments that you can do for your business are:

• Visits originating only from direct traffic and utilizing Chrome as their browser
• Customers who have the highest CLV (customer lifetime value)
• Visitors who remained on your site for longer than “x” minutes.

Insights

The most difficult part of dealing with data and analytics is simply just trying to understand what it is that you are observing. How are your customers actually behaving? What do they really want to know more about? How do they actually interact with your business? Analytics could be telling you a million different stories but insights is the process of understanding the true story of what is going on with your business and your customers.

Another way of framing this, every business can be viewed as a complicated mesh of different systems. While we love to think that we all understand exactly how everything works, no one actually knows how everything works 100% of the time. Not the founder, not the CEO…no one understands it completely.

Because of this, there is a gap in an employee’s understanding of the business and how it actually works. With this framework in mind, insights helps individuals to bridge this gap between their understanding of how the system works and how it actually works.

Insights is the “ah-ha” moment when data and analytics come together into a cohesive story that allows you to better see the reality of what’s going on with your business.

Remember, reporting does not equal insights. Reporting is the process of organizing data into summaries. Insights is the result of exploring data and reports in order to extract meaningful information to improve business performance. Reporting translates raw data into information. Analysis transforms data and information into insights.

Investigating the “that’s funny…”
Isaac Asimov captured the spirit of discovering insights perfectly when he said: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny…’”

As I mentioned earlier, the biggest issue businesses face when it comes to data and analytics is the gap between how they think the business runs and how it actually runs. These ‘that’s funny’ moments allows us to see areas where we are blinded by our own assumptions or previous experiences that we have had with the business. They allow us to step back and say to ourselves “we really need to look at this process because clearly something is going on here.”

How to turn Data into Insights

So now that we have all of the definitions out of the way, how do I actually pull insights from the data that we are collecting? Here are some useful tips to help you accomplish this goal.

• Ask yourself “what questions do we need to answer in order to succeed?”
• Create a specific hypothesis prior to running an analyse.
• Start with small data, filter and segment those data to build larger segments.
• Work on a single problem at a time.
• Break complex systems into smaller pieces.
• Ask specific questions. Generic questions will produce generic answers.
• Measure loss/gain caused by your findings.

Hopefully you found these tips on the difference between data, analytics and insights helpful.

Need help finding insights for your business? Want us to help? Request a free Digital Marketing Audit from us by filling out the form.

Understanding Facebook Analytics

“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” -Sun Tzu

Most intermediate to advanced marketers love diving into tactics. It’s sexy and it brings this sense of “ah…that’s what I have been missing all along” feeling that also makes you feel like you have stumbled on some “holy grail” of marketing that will catapult your marketing efforts into the next stratosphere.

The problem is that most of your marketing issues have nothing to do with your tactics, but your lack of a cohesive strategy in implementing those tactics. So the question then remains, how do you put together a cohesive strategy?

Analytics and Facebook analytics specifically will help you better understand the user experience as they interact with your brand both online and off. How do new users find about your business/product/service? How do your existing customers become loyal, repeat customers?

Every business, especially if they have a heavy online presence, needs to refine their critical path for their new customers. What user flow is the most optimal for your business? Is it to hear about you online, go to a physical store and then ultimately find you again online when you have a promotion? Do they search for you on Google, fill out an interactive form on your website and then add your product to a cart and finish the checkout process?

Most businesses have several “critical paths” that their customers follow and your overall strategy should be to 1) figure out that path and 2) learn to optimize the path from the edges of the flow instead of rebuilding it every couple of months and having to restart your Facebook experiments from scratch..

So where does Facebook Analytics fall into this learning process?

Facebook Analytics will help you understand how your customers are actually behaving and which behaviors are most beneficial to your business. As you gain a better understanding of what behaviors you want to replicate, you’ll be able to create user flows that promote behaviors that you want to see in your customers and on the flip side, create flows that discourages behaviors that you want your potential customers to avoid.

Facebook Analytics and Google Analytics are not the same. Google Analytics is a comprehensive tool that enables you to look at more data than Facebook Analytics and allows you to do deeper dives into specific pages. On the other hand, Facebook Analytics is tied to a user, not a cookie and thus is best at showing you interactions among events so you can see opportunities to better cater your website/product offering that you maybe didn’t know were happening to specific individuals.

Event groups within Facebook Analytics allows you to look at omnichannel interactions. Many will argue that Google Analytics already provides this information but Facebook Analytics allows you to dive a bit deeper because it allows you to see post interactions in addition to page and website behaviors. You also can track offline data like in-store purchases and link them to your Facebook campaigns to see how your Facebook ads influenced those purchasing decisions.

There are three major reports that you can pull from Facebook Analytics: Funnels, Revenue and Customer Lifetime Value reports.

Funnels:

One of the best parts of the Facebook Analytics funnel reports is that they are able to tell you what actions individuals took on your Facebook page/ad prior to them converting into a customer. You can figure out of the individuals who “liked” this post, how many of them when to the website? Of those individuals how many of them ultimately ultimately lead to a sale? Understanding where along the funnels your customers are dropping out is one of the most invaluable pieces of information that Facebook funnels can provide.

Revenue:

Think of Revenue as a dashboard for purchase-related information. Let’s say you want to find out how many purchases were made through your app in a given time period. You could find this information in Revenue and examine it more closely by applying filters then create a funnel out of those insights as mentioned above.

Customer Lifetime Value:

Conventional reports in Business Manager merely look at the cost per conversion and revenue for each individual purchase. By looking at CLV, instead, we can see how much a customer is worth to us over the course of several months. You can break it down into a few factors:

• How often a customer makes a purchase within a typical purchase cycle
• How much a customer spends each time they make a purchase
• How much you project a customer will spend over the duration of your relationship with them
• The potential length of a customer’s relationship with you

As Facebook has stated “You shouldn’t use your prediction for any one of these factors alone as a representation of a given customer’s lifetime value. You should combine each relevant estimation into a formula appropriate for your business goals and use the result it produces.”

Facebook Analytics is just such an awesome tool to help individuals and companies understand how their Facebook efforts are working and where along the way they are dropping out.

Bonus freebie:

A lot of individuals ask us in addition to the reports above, what are some other Facebook specific metrics that we like to track. I have listed some of the most insightful metrics that provide the most amount of insights.

MAU (Monthly Active Users)
(# of Monthly Active Users/# of People Reached)

Audience Growth Rate
(# of new Facebook Fans/# of total fans on Facebook)

Engagement Rate
(# of engagements/# of posts)

Organic vs. Paid Traffic Rate

Average Revenue Per MAU
(MRR/Total Number of Customers)

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
(Total Cost of Sales & Marketing/# of Sales)

Need a hand in understanding the constantly changing Facebook landscape? Contact us or call us and let our team of Facebook experts talk to you about your current Facebook marketing needs.

How to Hack the Facebook Algorithm

Go to any social media/digital marketing conference and you’ll most likely see at least one class titled “How to Hack the Facebook Algorithm”. Everyone in the social media marketing industry is constantly trying to figure out and asking themselves, “how do I get Facebook advertising to work for me?”

According to Social Media Examiner, 51% of marketers don’t feel like their efforts in Facebook advertising are paying off. So what is happening? Why are so many marketers struggling to find success with Facebook? How do you hack the Facebook Algorithm?

The short answer is that you don’t. The medium answer is that you hack the algorithm by being adaptable and running experiments correctly.  The long answer is below.

Adapting

Those who don’t adapt, die. Let me show you one example of a simple Facebook hack we used at Epic to adapt. Many marketers have griped and complained about how the upcoming targeting changes on Facebook will negatively affect their advertising efforts. At Epic Marketing, our focus is on the bottom line. It’s what we do. We just do what we need to do in order to help your business grow and thrive by combining technology and our experience and insights. For example, while you might not be able to target individuals with certain “interest” or target “income” levels after August 15th, you can still create an Engagement Audience comprised of those individuals now. In other words, you can create a video targeting those “interest” or “income” audiences now, and create a custom audience comprised of those individuals who watched the videos longer than 3 seconds.

By doing this, you’ve now changed these individuals from a third party source, to a first party source you can remarket to indefinitely on Facebook. This huge hairy problem is now solved simply by thinking through the problem a little bit.

When your company or agency faces a large shift in the landscape, do they complain and throw their hands up? Or do they adapt? Digital marketing is constantly changing. Old norms are now out of date. Previous strategies that never worked now do. Purchase behaviors and attention spans change. It’s hard to find consistency in a landscape that is constantly shifting and updating itself so you have to adapt.

Dealing with a Constantly Evolving Digital Marketing Landscape

So what do we do here at Epic Marketing? What is our “secret sauce”? How are we able to produce results despite the fact that ad costs are increasing across search/social media and Facebook is becoming more restrictive in their targeting options? It’s simple really. We just follow the scientific method when running experiments. Pretty bland isn’t it?

Many marketers say they are “experimenting” but what they are actually doing is blindly guessing and constantly taking a shotgun approach with their strategies. Yes, every campaign takes some time to optimize and at first, especially when you have limited data, often times you are just taking your best guess at how to proceed. However, you shouldn’t be “guessing” 3 months into the campaign. The biggest problem with how a lot of marketers “experiment” is that they leave out one of the most crucial parts of the “experiment”, they forget to actually create a legitimate hypothesis.

“Let’s see what happens” is not a hypothesis. If that’s your hypothesis, you’ll see “what happens” 100% of the time but you won’t be any better for it. A well thought out experiment builds upon previous experiments, but how do you know the right follow up questions to ask if you never created a hypothesis to begin with?

Here’s a brief rundown of the scientific method with direct applications to advertising.

Ask a Question

Most people do this. It’s the question that you ask that forms the basis of your experiment. “Will switching images lead to a better conversion rate?”, “Will including the name of the city in the ad copy lead to more phone calls?”, etc.

Do Background Research

Again, most marketers and businesses will do this step fairly well. Just make sure you keep notes on where you are getting your information and the process along the way so that you can reference it later. As part of your research, make sure to include both qualitative as well as quantitative data in your reports. Quantitative data is the default metric that most marketers rely on but qualitative data helps paint the broader picture of what is going on.

Construct a Hypothesis

This is where far too many marketers fall short. Very rarely do they construct a hypothesis at all, let alone do it in a way that allows them to learn from their experiments. Remember that a hypothesis is an educated guess based on all of the research that has been done both internally and externally. This is not a “shot in the dark” at something you think will work. It is a statement of what you expect to happen and typically it is written in a cause and effect format (if _____ happens, we then expect ________ to occur). It’s a statement that is based on your “educated guess” and not on known data.

The other component needed for a well-written hypothesis is understanding what your variables are for your project. A good hypothesis defines the variables in easy-to-measure terms, like who the participants are, what changes will occur during the testing, and what you think the effect of the changes will be.

Make sure your hypothesis is “testable.” To prove or disprove your hypothesis, you need to be able to do an experiment and take measurements or make observations to see how two things (your variables) are related. You should also be able to repeat your experiment over and over again, if necessary.

To create a “testable” hypothesis make sure you have done all of these things:

• Thought about what experiments you will need to carry out to do the test.

• Identified the variables in the project.

• Included the independent and dependent variables in the hypothesis statement. (This helps ensure that your statement is specific enough.)

• Don’t bite off more than you can chew! Answering some scientific questions can involve more than one experiment, each with its own hypothesis. Make sure your hypothesis is a specific statement relating to a single experiment.

Test Your Hypothesis

This is a perfect example of garbage in, garbage out. You can waste countless man hours, money, and resources running experiments that don’t matter. Experimentation is a mechanism by which we can gain insights and useful information, but it’s not an insight in and of itself. It’s simply just another arrow in our quiver. Experimentation will help us support or refute a hypothesis, but we have to do the work to design a good hypothesis and a good experiment.

Some common mistakes marketers make while testing their hypotheses are:

• Starting with an untestable hypothesis. In other words, not having a reason for why your change will have the desired impact.

• Testing too many variations.

• Not determining up front what you consider to be good. Draw a hard line in the sand.

• Stopping your test at the wrong time. (Here is an online duration calculator that can help you prevent this)

Analyze Raw Data and Draw Conclusions.

Don’t just blindly follow the data. Generally, a researcher will summarize what they believe has been learned from the research, and will try to assess the strength of the hypothesis. Even if your hypothesis is proven to be false, a strong conclusion will analyze why the results did not turn out the way you initially thought.

Theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli once stated “it’s not only not right; it is not even wrong” in reference to the work of another fellow physicist. There is tremendous value in being wrong, the only time we truly fail with an experiment is when the experiment provided no additional information to our path of knowledge.

And herein lies the problem with most marketing campaigns. They don’t build upon the knowledge gained during previous experiments. They run an experiment, observe what happens and then create an entirely new experiment that has little to do with any of the observations from the previous experiments. Since they didn’t create a hypothesis, there was nothing specific to observe and therefore, no specific questions to build upon for the next round of experiments.

Want to see your Facebook ads perform better? Learn to adapt and learn how to perform experiments correctly and you’ll be surprised at the results that you achieve.

Need a hand in understanding the constantly changing Facebook landscape? Contact us or call us and let our team of Facebook experts talk to you about your current Facebook marketing needs.

Understanding Facebook’s Seismic Shift in Third-Party Data

From Facebook:

“We want to let advertisers know that we will be shutting down Partner Categories. This product enables third-party data providers to offer their targeting directly on Facebook. While this is common industry practice, we believe this step, winding down over the next six months, will help improve people’s privacy on Facebook. They went into more detail with many advertisers as to the specific dates they will be implementing these changes.

– May 10: After this date, you will no longer be able to create or edit campaign using Partner Categories built on audiences from the UK, Germany, and France; however, they will be allowed to continue running until May 24.

– May 25: We will no longer deliver to Partner Categories built on audiences from the UK, Germany, and France, and these targeting options will no longer be available for use on our platform. You will be notified to update any targeting containing impacted Partner Categories before this date.

– June 30: Last day for creating new or editing existing campaigns using non-EU Partner Categories; they will be allowed to run until September 30.

– October 1: All other Partner Categories will no longer be available as targeting options on our platform and we will stop delivering against these audiences. You will be notified to update your targeting by this date.”

So what does it mean for businesses wanting to advertise on Facebook? Does this mean that Facebook advertising won’t be as effective moving forward? The answer is, it depends. Many businesses and less seasoned marketers are freaking out about the idea that we no longer will be able to target based on income, job titles and other demographic information that are pulled from sources such as Epsilon, Acxiom, Datalogix, etc. While not being able to utilize third-party data (which is a standard practice in marketing) limits the type of targeting you can do on Facebook, Facebook’s secret weapon is its internal algorithm. Marketers who understand how it works and what components drive which outcomes in the algorithm can actually benefit from this new announcement. Marketers who are worried that their ads will no longer be effective because of these new measures were focusing on the wrong components of Facebook ads all along. Seasoned marketers understand that the basic backbone of all Facebook ads, regardless of the industry, is built on four factors:

  • Trust

  • Strength of content

  • Targeting with enough flexibility to allow Facebook’s AI to help with the sub-audience targeting

  • Understanding what exactly you want Facebook to do for your business (goals)

Trust

The area that most businesses screw up through Facebook marketing has relatively little to do with specific demographic targeting, but everything to do with trust. They screw up their campaigns because they are too focused on conversions/sales. Even with lookalike or custom audiences, to make the sale you need trust. The best-targeted audience in the world will not convert if they don’t trust you. You need to provide a variety of ads throughout your customer’s journey that makes them aware of who you are, what you do, and how what you do provides a solution to their problems. How are they supposed to buy something from you when they don’t know anything about what you do as a business? Too many businesses only produce ads that are focused on conversion and not enough of them focus on awareness or engagement that helps build trust between them and their potential customers.

Strength of Content

Most ads are simply not strong enough relative to the campaign objective. Yes, they have plenty of call to action (CTA) buttons, but not all ads should be conversion ads. Are you creating engaging ads that will bring a new audience or group into your existing marketing funnels? Are you creating engaging content simply for the sake of engagement? Are you building out ads that help with brand recall and recognition? Ads need to be thought through and produced for all stages of the marketing funnel, not just for trying to make the sale.

Targeting

With the new changes, this is what everyone’s focus is on. As I mentioned earlier, not being able to utilize third-party data will limit the type of targeting marketers will be able to do. But it will not impact the effectiveness of those ads if marketers make the proper adjustment to them now. Experienced Facebook marketers understand their role relative to Facebook’s AI when it comes to Facebook advertising. They understand better than most the balance of knowing how frequently to update and change the targeting and/or creative of those ads based on data that they are collecting. However, seasoned marketers understand that most of this stuff is noise. Third-party audience targeting is not the main driving force behind the effectiveness of ads and experienced marketers understand that we will still be able to utilize the tools that we do have in order to provide a positive ROI for our clients.

Goals

Businesses need to understand that they need to have goals beyond simply making sales. Yes, sales are the main focus of your marketing campaign, but there are so many factors that go into making a purchase that if you overlook any of those other components, you will be adversely affecting your sales. Possible Facebook campaigns objectives (goals): Increase awareness Local awareness Reach Traffic Engagement (Post, Page likes, event response, offer claims) Video views Store visits App Install Catalog sales Are you a brand new mom and pop shop and need help with the awareness of your location? Do you have a large Facebook following and are launching a new product line? Perhaps you have plenty of sales but need to focus in on customer retention? The point is that all of these questions would require you to have different objectives set up for your Facebook ads.

Summary

The main point of this blog post is to show you all of the factors that go into having a great performing Facebook ad. Yes, the new changes are big and for many marketers who have been focusing on the wrong components, their ads will tank. However, for the businesses and marketers who have been focusing on the most important elements of Facebook ads all along (trust, strength of content, targeting and goals) this is just a little blip in the constantly changing world of social media marketing.

Need a hand in understanding the constantly changing Facebook landscape? Contact us or call us and let our team of expert Facebook experts talk to you about your current Facebook marketing needs. 801-657-4383

Facebook’s New Algorithm Change and 5 Ways Your Business Needs to Respond

On January 11th, 2018 Mark Zuckerberg made an announcement on Facebook that sent the social media world, and businesses across the globe into a frenzy.

He stated that Facebook would be changing the news feed algorithm to prioritize content from “friends, family, and groups.”

However, what concerned the business world was the comment that as they roll out these changes “You’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard—it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”

Understandably, many business owners are concerned that their overall organic reach will decline and that they won’t have the ability to effectively reach their audiences.

Let’s break down what is happening and what is not.

What Is Not True About the Facebook’s Algorithm Update

Facebook Armageddon

While it’s true that many businesses most likely will see some form of a decline in their organic reach, it doesn’t mean that they should abandon Facebook altogether. Organic reach has been declining for many businesses for years but that is simply a byproduct of the fact that competition in the newsfeed has steadily increased over the years.  There’s nothing new about this.

Facebook talked about this back in 2014 and the issue has only
gotten worse since then. “There is now far more content being made than there is time to absorb it. On average, there are 1,500 stories that could appear in a person’s News Feed each time they log onto Facebook. For people with lots of friends and Page likes, as many as 15,000 potential stories could appear any time they log on.”

Publishers and businesses will need to become more creative in creating engaging posts and focus on building communities around their brands.  The mistake many businesses have made and are continuing to make is pushing stale content or content that is overly promotional to their fans. In an age where inventory space on Facebook is so competitive, where businesses are competing with new baby announcements and wedding photos, businesses who just simply put out content that is just promotional will not survive let alone thrive on Facebook.

Facebook has a general direction of how they will be moving forward but even they don’t know exactly how that’s going to look over the next few months or years.

So How Should We Respond? How Do We Fix This?

The answer is not to radically change your strategy (unless your strategy sucks) or utilize new gimmicks/algorithm-tricking tactics. Trying to trick the system is what prompted these changes in the first place.

More and more businesses are realizing the effectiveness of having an active Facebook profile and creating regular content.  The problem for most businesses is that they are either not producing engaging content at all (they are just repurposing content from other media platforms and using it on Facebook) or they are creating click-bait headlines and content that is not engagement-worthy and is providing a worse user experience for Facebook users overall.

The best way to beat the algorithm is to join it.  Ask yourself these questions, “What is the end goal for the algorithm? What is it trying to do?”  Mark Zuckerberg has stated many times, along with many of the top officials at Facebook that their number one goal is to have Facebook “help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us.”

So here are some ways to matter to your audience:

1.  Tell an engaging, consistent story

Have you done a good job in telling your company’s story so that your audience wants to see more posts from your company?  Are you sharing stories in an authentic, engaging way that matters to them? Are you just posting for posting’s sake?  Go back through your company’s Facebook posts and see which one resonated with your audience and find ways to continue to tell those stories.

2.  Diversify

The number one rule of creating any kind of social media following applies here… diversify! Make sure you have a following on various platforms that make sense to your business i.e. email, Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat.  Don’t try to be all things to all people but focus on the two to three channels that you feel will be the most beneficial to your business.

3. Create a Facebook Group

Business pages would be wise to start Facebook groups as groups have high visibility in the newsfeed and notifications. Again, the focus is on the user and when you create a Facebook group make sure you are creating a group that people will want to join and one that adds value to the members within the group.

4. Visually interact with your audience

When trying to engage with your audience, find mediums that will best accomplish your overall goal.  For example, if you are wanting to ask a question to your viewers, think about doing a Facebook Live or creating a graphical poll. Don’t just simply ask the question as a status update on your page.

5. Be timely

Timeliness when it comes to social media is important in engaging WITH your audience on topics that they are currently engaging in.  By creating branded content that is timely, you can add value to your fans while having them interact with your business.

In short, while Facebook’s algorithm will be different in the coming months, it shouldn’t change the overall strategies that businesses have in utilizing Facebook.  By focusing on your long-term goals and finding ways to matter to your customers, businesses can create engaging communities that add value to their customers while strengthening the company’s brand and image.

Need a hand with making social media matter to your customers?  Contact us or call us to talk about what your current social media needs are. Located in Draper, Utah, Epic Marketing can help your business. (801)657-4383