The best Facebook analytics report (that you’re probably not using…)

Let’s take a step back, for a minute, from the usual slightly spitty excited talk about measuring social media by ‘engagement’, ‘reach’ or ‘virality’. All good stuff, to be sure, but sometimes – as a website owner, you just want to know how many visits are coming to your site from the Facebook page you lovingly maintain. It’s your bread and butter metric – it makes sense, and you know where you are with it. Chances are, most of your conversions take place on your website, that’s a good enough reason to want insight into your traffic sources.

Facebook domain insights is a great tool – among the reports it gives you are insights into visits to your website, from any link out there on Facebook. Here’s an example from a website, showing visits coming its way from Facebook:

Graph showing links clicked on from Facebook, back to a website

The number of clicks sent to a website, from links appearing in the news feed, page or profile walls. (Click for a larger view)

If you’re running a web analytics tool, you’ll can also get a similar report from your referring sites report – but what you get from insights, which you don’t get from your own website, is a report showing how many times links about your site were shared, regardless of whether they were clicked or not:

Daily shares from a Facebook page

The number of times people included a link to the website in a status message or wall post (Click for a larger view)

Ok – so where’s the insight? What’s the action I could take?
The first time I looked at the graphs above, my immediate question was ‘what’s responsible for the spikes?’. Finding out that answer will give me insights, which I can use to adjust my content strategy. Insights for domains has a ton of other useful reports, for example, it will show the success of any ‘like’ or ‘send’ buttons you have on your website.

The next question is, are the trends in the data above suggesting that the strategy that I have for Facebook is working, or not? In this instance, I can say that the prioritized purpose of my employer’s activities on Facebook is not to acquire traffic to the website  but to provide a platform for conversation with students (though, obviously, it’s nice when content is shared). However, as we increase publication of content on Facebook – and start using it to reach a larger audience we’ll definitely be using these reports to see what impact it’s having – we’ll be looking for an upwards trend. Whether this traffic does anything valuable to us, or for them, on our website is another question….

Talk to your webmaster, give them buns and get the meta tag from Facebook added to your website – enjoy.

November Review – Facebook Page Comments – Swedish Universities Ranking

Here’s the November ranking for Swedish universities’ Facebook pages – based off the number of comments which their friends left on their walls, during the last month. This does not include comments left on posts by the page, or additional comments in a longer discussion. I’ve divided it into English and Swedish language pages.

Swedish language Facebook Pages

Overall, Linne Universitet’s wall saw the biggest increase in posting, with a growth of 20% since last month. There’s some international activity on the wall, which contributes to the growth, but the content seems to be mostly from students on campus; for example the sharing of blog posts or for sale notices.  The Karolinska Institutet, The Royal College of Art and Stockholm’s Universitet’s walls remain closed for posts.

Linne Universitet

60

Lunds Universitet

29

Linköping Universitet

27

Uppsala universitet

22

Högskolan i Borås

22

Högskolan i skövde

19

Mittuniversitetet

17

Högskolan i Halmstad

16

Mälardalans Högskola

13

Umeå universitet

13

KTH

11

Karlstads Universitet

11

Malmö Högskola

11

Högskolan i Jönköping

11

Högskolan i Jönköping

11

SLU

10

Högskolan Dalarna

6

Göteborg Universitet

6

BTH officiell

3

Högskolan Kristianstad

2

Högskolan Väst

1

English Language Facebook Pages

Malmö University sits at the top of this part of the ranking, with a page where posts are almost entirely questions about studying at Malmö, or how to make an application. Lund University, in second place, also has a wall dominated by questions about applying to Lund.  Uppsala, whilst enjoying fewer posts, shows a similar trend towards questions about making an application. Stockholm University and the Stockholm School of Economics walls’ remain closed.

Malmö University

56

Lund University

48

Uppsala University

22

Jönköping University

14

Umeå University

13

Chalmers University of technology

6

Karlstad University

6

Karlstad University

6

University of Borås

2

Some Quick Reflections

A few things occurred to me when I was preparing this month’s ranking.

Number of friends versus number of posts
A high number of friends is obviously great for reach and getting your content visible across the web. Lund University, for example, gets a high number of likes and shares for some of their posts which presumably leads to a healthy amount of inbound traffic to their page, and website. But, once again there’s little relationship between number of friends and number of posts;  Lund University has 5 times as many friends as Malmö University, yet they both have similar levels of posts.

Exceed expectations
The student’s question that you ignored or dismissed with a short, terse answer? There’s another university giving them red carpet treatment.  In the last month I noticed, on several different occasions, the same student posting the same question on different university’s walls (yes, your customers are fickle – get over it). The tone and level of support tended to vary. Enough to make them not choose your university? Hard to say; but maybe enough to drop you from 1st to 2nd choice. Exceed the expectations of your Facebook friends, the extra effort does not cost much and will reap rewards.

Don’t be shy about your social ecosystem
Chances are, the page I include here isn’t your only one – you’ll have an ecosystem of different pages representing Faculties, programmes or research activities, for example. Quick tips – make sure your pages are liking each other;  don’t rely on the Facebook search engine to show up your other pages. Also, encourage cross posting from one page to another;  get administrators from a particular page to post, using their own page’s identity; when appropriate this is a powerful way of drawing attention to the competence and presence you have on Facebook.

‘Unlikely to prioritise first party cookies used only for analytical purposes’ – United Kingdom’s New Guidelines for Cookie Use

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office published new guidance for website owners regarding cookie user and online privacy. As the UK moves towards compliance, they are already half way through the year that the ICO gave businesses to get their digital house in order, the prevailing attitude is that businesses ‘must try harder’.

A Ray of Hope – Analytics cookies are not a ‘priority’
The guidelines contain the following information, on their FAQ on Page 27:

ICO Cookie Guidelines

“unlikely to prioritise” – looks like the door is not completely shut on using Google Analytics then – I am cautiously positive. It remains to be seen what other European countries do. While we wait, in Sweden, for the PTS to produce guidelines we should make sure our own houses are in order, identify the cookies we use and give users clear instructions on why we’re using them – hasty implementations of consent boxes and banners may not necessarily be the best solution in the long term.

New recommendation on cookie use – browser settings rather than banners

The IAB in Sweden (the trade association for the digital and interactive marketing industry) have, this month, released a set of new recommendations on how website cookies should be used. These place the emphasis on the website visitor’s browser setting to determine whether cookie will be used, and move away from the website banners that have been previously promoted as a solution.

These recommendations are a response to the Electronic Communications Act (Sweden), which is itself a response to the EU directive concerning on-line privacy. This directive requires consent from a website visitor before cookies are placed on their computer;  but – as I’ve posted previously – this breaks many important tools for ensuring a good visitor experience. Not least, it directly impacts the use of Google Analytics.

The IAB guidelines say the following:

– Cookie use, and type, should be clearly identified on the site
– Clear information should be given about what cookies do and their purpose

The awesomeness (but also what I expect will be the controversial element):

– If a user’s browser is set to accept cookies this means they have granted consent for cookies to be used (if the website clearly identifies which cookies are being used)
– If a user’s browser rejects cookies, then this must be respected

They promote the use of a standardised badge, to help users find out what cookies are used and make their own choice.

I need cookies to do my job – that is, to make the user experience better; these recommendations seem like a sensible solution for everyone. Unfortunately, I doubt that the EU will entirely agree – particularly given the apparent disagreement between EU ministers on how this directive should be enforced.

(You can see this slow car crash unfolding by checking out all my posts on the cookie directive).

What do you think? Will this work – is this an alternative to the opt-in banners which seem to be popping up?

IAB recommendations in Swedish and English.

Swedish Government’s cookie opt-in banner has severe impact on their Google Analytics data collection

This is the data which Google Analytics collected, from the Swedish government’s website before, and after, they introduced a banner asking for visitors to accept cookies:

Impact on Google Analytics data of banner asking for opt-in - severe reduction in tracked visitors
With the introduction of the banner, at the end of June, 80-90% of their data disappears – just as we’ve seen in the UK, on the Information Commission’s website. Thanks to the Swedish authorities for sharing this data.

Why a banner?
Here’s what they say, on the banner:

Banner on Swedish government website Why does this matter?
The EU directive which this is based on is throwing the baby out with the bath water. In an attempt to protect our online privacy they have taken a crude approach to an issue which is more complicated than their directive recognizes. In this particular instance, the use of Google Analytics, there is not a privacy issue and the data is used to improve the website.

What’s the precedent for this?
In Sweden, right now, there is none. The PTS, the organisation responsible for making the directive a reality in Sweden, has nothing particularly specific (In Swedish); certainly nothing which directly requires a banner. Uppsala’s county website also sports a similar banner.

But there’s still some data being collected – all is not lost, right?
Wrong. One of the joys of the analytics data we can collect is that, from the start, we get a bucket of visitor data which represents everyone who has visited our site. Our job as analysts is to segment out different types of visitors and figure out how the site is performing for them. The opt in banner segments the data into people who accept cookies. I would hazard that the people who accept cookies are a rather unique demographic, who probably don’t represent most of your other visitors. In my humble opinion, your data is screwed from the start.

You could use this as an argument for the cookie directive. ‘See’ you can say, ‘no one wants cookies on their computer’. I would say that the lumping together of cookies as all universally bad has been lazy legislation; it does not reflect reality. Cookies which track visitor activity for improving the website are  a little different to those tracking your activity across the web. Without being able to gather data on what our visitors are doing on our site – which content works, which buttons get clicked, for example – we’re flying blind and the users’ experience will suffer.

I own a website  (in Sweden) – what should I do?
Check out the PTS regulations, they say  the following:

PTS guidance for website owners
In essence, ‘you don’t have to change your website right now’. Maybe while we wait, we’ll get a browser opt-in option which could be satisfactory for the EU, as  Peter Hustinex (European Data Protection Supervisor) hinted at in a recent presentation. It’ll be interesting to see what comes out from Google on this.

Here’s some additional reading:

E-Consultancy reflects on the ICO’s banner and the implications for future use of cookies.
Brian Clifton’s most recent post on the implications of the EU directive for Google Analytics
IAB (Sweden) – Recommendation on cookie use (In Swedish, but English translation available on their site).

Swedish University Facebook Pages – Monthly Review – Part I: Friends

Here’s the first of two posts covering the activity of Swedish higher education Facebook pages – these data are for the summer, and bring us more or less up to date. This post is just the friend data, I still need to take a look at comments – that will come later. I’m also asking for help concerning the age of Facebook pages, see my earlier post about it here (particularly if you are a page owner at a Swedish university).

The average increase in the number of friends over the summer (I compared the number of friends in August, with the number from May), for the University Facebook pages listed below was 13%.

Lund University’s English page moved past Linköping’s Swedish page into the number 1 spot, but otherwise the top 5 universities remained unchanged.  Of these top 5, only Lund and Umeå showed any significant growth above the average.

Lower down the list, Skövde is the biggest climber with a whopping 40% increase in friends in the last few months; impressive stuff. KTH, Uppsala University, Karolinska Institute and Malmö University also had above average gains in the number of friends.

University Page Number of Friends August 5th 2011 % Increase compared to May 24th 2011
Lund University

7695

18

Linköping Universitet

7444

7

Umeå universitet

5555

15

Linne Universitet

5078

7

Stockholm University

4651

11

Umeå University

4260

7

Uppsala universitet

3404

9

Jönköping University

3055

7

Högskolan i Borås

3048

6

Lunds Universitet

2844

12

SLU

2706

4

Skovde

2573

41

Chalmers University of technology

2561

12

Stockholm school of economics

2209

5

Karolinska Institutet

2099

24

Högskolan Väst

1811

10

Högskolan i Halmstad

1788

9

Mälardalans Högskola

1735

16

KTH

1643

30

Stockholm’s universitet

1458

16

Malmö University

1399

28

Malmö Högskola

1177

12

Karlstads Universitet

1093

13

Uppsala University

1041

31

Royal Institute of Art

1020

8

Högskolan Dalarna

592

9

BTH officiell

541

6

Högskolan Kristianstad

362

13

There’s a bunch of pages which experienced rather sluggish growth over the summer. What’s the difference between these pages, and those showing more aggressive growth? It does not seem to be as simple as brand, as there are both well established and new universities distributed throughout the list.  Maybe those pages where there is a concerted effort to engage are those which exhibit growth? Incidently,  5 pages have closed walls, three of which show little growth.

In my next post I’ll be looking at the amount of comments on these pages; this will shed a little more light on the summer’s activity.

Cookie Killer Law – EU Commissioner Smack Down: Things just got more confusing…

Confusing and bad news for website owners – EU Data Supervisor says that industry guidelines for cookie use are not sufficient and that consent for cookie use must be actively obtained – criticizing the softer stance of EU Commissioner. 

Rather than have the usual picture of biscuits, jars or muppets to go with this cookie post I thought I'd channel some Johnny Cash instead. Image: Flickr - Diogo A Figueira.

This is another of my posts about the EU directive which threatens life as we know it. This is an amendment to the EU’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive which forces website owners to obtain consent from a website visitor before cookies can be left on their computer. The upshot of this would be a sudden, and profound, hole in the data we collect on customer behavior on our websites.

No one really knows what the hell to do – since the Directive’s amendment, confusion has reigned supreme with some EU countries not getting round to implementing it while others, like the UK, bashing out a rapid response – and then giving organisations a year to respond to it.

Websites which have attempted to get visitor consent have screwed their site, and their data collection, with unwieldy solutions – the UK Information Commission’s Office, I’m looking at you.

Right now, there has not been any major indications that cookie use is being reduced.

In the background, marketing and advertising associations have been putting together guidelines for how cookie users can respond to this – use cookies, and yet still remain within the law. Check out the guidelines from the Swedish brand of the IAB here.

EU Data Protection Supervisor criticizes EU Commissioner – Advertising Association guidelines unworkable?

Neelie Kroes, the EU Commissioner behind this directive, had previously said that European companies have a year to comply with the directive and that she supported efforts by advertising associations (such as the IAB) to create some kind of standardized opt-in.

Not good enough, responded Peter Hustinex the European Data Protection Supervisor. In a recent speech he specifically said that the guidelines suggested by the IAB fell short of the requirements of the directive, despite them being welcomed by Kroes, the EU Commissioner.  He went on to say that Kroes’ support for a US ‘do not track initiative’ also fell short of the Directive’s requirements. One measure he suggested was a default browser setting of non-acceptance for cookies.

Read his whole speech here.

What Happens Now?

More confusion – even the EU can’t seem to agree on what this directive means. Germany and Denmark have aready got a ban on using Google Analytics (from earlier concerns about IP addresses), but many companies in those countries continue to use it, knowing that the risk of being penalized is relatively low. However, for those of us operating in the public sector there’s a risk that we could get some form of all-encompassing edict of ‘no cookie use without consent’ and boom, there goes our main method for collecting data for improving our websites. Sigh. Where do we go from here? I really don’t want to be saying ‘I told you so’ in a few years time.