Developers are given a plethora of tools which can be used to build and grow their mobile apps. Platforms release APIs and SDKs with the hope apps will be built upon them, and there are even resources dedicated to increasing exposure amongst the masses. But in this data-driven world in which we live, having all the bells and whistles, marketing magic, and so-called growth hacking isn’t enough — it’s necessary to be able to track the people actually using the app.
Last year at its F8 developer conference, Facebook introduced Facebook Analytics for Apps, a tool that might draw comparisons to Google Analytics, but for apps and provides data around the audience, which device has the most usage, and other pertinent information for marketing campaigns. At the time, company chief executive Mark Zuckerberg shared that 95 percent of apps in the App Store and on Google Play were integrated with Facebook. Today, more than 800,000 apps are powered by the social networking company’s solution.
“It’s more than getting an app installed,” said Facebook product manager Josh Twist. “We can help drive installs on mobile apps, but that’s not the end of the journey. Facebook knows the way to drive retention, engagement, and conversion hangs on understanding people.”
Facebook isn’t unique in the analytics space, as there are several competitors, including Google, Localytics, App Annie, Adobe, and Mixpanel. However, what it prides itself on is not only have an extensive user database and the expertise around producing scalable mobile apps that have a lot of usage. “We have a deep understanding of audience demographics and can share that with developers in an anonymous and aggregated way,” Twist remarked.
One of the selling points Facebook is selling to developers is that it’s less about ambient signals and more about being deliberate. In other words, Twist said that competitive solutions are collecting information to try and understand what’s going on versus Facebook’s approach of prioritizing information based on the user. When apps connect to the company’s social graph, they’ll be able to gain insights into who you are, what your interests, friends, and other pertinent information is. Through this, developers can make more targeted campaigns.
“A number of players in the space have demographics, but can’t go into the depth and accuracy of Facebook,” Twist shared. “We can understand age, country, language, job title, education, relationship status, and can tell you what [Facebook] pages customers like.” With more than 1.7 billion monthly active users, Facebook has shown that it’s one of the few companies that can demonstrate such growth — just look at WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger as examples. The company thinks leveraging this shows developers that it has the wherewithal needed to help developers achieve similar success.
Twist also boasted about Facebook’s ability to be fast, saying the company “thinks you should be able to see the data in the various funnels in a couple of minutes, not overnight, especially when making changes on the fly and want to see if it’s having an impact. [Developers] want to see information very quickly.”
It might seem obvious to some, but app tracking is not only different between the web and on mobile devices, but by geography. In fact, not every environment is the same, so developers will need to be very targeted depending on whether they’re examining usage in the U.S., Europe, China, India, Australia, or some place in Africa. Differences between markets can vary, but Twist posits that it might be because of varying levels of excitement users have, experiences, or the fidelity of the devices.
This has been something Facebook has been working on for a while. While those in the U.S. are often dealing with advanced technology and connectivity, those in other countries like India are dealing with more complex issues, with many not even thinking about unlimited data usage. “We see all sorts of behaviors where people with high-end devices in those communities behave more like people in the U.S., but a significant portion will use low-end devices and this changes everything, including how they interact with the apps,” Twist explained citing that those with little storage on their device, may tend to just uninstall apps they don’t want rather than keep them around.
“It’s a very mixed space and is challenging,” he added. “It makes it harder to build a tool like analytics.” And this is especially important to Facebook since it’s a global company. Twist revealed that 85 percent of developers using the company’s analytics solution are from outside the U.S.
Now, after more than a year in service and powering analytics for 800,000 apps, Facebook feels it’s time to provide additional support. And while it continues to offer app building resources, largely through its FbStart program, and can continue to add additional insight features, its impact won’t truly be felt unless developers actually understand what it all means and how to take advantage of Facebook’s Analytics for Apps. This is why the company will be launching education courses in the next few weeks.
“People spend a lot of time in their analytic tools and want to make it more effective so they can spend more time on higher-level activities,” Twist said. “We’re passionate about making life better — we’re going deep into core business intelligence capabilities to make it better so when people use [Facebook Analytics for Apps], productivity goes through the roof.”
He acknowledged that analytics is a complicated space and most developers and marketers may not be able to pick up on it right away: “It’s very easy to misunderstand the situation just by looking at the numbers.”
When launched, Facebook intends to offer developers, marketers, and anyone else tutorials on its product, while providing additional guidance on how to make the most out of the tool. It’s one thing to see how many people used an app on Android devices from Germany, but it’s another to be able to combine that with additional metrics and events tracked to make informed decisions about future development or corrections that are needed.
In fact, it’s likely an area that’ll be covered is around misconceptions in using Facebook Analytics, dispelling notions that you need to login with your Facebook account, and other restrictions. “We still provide demographic information with the fidelity and quality if you don’t have any other association,” Twist remarked.
He also shared that there’s been discussions around expanding analytics to other app classifications, such as those in the virtual reality, Internet of Things (connected objects), and perhaps even bots in the future. No firm plans have been made, but it’s certainly not something Facebook is discounting.
“We’ve seen an evolution where ten years ago, it was largely web, then it was web + mobile web. Then web + mobile web + apps. Now we are seeing it’s all of those plus bots. What we are seeing is that today, that platforms are additive and people are having to develop more additional platforms as consumer behavior has evolved to using different platforms based on the context,” he stated. “We think the journey is 1 percent finished.”