Facebook offers a broad range of data types, and there’s often overlap in terminology. This article hopes to clarify things by explaining the following items.

  • The difference between public and private data, and when you’re likely looking at each type.
  • How page data is different from post data, and how the same type of metric can below to each.
  • Examples of how to use the different data types to expand and clarify your understanding of your performance.

Facebook has the most complete, and complex, set of data of any social network. By a long shot. And like many extremes, that can be a blessing and a curse. Great if you want the truth, but it can add layers to the analysis process.

At the end of the day, Facebook is the most dominant network, and for that reason alone it’s important for most marketers to understand the data it offers and what it means for your brand.

And like many things, it’s not all that complicated once you understand how the data breaks down. So let’s take a look at some of the major groupings of Facebook data and what they mean.

Public vs Private

Let’s start with the biggest difference between Facebook data types. Public vs private data. The differences fall into several categories, which make it easier to grasp the overall differences.

The technical differences

For starters, the terms public and private should give you a good idea of the differences between the two. The easy way to know what data type is what is that private data is what you see in Facebook Insights. And to view Facebook Insights data, you have to have been granted Admin or at least Analytics access by the page owner, or be viewing that data through a tool in which someone else has authorized the import of Insights data. Thus the Insights data is not available publicly. Which is the perfect setup for public data.

Facebook’s public data includes the data points you can see on a brand’s Facebook page. See image 1, below. In addition to seeing the number of page likes Nike has, we can also see for any given post the number of likes, comments and shares for a post. Right there on their page for everyone to see. No special access required.

IMAGE 1: Nike post with public data visible


If you’re ever looking at data that that’s been publicly published and includes specific data from multiple brands or pages, like we have in our reports on how various industries perform on social media, then you can be pretty certain that it’s public data. Most brands probably wouldn’t want their private data published, especially in comparison with direct competitors.

So as we mentioned, much of the publicly available data is viewable on the Facebook page of the brand you’re interested in. However, other data points, like fans by county and People Talking About This, are only available through 3rd party tools (one of which is Zuum). This data is pulled from the Facebook Graph API. Moreso, there are a lot of data points that can be compiled using publicly available data, that might not otherwise be very easy to get. For example, the total number of shares a page’s content received during a period of time, or the growth rate of their fans since a certain date.

The metric differences

The primary difference between publicly and privately available data is the depth of the data. How much information is revealed. And the information you’ll find in private data can take your analysis to an entirely different level.

Below are examples of data you can get in the private data, Insights, that aren’t available publicly.

Engagements: While you can sum up all the likes, comments and shares of a brand’s posts over time, there’s a lot of other telling engagement data that won’t be captured in that data. For one, all the data points Facebook calls consumptions. Like video plays, and photo views. Or Link clicks or page CTA clicks. And if you’re wanting to capture the full impact of your page’s performance, you’re certainly going to want to include those consumption numbers in your engagement formulas. That’s what Facebook does in their engagement rate calculation in Image 2 below.

Image 2: Facebook Insights data featuring engagements and engagement rate data points


Impressions: If you’re looking at public data, you won’t even see a reference to impressions. Same thing for reach. Facebook apparently considers these too proprietary to divulge to competitors. With Insights access, though, you can see both data points, per image 3 below.

Image 3: Reach and Impressions data, as viewed on Zuum


Clicks: This can include link clicks on content, and clicks on the page CTA. Here again, as we’re getting deeper into key marketing metrics, Facebook is deciding not to show these publicly.

Negativity: The whole range of negativity metrics are hidden from public view. This includes hiding a link, hiding all content from the brand, and reports of spam.

Fan demographics: This data is almost non-existent in public data, except from fans by country. Fan demographic data you’ll find in the Insights data includes age & gender for both fans and storytellers. And location, both city, country and locale, for both fans and storytellers. The difference between fans and storytellers is big, because you may have accumulated a number of fans in a certain demographic, but they may not be the ones advocating for your brand. The real influencers. That’s why differentiating the fans from the storytellers can help you both understand your audience and deliver content that will generate more impact. Examples of fan data are in image 4, below.

Image 4: Example of private data differentiation between fans and storytellers


The functional differences

So if private data has so much more depth and insightfulness, why bother with public data?

The most answer is, Benchmarking and competitive analysis.

While it’s critical to know the deeper aspects of your page and posts performance, at some point most brands also want to know how they stack up to the competition. And for comparison analysis, it’s critical to be comparing apples-to-apples, as they say. To avoid comparing your private data with competitor public data, we use public data for both.

Consider the point I made above about engagements, and how public data doesn’t include the consumptions part of engagements. If you’re comparing your page’s overall engagements to your competitors, the only way you can accurately do that is to use the same data points. And that’s only possible with public data (unless you’re silver-tongued enough to convince your competitors to give you access to their Insights data).

Page vs Post Data

Since we’ve covered the differences between public and private (Insights) data, let’s dig in a little further on the private Insights data. Keep in mind, this is the data you need at least Analytics level access to a Facebook page to view, unless you’re viewing through a 3rd party tool which someone else has granted Insights access to.

So with that, let’s look at some of the major differences between page and post data.

How the data is attributed

One of the major differences between page and post data is how the data is attributed. Page data is attributed to the day the event actually happens.

Post data, on the other hand, is attributed to the post itself, which is of course tied to the specific date and time the post was made.

This is a significant difference, and can be both a point of confusion and insight. So let’s clarify this with a couple of examples. And perhaps the best way to illustrate this is with line charts, as they best reflect the differences between the two data types.

Look at the two charts below in images 5 and 6. Both charts feature stories. The left chart for page stories, the right chart for post stories.

Image 5: Page Stories


Image 6: Post Stories


For the page stories, the spikes you see are happening on the day those stories happened.

For the post stories, those spikes represent the day the post happened for those stories.

This is the way Facebook delivers the two types of data. And you can use both formats to get a sense of how things happened.

Also, note that the post stories are a part of the page data. It’s the Other data dimension which you can see on the chart in image 7. So by deselecting the other page story data points, you can see the post stories as they actually happened.

Image 7: Page Stories isolating on the Other metric, which is stories from posts


Shared data types between page and post data

As mentioned earlier, as if things weren’t confusing enough, there are metrics with similar names used for both page and post data. Below is a list of The following are examples of data names you’ll see in both page and post data sets.

Impressions: Someone seeing your page of post. Can happen multiple times to the same person.

Reach: A total of the unique people who’ve seen your page or post. Sometimes referred to as unique impressions.

Stories: Any interaction with a page or post that someone else could possibly see on Facebook.

Consumptions: Any engagement with a post or page that doesn’t create a story.

So there it is. Now you should have a clear idea of why when someone speaks of Facebook data, there are a number of different data sets they could be referring to. Each with it’s own advantages and disadvantages.

Hopefully this post added some clarity around the different data types, and how you can use each to your advantage. If you have any questions or comments, please let us know.