Facebook Ads to Snowflake

This page provides you with instructions on how to extract data from Facebook Ads and load it into Snowflake. (If this manual process sounds onerous, check out Stitch, which can do all the heavy lifting for you in just a few clicks.)

What is Facebook Ads?

Facebook Ads are ads served up to Facebook users based on their activity, demographic information, device use information, advertising and marketing partner-supplied information, and off-Facebook activity. The platform includes reporting tools that let you see what impact your ads have.

What is Snowflake?

Snowflake is a cloud-based data warehouse that's fast, flexible, and easy to work with. It runs on Amazon Web Services EC2 and S3 instances, and separates compute and storage resources, enabling users to scale the two independently and pay only for resources used. Snowflake can natively load and optimize both structured and semi-structured data and make it available via SQL. It provides native support for JSON, Avro, XML, and Parquet data, and can provide access to the same data for multiple workgroups or workloads simultaneously with no contention roadblocks or performance degradation.

Getting data out of Facebook

Data can be retrieved programmatically via the Facebook Ads Insights API, which is available to anyone who uses the platform. Don't confuse this with the API Facebook offers for placing and managing ads, which is not relevant to our purposes.

By following the process in the API documentation, you can make calls to the Ads Insights API to retrieve your data. You'll have access to endpoints such as impressions, clickthrough rates, and CPC, all broken out by time period.

Sample Facebook Ads data

Below is an example of what that response might look like when you query the Ads Insights API.

{
   "data": [
      {
         "impressions": "1862555",
         "adset_name": "My ad set",
         "cost_per_action_type": [
            {
               "action_carousel_card_name": "My Carousel Card 1",
               "action_type": "app_custom_event.fb_mobile_activate_app",
               "value": 0.093347346315861
            },
            {
               "action_carousel_card_name": "My Carousel Card 2",
               "action_type": "app_custom_event.fb_mobile_activate_app",
               "value": 0.38324089579301
            },
            ...
         ],
      }
   ]
}

Preparing data for Snowflake

Depending on your data structures, you may need to prepare your data before loading. Check the supported data types for Snowflake and make sure that your data maps neatly to them.

Note that you won't need to define a schema in advance when loading JSON or XML data into Snowflake.

Loading data into Snowflake

Snowflake's documentation outlines a Data Loading Overview that can lead you through the task of loading your data. If you're not loading a lot of data, Snowflake's data loading wizard may be helpful, but for many organizations, its limitations make it unacceptable. Instead, you can:

  • Use the PUT command to stage files.
  • Use the COPY INTO table command to load prepared data into an awaiting table.

You can copy data from your local drive or from Amazon S3. Snowflake lets you make a virtual warehouse that can power the insertion process.

Keeping Facebook Ads data up to date

At this point you've coded up a script or written a program to get the data you want and successfully moved it into your data warehouse. But how will you load new or updated data? It's not a good idea to replicate all of your data each time you have updated records. That process would be painfully slow and resource-intensive.

Instead, identify key fields that your script can use to bookmark its progression through the data and use to pick up where it left off as it looks for updated data. Auto-incrementing fields such as updated_at or created_at work best for this. When you've built in this functionality, you can set up your script as a cron job or continuous loop to get new data as it appears in Facebook Ads.

And remember, as with any code, once you write it, you have to maintain it. If Facebook modifies its API, or the API sends a field with a datatype your code doesn't recognize, you may have to modify the script. If your users want slightly different information, you definitely will have to.

Other data warehouse options

Snowflake is great, but sometimes you need to optimize for different things when you're choosing a data warehouse. Some folks choose to go with Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, or PostgreSQL, which are RDBMSes that use similar SQL syntax, or Panoply, which works with Redshift instances. If you're interested in seeing the relevant steps for loading data into one of these platforms, check out To Redshift, To BigQuery, To Postgres, and To Panoply.

Easier and faster alternatives

If all this sounds a bit overwhelming, don’t be alarmed. If you have all the skills necessary to go through this process, chances are building and maintaining a script like this isn’t a very high-leverage use of your time.

Thankfully, products like Stitch were built to solve this problem automatically. With just a few clicks, Stitch starts extracting your Facebook Ads data via the API, structuring it in a way that is optimized for analysis, and inserting that data into your Snowflake data warehouse.