Facebook Ads to Delta Lake

This page provides you with instructions on how to extract data from Facebook Ads and load it into Delta Lake. (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 Delta Lake?

Delta Lake is an open source storage layer that sits on top of existing data lake file storage, such AWS S3, Azure Data Lake Storage, or HDFS. It uses versioned Apache Parquet files to store data, and a transaction log to keep track of commits, to provide capabilities like ACID transactions, data versioning, and audit history.

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
            },
            ...
         ],
      }
   ]
}

Loading data into Delta Lake on Databricks

To create a Delta table, you can use existing Apache Spark SQL code and change the format from parquet, csv, or json to delta. Once you have a Delta table, you can write data into it using Apache Spark's Structured Streaming API. The Delta Lake transaction log guarantees exactly-once processing, even when there are other streams or batch queries running concurrently against the table. By default, streams run in append mode, which adds new records to the table. Databricks provides quickstart documentation that explains the whole 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

Delta Lake on Databricks 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, PostgreSQL, or Snowflake, which are RDBMSes that use similar SQL syntax, or Panoply, which works with Redshift instances. Others choose a data lake, like Amazon S3. 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, To Snowflake, To Panoply, and To S3.

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 move data from Facebook Ads to Delta Lake automatically. With just a few clicks, Stitch starts extracting your Facebook Ads data, structuring it in a way that's optimized for analysis, and inserting that data into your Delta Lake data warehouse.