Untangling Facebook Metrics: What Advertisers Need to Know

Opinion: It’s encouraging to see Facebook making an effort and being both strategic and intentional

Facebook rolled out better analytics tools for advertisers this summer
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Facebook faced a litany of criticism in late 2016 when it was discovered that it had been misreporting completion rates on its video ads for two years—in its favor. The massive social platform had its feet held to the fire: If one of the biggest, most-relied-upon players in digital advertising could mislead advertisers, how could advertisers trust numbers from anyone?

Facebook has since stepped up to the plate, vowing transparency and better tools for the advertisers on which it relies. This summer, it rolled out landing page views as a new metric, as well as new reporting on page interactions. But what do these changes really mean for advertisers?

With a healthy dose of well-earned skepticism, let’s take a look at these newly minted metrics and kick the tires a little while we’re at it:

Improved visibility on ad interactions: While businesses will be able to see whether those who click through their ads and onto their landing pages are new or returning customers, do these new tools go far enough to help?

These new insights are actually really helpful for advertisers because they provide optimization levers that weren’t available before. Facebook notes that the landing page views metric, in particular, is ideal for helping brands ensure that their pages provide an optimal user experience for mobile. But optimizing for landing page views will help all advertisers—even those who have mastered mobile—understand how users are interacting with their brands and what drives those interactions.

The pre-impression breakdown introduced under this set of metrics is probably the most exciting of the new pack. It helps advertisers better understand their audiences by separating visitors who have engaged with a brand before from net-new visitors. Advertisers will understand whether a user is someone who’s been to the site before or is already a fan, as well as where and how they are reaching those users.

Facebook sees this as most beneficial to “businesses running dynamic ads for broad audiences, where the audiences expand beyond their own customers and where ad creatives are generated dynamically based on associated product recommendations,” but it’s a helpful tool for all advertisers. These new insights will not only support better targeting—they’ll help advertisers learn more about the users who make up their audiences in social media.

Ultimately, brands will be able to see what kind of impact their ad dollars really have—especially brands with bigger budgets. At the same time, these ad interaction metrics will help advertisers of all sizes and budgets see who is interfacing with their brand and optimize their campaigns to either engage existing customers or entice new ones.

New reporting on page interactions: These new insights come in three flavors—follows, previews and recommendations. How helpful are they, and how can brands use them?

These new insights should be pretty interesting to marketers. With respect to follows, brands will now be able to see not only who has become a new follower, but who’s “unfollowed” a page. This ties directly to the value of social media, so it’s important to know. Follows versus unfollows will tell a more complete story, and give marketers better insight into what’s working and what isn’t in their paid and organic social campaigns.

Previews are exciting because they reveal how many users saw a page’s information when hovering over the page’s name on a desktop computer, even if they never clicked. So much of digital advertising is click-based. Data based on hovers instead of clicks is novel and, again, exciting because it provides new visibility into the layers of interest and intent.

The recommendations piece gets to the core of Facebook’s value for users: They’re leaning on a trusted network they’re curating themselves. Facebook users are interacting with people they’ve expressly chosen to interact with. Recommendations from people within any user’s network carry far more weight than a simple ad on a page or in a feed. Measuring recommendations is an excellent way to start to see how social media can impact a brand in ways that other channels can’t, and how it ultimately affects the bottom line. This new metric can also deliver some insight into trust and loyalty, which are typically difficult to quantify.

So, what’s the verdict?

All of these new metrics can work together to help brands start measuring the lifetime value of social media marketing. We’ve always had the ability to measure clicks, click-throughs and conversions. Analytics have reliably delivered that data for eons. But now we can begin to see what a social interaction means to a brand not just today, but one week from now, one month from now and one year from now.

In terms of what this all means for Facebook, we’ll have to wait and see. The social giant could just rest on its laurels with the understanding that it’s pretty much an imperative for any serious advertiser. It’s encouraging to see Facebook making an effort and being both strategic and intentional. It’s promising.

Even more promising is that it seems to be really listening to marketers and responding to their needs. This seems like more than just an effort to “quiet the herd.”

Will Facebook ever satisfy the industry’s desire for transparency? Maybe. For now, let’s be cautiously optimistic about the steps it has taken. Even if this is all reactive, Facebook is taking steps in the right direction, and we’re grateful for the conscious effort—a little skeptical, but grateful.

Matt Fanelli is senior vice president of digital at media planning and buying company MNI Targeted Media, a Time Inc. company.