Facebook’s Sean Bruich On The Importance Of Measurement In The Digital Age

By Justin Lafferty 

In the early days of Facebook marketing, page administrators were obsessed with obtaining likes, and that focus has now shifted to engagement. But for those who use Facebook as a sales platform, there are several ways to track success. At the Webtrends Engage conference Wednesday in San Francisco, Facebook Head of Measurement Platforms and Standards Sean Bruich discussed the paradigm shift as companies move from traditional marketing to digital marketing.

When Bruich interviewed for his job four years ago, he was asked about the value created by a banner ad and how it compared with a 30-second TV spot.

Bruich racked his brain but realized that there’s no answer. Advertising online is a completely different animal from advertising on television or in a newspaper, and it should be treated as such. Trying to use measurement metrics that have been in place in decades and apply them to a digital world is inefficient, Bruich said.

He cited statistics from Nielsen NetEffect, which showed that there is no correlation between click-through rate and return on investment.

He noted that through digital media, such as Facebook, the old way of serving advertisements is gone:

On a television spot, you get whoever shows up for that TV show. Content and ads are linked and they can’t be separated. Digital has broken that link. We can serve an ad to some user no matter what content they’re viewing. Or someone could show up on Facebook, and we could serve a different ad if they’re a man or a woman … What this does is it tremendously complicates the questions that a marketer has to ask.

Bruich also presented findings from Facebook’s controversial partnership with DataLogix, showing that clicks (which many marketers love to focus on) do not always equal sales. The two companies combined to study more than 60 major Facebook ad campaigns, finding that it’s irrelevant whether or not users clicked on ads. Bruich said 99 percent of sales came from people who did not interact with ads.

Bruich talked about how important the impression is, noting that advertisers can increase their ROI by 40 percent by spreading out their impressions and just trying to get more eyeballs on ads, rather than focusing on having users click through. Users will often see ads, and then visit companies’ websites or Facebook pages without directly clicking on the ads.

Additionally, Bruich talked about how advertising through Facebook can (in some cases) lead to greater success than traditional channels, saying that 70 percent of the companies in the study saw a three times or greater return on ad spend, and 49 percent saw a five times or greater return.

The main points that Bruich hammered home are that impressions create value, reach drives sales, and frequency is important.

So what is the solution? One of the things that I think we haven’t done a good job of, as a digital marketing community, is building analytics systems that tie back to real business outcomes. So if you’re an ecommerce advertiser, you can look at online conversion, and we build great optimization systems for those types of companies. But ecommerce advertisers are not the only people that want to advertise on digital. Ecommerce advertisers are going to have campaigns that go beyond direct response. Fab.com runs TV spots now. So we have to build a system that’s sufficient enough and can accept advertisers that have both online and offline sales objectives and campaigns from those types of advertisers for a multitude of marketing.

Readers: How can Facebook improve as an advertising medium?