Facebook’s Ad Metrics Cleanup May Hurt Publishers, Brands in the Long Run

Opinion: Underneath the platform’s current reputation crisis lies a wider problem

Facebook's ad metrics cleanup may not be the best thing
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Facebook has a reputation crisis. Between the Cambridge Analytica scandal weakening users’ already shaky trust, and Elon Musk pulling Tesla’s and SpaceX’s pages, the platform is grappling with a public-relations problem that can have long-reaching effects on its business.

But underneath those headlines remains the company’s Measure What Matters initiative, announced in February, which aims to update and clarify the platform’s ad metrics.

The hidden message

By removing a number of metrics identified as “redundant, outdated, not actionable or infrequently used,” and by noting what’s an estimate, Facebook is implying that it’s more communicative and evolving to keep up with modern consumption trends. However, some metrics that it’s suggesting brands and publishers turn to might be hurtful in the long run.

For example, the company is doing away with page tab views and steering users toward page likes or page engagement metrics instead to measure the success of page likes campaigns.

Page engagement—or the total number of actions that people took on your Facebook page and its posts, attributed to your ads—is in line with the era of low attention spans; users want to tap, swipe, flip and share a point of view. But page likes—the number of likes your Facebook page garnered attributed to your ads—is less relevant when looked at stand-alone in an age where we’ve overblown the importance of likes.

But these are not (yet) actions that Facebook’s ad formats allow.

Surface-level

Or take the company’s suggestion to reference Impressions (the number of times your ads were on screen) instead of social Impressions to evaluate campaign performance. We all (should) know by now that impressions alone are not enough and can no longer be equated to success.

What does it really mean when someone scrolls past your ad? In reality, you’re in the dark regarding whether or not the message sunk in or what the user’s sentiment is toward the ad (or the company distributing the ad, for that matter).

As is, this metric cleanup exhibits the emphasis Facebook is still placing on surface-level key performance indicators that don’t showcase meaningful consumption.

So as the social network makes this big move to define metrics that matter, it would be wise if it first and foremost prioritized engagement to ensure that companies can digest its importance.

Ain’t no lie

The stats don’t lie: Interactivity has been shown to be more effective at grabbing consumers’ attention, with 75 percent of marketers claiming that education is the primary reason for using interactive content. Thus, engaging ad formats are crucial in enabling publishers and brands to cut through the noise in an online news space that is no longer consistently truthful, reliable or safe.

Pave the path to engagement

Removing these 20 metrics come July—although an admirable gesture for those that distribute content through the platform—doesn’t take away from the fact that Facebook is sending mixed signals by gently suggesting that engagement matters but still putting the majority of value on stand-alone, outdated metrics that are not meaningful enough to long-term sustainability.

As a self-proclaimed authority on advertising, the company must outline a larger initiative toward endorsing engagement through its ad tools, as in doing so, the industry is sure to follow and ultimately trust the platform more with their consumers during a time of uncertainty.

Shachar Orren is chief storytelling officer at Disney-backed storytelling platform Playbuzz.