Advertising associations are calling on Facebook to implement better third party checking of its advertising metrics as continued concern over metrics places a “cloud of doubt” over how accurately the platform pinpoints the reach of advertising.
Last month the platform notified advertisers that over the past two years it had miscalculated advertising metrics, including through such measures as excluding viewers who watched videos for less than three seconds from its calculations, which pushed up average view times.
Last Wednesday Facebook released an update on its metrics calculations and reporting but this did nothing to satisfy the concerns of industry bodies like the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA), which released a statement calling on the platform to bring an independent third party on board to verify the numbers, given that brand owners needed to be able to defend the big marketing spends they made online “with confidence”.
In the update, Facebook told advertisers it was strongly considering its options for third party verification, citing strong relationships with the likes of Moat and Nielsen. However, the note also outlined a number of other issues discovered in a full review of its metrics calculations.
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This includes a miscalculation of weekly and monthly organic page reach, for which the platform says it uncovered an error in which repeat visitors to a page over a seven and 28-day period were not ‘de-duplictated’ – those visits were counted each time – and appear that way on one of the page dashboards.
“This bug has been live since May; we will be fixing this in the next few weeks. It does not affect paid reach,” the platform said.
SmartCompany understands that the AANA wants metrics to be measured in a consistent and respected way, in a manner similar to the standardised Oztam ratings system but for online reach instead of analogue media.
However, digital marketing experts say it’s unlikely Facebook would willingly grant access to the secrets of its algorithms to a third party, and that at this stage in the platform’s lifecycle it’s unlikely that numbers on the reach would be 100% foolproof.
“I think the technology has moved so quickly, and there’s no way to know it’s that accurately,” says Chunky Media co-founder Steve Vallas.
“I don’t think anyone has a sense [of the numbers].”
The fact that there are still bugs in the algorithms might not have a big impact on social media campaigns long term, says Vallas – especially for smaller operators.
“From my perspective, I wouldn’t say it has a huge effect,” he says.
For SMEs, the goal should be focusing more on how to connect with customers online, and choosing what works to amplify through paid advertising, he says.
“[Facebook] is still viewed as something that will get you something very quickly,” Vallas says.
“But for small businesses in particular, people don’t educate before they start.”
Regardless of the metrics, this means some people aren’t connecting with their existing user base online before they come up with a campaign that appeals to more customers.
Those starting out should be looking to build up a following without using the paid service, and then moving from there, Vallas recommends.
“There’s really nothing to lose from doing it from an organic perspective. Then you should should magnify what works and not what doesn’t,” he says.