This morning, Facebook released an update on measurement that exemplifies their leadership and commitment to transparency in the social space. As the largest global social platform in terms of monthly active users, it is important that Facebook continually audits and updates the data provided so that advertisers can appropriately buy and measure media to align with their business objective. Despite initial alarm, it’s important to clarify that cleaning up these metric definitions is overall a good thing for all parties involved and marketers should be cautiously optimistic about the implications of this update.
Immediate Marketer Implications
Overall, these newly clarified metrics will help us design better measurement models for our clients, better informed creative and ultimately produce measurably better work. Here are three key takeaways from the metric update that marketers should consider as they continue to rely on Facebook measurement:
- Marketers should remain cautiously optimistic:
Though we might see slight fluctuations in our measurement, these changes are making metrics more reflective of actual performance and consumer behavior and will continue to challenge us to reach our goals. Additionally, Facebook is being self-regulatory, instilling confidence in a platform that marketers heavily rely on.
- More strategic use of metrics:
These more deeply defined definitions have reinforced the notion that metrics should not be looked at in a silo. Metrics should be analyzed together in a way that proves or challenges over-arching business objectives. More clearly defining metrics will help us move closer to establishing industry standards so that we are all measuring the same things, in the same ways.
- Facebook is holding themselves to a higher standard than print and TV:
Social platforms have the advantage of being able to track more data inputs, therefore, setting a higher expectation for business results. Facebook delivers more data and more metrics than any other publisher, making the platform more reliable than print and TV who have historically used anticipatory data.
As part of today’s measurement memo, Facebook has updated metric names as well as categorization and provided a full list of measurement definitions here. Below are what we perceive to be the most significant metric updates and how marketers should interpret them moving forward:
- 3,10,30-second Video Views: The number of 3,10, or 30-seconds spent watching a video, in aggregate. Historically, the definition of video views implied that the time spent watching was in succession (i.e. the first 3 seconds counted as a 3-second video view). However, Facebook has clarified that the video views metric is an aggregate that includes 1) scrolling ahead and returning to continue watching the video, 2) skipping ahead, and 3) replaying. For example, if a user watches a video for 2 seconds, pauses, and then returns for one more second, Facebook reporting counts it as a 3-second view.
- Implications: It is important to note that Facebook has always been measuring video views as an aggregate, so this should not result in a change in video views reporting.
- Additional Information: A video view counts if at least 50% of the video is playing on screen. This definition has not changed and is in accordance with IAB standards of viewability.
- Video Completions: The definition of this metric remains the same: Number of views that reached 100% of the video length. However, the method of calculation has changed. Moat, one of Facebook’s third party verification partners, discovered in a recent audit that Facebook was undercounting video views to 100%. This undercounting occurred because video content and the audio that supports it may be delivered at different speeds on different devices. Facebook was comparing the length of a user’s video view to the length of the video that was recorded when the advertiser uploaded the video. Moving forward, the video length will be counted based on how it delivered to the user’s device.
- Implications: Video completions and watches at 100% should increase across all advertisers moving forward. Facebook estimates the count of video watches at 100% could increase as much as 35%.
- Canvas View Duration: Canvas ads, an immersive ad unit released in February, offers advertisers the ability to keep users engaged in a native experience, or link to website content. Since website content loads from Canvas to Facebook’s in-app browser, Facebook was including time spent viewing website content in its “Canvas View Duration” metric. However, the platform will be updating how this metric is calculated to only measure time spent within the Canvas unit, and exclude time spent viewing website content.
- Implications: Canvas view duration should decrease as a result of it accounting for time spent only in the unit. Facebook has not given details on approximately how much advertisers should expect this metric to decrease.
- Page Insights – Organic Reach: Facebook uncovered a bug in on the Pages Dashboard that resulted in 7-day or 28-day organic reach being miscalculated. This was measuring the sum of daily reach without removing repeat visitors. However, the majority of data was unaffected including the organic reach data available via export, all graphs, per post reach, and data on the Reach tab.
- Implications: Exported Organic Reach data from the Page Insights Dashboard was and will continue to be correct. However, brands may see a lower organic page reach for 7-day (33% lower on average) and 28-day (55% lower on average) reported on the Page Insights Dashboard compared to previous.
- Organic Reach: Total unique viewable impressions, which are counted when a post enters the person’s screen. Previously, reach was counted when a user refreshed their News Feed despite whether or not that post reached them in the feed.
- Implications: Facebook estimates that organic reach will report numbers 20% lower. While jarring for some, this change means that the data is more accurately reflecting reality. Brands should continue to leverage paid media to reach new audiences and improve reach amongst their target audience and fans.
- Instant Articles Time Spent: The total time spent reading an article divided by its total views. Previously, this metric was calculated based on an average across a histogram of time spent.
- Implications: Currently, this metric is inflated by 7-8%. As a result, publishers can expect a decrease by this percentage when looking at this data in the future.
- Referrals: Facebook’s Analytics for Apps dashboard includes a metric called “referrals” which was meant to count clicks that went directly to an app or website that occurred on user-produced posts. For example, if a user shared an update via an app, their friends who clicked on that post and were transported to the app would be counted as a referral. However, Facebook realized that they were over counting referrals in the Apps Dashboard to include all clicks on the post, not just clicks that drove them to the app or website.
- Implications: Facebook has estimated that referrals were over counted by an average of 6%. As a result, App Admins and Analysts should see their referrals decrease slightly. However, ads reporting is not affected.
Facebook’s Approach to Transparency
As part of this update, Facebook is also taking several steps to provide continued metric transparency and support for advertisers. First, they announced updates to their third-party viewability verification partners that will allow marketers to understand how much time an ad is viewed on-screen. In addition, they will be adding new third-party verification partners to its existing roster of comScore, Moat, Nielsen and Integral Ad Science to provide additional peace of mind and validation for partners. Publishers and entertainment brands who strongly rely on Facebook Video and Facebook Live, Nielsen will now also be able to include Facebook views in their Digital Content Ratings. making Facebook more comparable to digital and TV metrics.
Second, Facebook is setting up a Measurement Council in-house that will be comprised of Facebook business and measurement executives as well as members from the Client Council. The Measurement council will ensure that all metrics provide business value and are communicated to all partners. Until this Measurement Council is created, marketers can use in-product definitions of metrics that are routinely updated and reference the newly established “Metrics FYI” blog (similar to the News Feed FYI blog).
While this update revealed some significant errors in measurement and clarity, it represents another iteration of Facebook’s adaptation to the ever-evolving social landscape. Consumers continue to move faster and demand more from their social platforms, so in its effort to keep up, Facebook has made countless adjustments that have in turn impacted metrics. This is why it is critical to consistently review and update how the industry looks at measurement. This isn’t a “new” thing for us. But as more and more brands come to Facebook to reach consumers, measurement tactics and accurate data are more important than ever.