Facebook has been plagued by reports of dodgy metrics. First it was video views that were criticised, with videos that autoplay as they whiz past in users’ feeds apparently artificially inflating the numbers. Now it has come to light that the reach of posts and time spent reading Instant Articles have also been overestimated.
Marketers have been up in arms about the revelations, with many expressing outrage and anger. But surely no one was taking Facebook’s own metrics that seriously, were they?
Apparently so, but if you’ve been monitoring your Facebook campaigns alongside other tools, like Google Analytics, you’ll have already noticed one key thing – the numbers never did add up.
For example, for one website clicks ad I currently have running, Facebook is reporting 1,107 clicks. Google Analytics has recorded 679 sessions from that ad. Facebook pixels are meant to record purchases or other goals completed on site following your ad, but I stopped paying them any attention after one pixel told me my ad had generated more than £14,000 in revenue, when in actual fact click-throughs of the ad in question had generated around £500.
Of course, there are always going to be discrepancies. Google Analytics isn’t perfect either, and there will always be a slight disconnect when you’re trying to use two separate tools in combination. But there is no substitute for monitoring what is going on on your own site, in your store or in the back office. Third party tools – Facebook, YouTube, Twitter or any other platform – will only ever give you an idea of the impact of your content. To measure real results, you need to know exactly what your objective is and be tracking the progress of that objective.
Mark Ritson says Facebook’s issue is trying to measure too many things, and he may well be right. I can report on each individual ad variant with a dizzying array of metrics that go way beyond being useful and end up being totally baffling. Facebook has 220 metrics in total – no one needs that many. What I need to report on are the objectives of my campaign – if that was traffic to my website, I need to know how many people clicked on the link; if it was revenue, I need to know the impact on sales; if it was brand awareness, I need to know how many more people are now aware of and talking about my brand. All of those things can, and should, be measured outside Facebook.
Certainly you want to monitor the progress of your campaign within the Facebook platform – particularly the reach of an ad, which is probably the one metric you can’t get anywhere else. But putting all your eggs in one basket is a recipe for a very messy omelette. You should be double checking all your metrics and tracking across different tools. Then you won’t be caught out when you discover one of your chickens can’t count.