Home  › Social › Social Media

Measuring Facebook: The Problem With Metric Changes

  |  March 15, 2012   |  Comments

Marketers brace for the impact of Timeline on the Facebook Insights metrics.

Brands have embraced Facebook Timeline, but with new, exciting marketing offerings on the platform come a new set of headaches for Facebook data crunchers. It's the double-edged sword of Facebook measurement: As the company refines and arguably improves metrics for marketers, it inevitably disrupts the way people track pages - and now Timelines. The lack of standards can be crippling.

In a sweeping change made to Facebook Insights for pages late last year, the company replaced some of its old metrics such as Active Users with Reach. Though the metric is similar, it makes it difficult for brands to have a crisp view of their Facebook marketing efforts over time.

Now that Timelines are available for brands, marketers and their social media agencies are bracing for a new round of Insights changes. Also on the horizon is the anticipated launch of real-time Insights, which should help alleviate a major obstacle for Facebook marketers who currently rely on Insights data that reflects user activity that can be several days old.

Marketers often have little or no warning that changes are coming. In the past, for example, Misi McClelland, metrics and media director at Ignite Social Media, discovered an Insights change only on the day it went into effect, like many others tracking brand pages. New metrics often replace or enhance old ones, meaning spreadsheets and databases must be altered on the fly.

Recently-introduced metrics such as "Reach" and "People Talking About This" essentially replaced "Active Users" and "Stream Views." The idea is to provide marketers with a more nuanced understanding of what's really happening on their pages and how people are responding to the content they publish there.

Many see the Reach metric as an improvement on the old active user metric, but challenges remain. Because it doesn't allow page marketers to de-duplicate unique people reached, it's difficult to measure reach of a post over multiple days. "I can't add [reach on two consecutive days] together to actually get the total number of people reached," said Matthew Wurst, director of brand strategy and emerging media at social agency 360i. The metric is "somewhat helpful, but it's not fully answering the questions or the challenges we have," he said.

The time lag in Insights data also continues to plague Facebook marketers. The Insights numbers available on Wednesday March 14 reflected interactions made through Sunday March 11. And sometimes the numbers are as much as a week old, meaning marketers are reliant on days-old data to optimize pages and related ad campaigns. On February 29, Facebook said it would make real-time Insights data available to brands "in the next few weeks."

Marketers may gripe about Facebook Insights and the company's approach to morphing metrics, but many believe Insights has improved overall. "It's a lot further along than it's been," said Wurst. At this stage, he said, the best approach to page measurement is the combination of Facebook Insights and analysts like him. "It's probably our best resource," he said.

"What Facebook is trying to do is very valuable," said Peter Heffring, CEO of Expion, a social media measurement firm serving clients including Applebees and H&R Block. Not only do the more refined metrics improve understanding of user interactions on Facebook, they could also be intended to help the company compete with other media.

"They're trying to show the value of their impressions as they compare to other media," suggested Heffring.

Although companies like Expion, Buddy Media and Vitrue help brands and agencies manage and track their Facebook pages and other social media, the ongoing evolution of Facebook Insights - and for that matter the products they measure - in some ways deters third party tech firms from developing their own standardized metrics and tools.

"I think Facebook measurement is continuing to evolve in a way that meet the growing demands of marketers, but as the Facebook platform evolves our questions will evolve," said Wurst. However, he added, "The onus shouldn't have to be on Facebook to solve all these questions for us."

Tags:

ClickZ Live Chicago Learn Digital Marketing Insights From Leading Brands!
ClickZ Live Chicago (Nov 3-6) will deliver over 50 sessions across 10 individual tracks, including Data-Driven Marketing, Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email. Check out the full agenda, or register and attend one of the best ClickZ events yet!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get ClickZ Social newsletters delivered right to your inbox. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

UPCOMING TRAINING

Featured White Papers

Google My Business Listings Demystified

Google My Business Listings Demystified
To help brands control how they appear online, Google has developed a new offering: Google My Business Locations. This whitepaper helps marketers understand how to use this powerful new tool.

5 Ways to Personalize Beyond the Subject Line

5 Ways to Personalize Beyond the Subject Line
82 percent of shoppers say they would buy more items from a brand if the emails they sent were more personalized. This white paper offer five tactics that will personalize your email beyond the subject line and drive real business growth.

WEBINARS

Resources

Jobs

    • Executive Assistant
      Executive Assistant (Agora Inc. ) - BaltimoreAgora Inc., an international publishing company, located in the Mt. Vernon district of Baltimore, MD...
    • Paid Search Specialist
      Paid Search Specialist (Boathouse, Inc.) - Waltham  Boathouse is looking for a Paid Search Specialist to work as a part of the Digital Acquisition...
    • Paid Search / Search Engine Marketing (SEM, PPC) Specialist
      Paid Search / Search Engine Marketing (SEM, PPC) Specialist (HeBS Digital) - New YorkJOB TITLE:     Paid Search / Search Engine Marketing...