Facebook is looking to clean up and clarify the way advertisers measure their campaign performance.
Over the past couple of years, the company has had to acknowledge multiple mistakes in its ad metrics. Last fall, researchers even pointed out that Facebook’s purported reach was greater than the US Census population in every state.
So making these kinds of tweaks (and taking other steps to increase transparency) could help restore advertisers’ confidence in the company’s numbers.
Facebook laid out the changes in a blog post, and also at a press event this morning, where Vice President of Marketing Science Brad Smallwood was joined by Edward Gaffney, director of implementation research at ad agency GroupM. (Gaffney is part of Facebook’s Measurement Council.)
The first change comes in the way these metrics will be labelled. Facebook will now explicitly point out when an ad metric is an estimate, in development, or both.
Gaffney said that advertisers are used to working with estimates, but he recalled that even in the Measurement Council, there was some uncertainty around which numbers were estimated versus directly measured. So this kind of clarity is needed “to understand that an estimate is just that — it’s better than a guess, but it is not the absolute truth.”
Meanwhile, Smallwood said that it’s natural for Facebook to experiment with the most effective ways to present its data. By labeling a measurement as in development, the company is telling advertisers to expect those measurements to change. (As Gaffney put it: “Don’t build a complex model around that.”)
Some of the metrics might eventually disappear entirely if they’re not helpful to advertisers. In fact, Smallwood said Facebook plans to remove 20 of them in July because they were judged redundant, outdated, not actionable or infrequently used.
For example, he said the social reach metric (which shows how often people saw an ad accompanied with context like a comment from their friend) turned out to be not that different from a standard reach metric, and advertisers didn’t know how to use the data to improve their campaigns. So it’s getting cut.
Lastly, Smallwood said Facebook will be launching a new initiative called Measure What Matters, combining in-person events, online events and online content to help advertisers understand more about how to measure and improve their campaigns.