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Can You Trust Paid Social Media Advertising Metrics?

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At the end of 2016, unsavory things are coming to light about social media advertising - Facebook in particular. Over the last few months, Facebook has come out saying some of its metrics were miscalculated. This leads publishers and advertisers to ask a few questions:

Which metrics are affected by miscalculations?

Currently, Facebook is aware of two inaccurate metrics: video viewing time and content views.

Video Viewing Time

In September, Facebook revealed it's been overestimating video viewing time for two years. Estimations were inflated by 60-80%. Not trivial.

The error came from a bad formula - Facebook was only factoring in video views of more than three seconds, which inflated the numbers. Advertisers = not happy.

Content Views

Now, in November, Facebook drops another bomb on social media marketers. Metrics indicating how many people view a publisher's Facebook page have also been inflated. The social network is making more changes to provide accurate data: reported weekly views will shrink by an average of 33%, and monthly views by 55%.

Advertisers = not happy.

How does this impact my page and activity?

Metrics are hugely important for your marketing strategy. They:

  • Assist in A/B testing
  • Influence marketing direction
  • Decide paid social spend platforms, budgets, audience
  • Help calculate ROI
  • Hone targeting methods
  • Provide a frame of reference

If you're working off inaccurate metrics, the foundation of your marketing strategy becomes unstable. You're making decisions based on bad data. Data is everything when you're assessing the performance of your strategy, your team, and yourself.

A professional marketer will take this new knowledge and audit their entire strategy to account for the inaccuracies. As a small business owner or employee, you probably don't have time for that. You can't tell if your strategy will take a hit, or if it'll be able to squeak by with no injuries.

Ultimately, the outcome relies on this next question:

Are other metrics being reported accurately?

At this point, we'll have to wait for (hopefully a lack of) further reports. 

One case of bad reporting is a mistake. Two is bad oversight. Three? Four? That's a system error that could impact thousands of businesses. 

Now, we have to question the metrics that define our successes and failures. Although we receive them over the Internet from machines, they are built by humans. Human error is the most unpredictable and untamed variable in any system.

We should have healthy questions about third party reporting methods. We should expect the unexpected. We should have backup plans. We should take every issue with a grain of salt and carry on. Because, in the end, we don't have total control over marketing outcomes. 

In a way, that's liberating.

Related: Uplifting PPC Stats & Success Stories From Small Businesses

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