It was reported last week that Facebook had been artificially inflating the average viewing time of videos on the social media platform for upwards of two years. Obviously the news is somewhat of a shock, as indicated by the outcry of complaints by marketing professionals.
This is absolutely big news in our industry, and I’m definitely in favor of creating some form of third-party verification for social media platforms and their native analytics. But I do challenge the impact of this news a bit, and believe its something that highlights a larger issue within our industry: A greater focus on meaningful metrics.
Having grown up in the world of PR, we’ve dealt with similar issues for years. Before the advent of online news, and WAY before the advent of social media, we hung our hat on impressions (or eyeballs). If a newspaper had a circulation of 250,000 it was just automatically assumed that 250,000 people read a specific article. If a newscast had ratings that showed 9% of the DMA watched its 10pm news, it was automatically assumed that 9% of the population saw a specific story at 10pm. Even though we knew that it wasn’t likely all 250,000 people read every article in the paper, we used the “impressions” metric because it was the main statistic we had to work from.
Fast forward a decade, and everything has changed. We now have impressions, reach, clicks, views, time spent on page, downloads, likes, reactions, comments, retweets…the list is more than robust. But that also means we have more, and better information to work from – and more importantly, more specific metrics to map back to campaign goals.
We should be building campaigns based on metrics that have a direct impact on our client’s bottom lines. Brand awareness, share of relevant conversations, actions taken, and, dare I say, sales.
Two years of faulty information from Facebook is a big deal, and it definitely brings up important questions about trusting native social media analytics. But average duration of a video view is probably not the metric we should be hanging our hats on as marketers. A big part of our job should be building campaigns that track back to meaningful and measurable results for our clients, and helping them navigate the confusing world of digital metrics.