Facebook has been under fire lately because of a few reporting issues. Santy's Paid Social Media Specialist, Alethia Halbig, explains why Facebook needs to allow third-party reporting in order to regain trust and credibility with marketers.

  • Alethia Halbig

Why Facebook Needs to Improve Reporting through Third-Party Verification

Facebook is currently under fire for another reporting issue. According to the platform, video ad completions have been underreported by almost 35%. Facebook claims that “...someone may watch a video to completion on their device, (but) the audio may continue to play for a bit longer. This particular issue caused us to undercount the metric “video watches at 100%”... For example, if “video watches at 100%” were 1%, they would now be 1.35%.” In addition to the video views issue, there is the current problem of fake news distribution on Facebook, the bug that decreased the 28-day summary of organic reach by up to 55% and the page insights bug that underreported on organic engagement back in October. As Santy’s Paid Social Media Specialist, I have two feelings about the situation. I am glad to hear that video completions could be 35% more than reported, but I am frustrated that the metrics I heavily rely on for accuracy are no longer deemed independently credible. Paid Social marketers depend on the accuracy of these metrics to optimize and allocate budgets for social campaigns. After the recent events detailing Facebook’s failures with reporting in its platform, trust for the social media conglomerate is at an all-time low. Facebook needs to expand its access for third-party reporting vendors across all ad types to allow for full transparency.

Facebook is taking a series of steps to improve metric-verification by partnering with third-party vendors and clarifying the meanings of their results. This includes adding more descriptive names for metrics, explaining the calculations for certain results, and specifying categorizations for conversion metrics like leads, registrations and checkouts. While this is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t resolve the issue at hand. Facebook’s reporting is no longer an independently credible resource for paid social results. Thankfully, third-party verification companies are stepping in to solve the problem. Facebook has developed partnerships with comScore, Moat, Nielsen and Integral Ad Science. Moat currently offers third-party verification for video metrics for newsfeed and Instagram placements in the Facebook platform. The company is currently working on Audience Network verification.

There’s a famous saying: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. It feels like Facebook has fooled us several times over the past few months. Let’s remember on-top of the video views issue and the organic reporting bug, back in September Facebook released a statement to advertisers apologizing for a miscalculation that overstated how much time, on average, users spent watching videos. Since the platform only considers video views greater than three seconds as a video view, the average time duration metric was skewed to have a greater total average of percentage of video views than what actually occurred. The issue has since been resolved, but the damage was still done when clients and advertisers alike read the articles about the reporting issue. The past few months have raised the alarms about trusting Facebook’s platform and I fear for the potential issues I might read about in the paper. As the platform continues to grow and evolve, third-party verification parties will continue to play a bigger part in the reporting process.

Facebook needs to allow third-party reporting across all ad types and placements. If marketers are going to continue advertising on Facebook, there needs to be objective verification for paid and organic results. I predict that Facebook will continue to work with its third-party vendors to provide full transparency for their data.

Photo via Negative Space

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