A more transparent Facebook

Just two months ago, Facebook announced a reporting inaccuracy, disclosing the company had been overstating video view length. After creating a task force to dive deeper, it revealed last week that inaccuracies beyond video views include organic reach, time spent, referrals, and more.

In review:

  • Facebook over-­reported the number of people reached by organic posts. In a 7-­day period, organic reach was estimated to be 33% lower than reported, and 55% lower in a 28-­day period. Interestingly, reach, not impressions, were noted. The latter would be much higher.
  • Time spent on Instant Articles was impacted, being over-­reported by 7%-­8% on average.
  • Site and app referrals were overstated by an average of 6%, impacting clicks tracked to a brand app or site on posts from app/site users who shared app/site content on Facebook.
  • It came to light that Facebook added data from users’ ‘interest lists’ to page like counts, doubling data in some cases. While the precise number will vary by page, expect total page likes to drop in the near future.

Alas, it’s not all bad news, as Facebook also discovered they had been under-counting how many people watch video ads to their completion. That figure appears to be 35% higher.

Impacts of Facebook’s measurements review

While Facebook has stated none of the erroneous reporting impacts billing, it is an important reminder of reporting and measurement best practices. Marketers have placed trust in digital advertising in large part because of the inherent transparency available, but in the ‘walled garden’ of social networks and self-­serve platforms, advertisers are often taking media companies at their word.

We applaud Facebook for investigating these issues and being forthright with their findings, but we call for the expansion of third-­party measurement and verification. New partners have been announced but Facebook has noticeably stopped short of industry accreditation by the MRC and auditing of third-­party data collection. Agencies and clients alike should emphasize the importance of having established checks and balances processes that have long been commonplace elsewhere in advertising.


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