This article originally appears in The Drum.
Last month, Facebook announced additional metrics to give advertisers more insight into consumer behavior, including how many visitors come to their websites after clicking on ads and whether those individuals are new or returning visitors.
Together, these metrics “help advertisers get a better sense of whether Facebook advertising is having an impact on the business”, said Shane Murphy, vice president of marketing at prospecting and retargeting platform AdRoll, adding it is “certainly relatively small steps toward a true view for the marketers on which ads are having more impact”.
Murphy also said the new metrics are a more impactful measure than what existed before, but not quite as much as a metric that could, say, report down to the customers who actually convert. However, he also said he thinks Facebook is likely working on something like that and noted the platform is positioning this as a journey in which it releases more reporting capabilities “about every month or so”.
Sara Skrmetti, senior director of social at programmatic company MediaMath, agreed this is a step in the right direction for Facebook, but – no surprises here – the platform has “a way to go to satisfy the desire for transparency”.
It’s the latest chapter in Facebook’s data reporting saga after news broke the once omnipotent walled garden had misreported some figures and it has since taken steps to be more transparent. But it’s a delicate balance for these platforms with treasure troves of customer data.
In other words, as marketers have put more pressure on Facebook to enhance its reporting capabilities, insiders say the new measures demonstrate Facebook is taking them seriously. But that’s not to say this marks the beginning of the end of walled gardens.
“The data is what is valuable for Facebook,” Murphy said. “We’ll probably get to a point where the walls are lower – or perforated – but I would be surprised if [we got a] world where [that data was widely available] because it is their IP.”
According to Scott Linzer, vice president of owned media at digital marketing agency iCrossing, walled gardens have always been a perplexing agency challenge because they “have to take Facebook’s data as a source of truth”. Now, however, Facebook is evolving to allow marketers to get a better understanding of that data and to provide more transparency, but it still has a way to go and Linzer said he hopes Facebook will continue down this path.
“I think walled gardens have the propensity to continue to scale back or whatever the phrase is because the reality is in order to buy media, you need the most accurate complete picture to understand behavior,” Linzer said. “If we don’t or if we have gaps, we’re not really servicing the clients correctly and don’t have the full picture we need. I think as we sit here in 2017, it is very important for vendors and agencies to be proactive and understand their data needs to accomplish goals for their clients.”
And as the balance of power between Facebook and advertisers shifts more in favor of the latter, here are the four demands marketers should make in order to glean as much insight as possible:
1. More third party verification.
According to Mike Kisseberth, chief revenue officer at digital publishing and marketplace platform Purch, the key phrase is third party verification. In other words, it’s not that these new metrics aren’t interesting measures marketers will like, but these marketers are still stuck having to simply trust Facebook. Third party verification, on the other hand, would enable marketers to take the data more seriously.
“Third party verification is important because it allows you to trust the numbers there,” Kisseberth said. “As marketers, the responsibility is ultimately on you to know if [ad dollars] are contributing to the revenue of the business…I think there’s a balance point – third party verification is something marketers want, but they also…[need] to figure out if the money they’re spending is actually contributing to sales. You have a third party measuring whether it’s viewable, but did it actually drive performance at a level that is justified given the spend?”
Speaking of which…
2. More insight into customer spend.
Not surprisingly, Murphy agreed marketers want to see ROI.
“Being able to properly track each ad unit to [put a] value [on] customer spending is critical,” he said. “That’s where you get better at going all the way down to the point of tracking how much each customer is spending, [which allows you] to optimize a campaign based on that.”
This is something AdRoll enables its clients to see and Murphy said it would be valuable to Facebook’s advertisers to have more insight there as well.
3. A more complete audience view.
Linzer said the big mystery is just how big an audience is within Facebook – and how many impressions ads will serve.
“They tend to be very frontline metrics in the Facebook ecosystem,” he added.
And that’s why other metrics, such as videos served or shares of video, would help advertisers get a more complete picture of what their audiences look like and what they are doing.
4. More customization options.
Per Skrmetti, a valuable addition would be the ability to customize data in ways that are relevant to a given brand and/or marketer.
“A lot of our advertisers will work with our data directly in a raw format to get the insights they want…a lot of…our enterprise clients will manipulate their own data for their own insights and I think that’s the holy grail of this – the closer Facebook can get to that without overstepping privacy, the better,” Skrmetti said. “[This is probably] on the roadmap for [Facebook], but, at end of the day, the closer they can get to data that is manipulatable, the better off they’ll be and the more trust they’ll have.”