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Facebook Video Metrics are Incorrect? Don’t Trust the Hype

This week saw a lot of noise from marketing technologists and journalists concerning Facebook’s announcement that it was clarifying one its video consumption metrics. If you want the short answer, like most every marketing journalist who hasn’t actually read the material or understood it, it’s right here:

You’ve all overreacted, and Facebook has been very transparent all week. The definition of ‘video view rate’ they originally offered made a lot of sense. 

Now for the details:

The metric in question is ‘average duration of video viewed.’ The original calculation did not include “views of less than 3 seconds.” The charge against Facebook is that not including views of less than 3 seconds artificially increases the metric of average views. While true, all the hype, dozens of negative media writeups are based on the idea that a video view of fewer than 3 seconds should be counted as a view.

Please think about that for a minute.

It’s clear that Facebook should have done a better job of labeling their metrics, and we’re for greater transparency, but the folks at Adweek have now perpetrated an assault on Facebook that is unwarranted. No one was charged more money than they should have, and if video view rate is your sole metric in making budget decisions, you’re a shoddy marketer.

Here is the quote from the original Facebook press statement

We recently discovered an error in the way we calculate one of our video metrics. This error has been fixed, it did not impact billing, and we have notified our partners both through our product dashboards and via sales and publisher outreach. We also renamed the metric to make it clearer what we measure. This metric is one of many our partners use to assess their video campaigns.

And more clarity in a Facebook for Business post last week

About one month ago, we found an error in the way we calculate one of the video metrics on our dashboard–average duration of video viewed. The metric should have reflected the total time spent watching a video divided by the total number of people who played the video. But it didn’t: It reflected the total time spent watching a video divided by only the number of “views” of a video (that is, when the video was watched for three or more seconds). And so the miscalculation overstated this metric. While this is only one of the many metrics marketers look at, we take any mistake seriously.

The downside to all this hype is that some marketers and opportunistic providers (who are not in the business of producing or promoting video assets) will use it as a mechanism to shift client budgets away from rich media that otherwise might yield positive results. The negative press hype makes the claim that marketing agents rely on these metrics for information on how to spend client budget.

Our advice at Raidious is this: trust your own data and marketing intelligence. If you have produced video, and it has not been empirically proven to assist in brand building or sales conversion, then you should entertain moving that budget elsewhere. If you don’t have the data to make that decision, please speak to a trusted marketing consultant to get said data.

If you’d like some further reading on the issue Kalev Leetaru at Forbes has written a very insightful piece.

If you’re just catching up with this story, here’s the original WSJ story that broke.