For better or worse, engagement as a performance metric is tightly associated with Facebook advertising. The importance of engagement has been hotly debated for years, and while the verdict is still out, this metric remains a key performance indicator (KPI) that brands and agencies routinely measure.

For brands that embrace a comprehensive marketing approach to Facebook, and use different ad types for different objectives, building accurate, valid reports can be tricky. When it comes to reporting, segmentation is crucial.

Reporting an average “engagement rate” and applying it to a month’s worth of diverse content (page photo posts, link page posts, video posts) compares apples to oranges. Utilizing one overarching metric for different Facebook ad types fails to provide any useful performance insight. 

CONSIDER THE OBJECTIVES

Our love affair with the engagement metric began as Facebook became a brand awareness and trust-building tool, and not a direct-response ad platform. Accurate revenue attribution can be difficult, and marketers soon realized that measuring engagement could better represent ROI.  

Unfortunately, true classification of engagement on Facebook is blurry and inconsistent.  Aside from vanity metrics like reactions, comments, and shares, behind-the-scenes metrics, like impressions and website clicks speak towards different engagement objectives.

For a link-page post, website clicks are the desired form of engagement. In contrast, view times are suitable for video. While an engagement rate based on clicks can be calculated regardless of objective, comparing such rates holistically undermines the value of each content type’s distinct strengths.

Let’s take a look at the two Facebook ads below:

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Although neither post directly pushes a sale, they both elicit engagement for one combined objective. One is optimized for Facebook page engagement, while the other is optimized for website clicks. The post on the left has a significantly higher engagement rate — a photo can be consumed in a matter of seconds without leaving one’s newsfeed. Meanwhile, the link post requires a conscious commitment of a click to go offsite. Since this requires more time from the consumer, it can be expected that engagement may happen at a lower rate. 

A marketing professional should wonder what’s more valuable to the brand here: likes on a Facebook post, or clicks toward a landing page. Website clicks are earned at a much lower rate than post likes, but often result in longer engagement periods as consumers spend several minutes on the content teased in the ad. Both engagement types represent trust-building touchpoints that can predispose a user to a sale in the future. Comparing performance metrics for posts with different objectives ignores the inherent difference in how the content is intended to be consumed.

THE OBJECTIVE CAVEAT: VIDEOS

Videos pose the biggest issue when it comes to analyzing engagement. Facebook understandably wants to present itself as an optimal performance marketing channel, but they’ve caught grief for some decisions: Counting a 3 second video view that auto plays in the newsfeed as engagement seems akin to calling a breath mint a meal.

This reporting standard inflates engagement rates for videos and makes the comparison between the other most common ad types seem less valuable. To emphasize the discrepancy, think about this: I work with a client whose average engagement rate for videos is 20 percent higher than its page photos, according to Facebook. Looking at an aggregate statistic such as “views up to 50 percent” provides a better indicator of a video post’s performance over time.

SEGMENT FOR SUCCESS

Since most brands don’t limit their Facebook marketing strategy to one objective, engagement in the traditional sense (reactions, comments, shares) only relates to a portion of their advertising effort. In a given month, a brand can simultaneously reach new customers and retarget returning customers. Influencing them at various levels of the sales funnel involves different types of content that generate engagement, at contrasting rates.

Not all ad types should be placed under the same reporting umbrella. To measure success, segment reporting by objective (or ad type in the case of videos) and establish averages and standards for comparative purposes. Only compare analogous campaigns (link-page posts to link-page posts and videos to videos) and avoid lumping data from different ad types into a deceptive average.

The right mix of content types will vary. It’s worth taking the time to build a compelling strategy and understand the metrics at hand.  

Danny DuBois is a Social Media Content Director at ZOG Digital. For help with your Facebook reporting or more information, contact ZOG Digital at biz@zogdigital.com.

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