Using Paid Facebook advertising to increase brand awareness has been a tried and tested approach for years.

One of the many values of Facebook has always been in its ability to generate huge amounts of Paid Reach and Impressions quickly, effectively and, most importantly, cheaply.

Typically, bigger brands focus a lot of their Facebook advertising on “getting as many eyeballs” on a piece of content as possible. 10 points if you’ve heard or used this phrase in the last month!

However, taking this approach to measuring your Paid Social advertising is wrong.

And here’s why:

An impression does not guarantee that any one has seen your ad

Facebook define an impression as “the number of times an instance of an ad is on screen for the first time.”

This is a marked improvement from what it used to be before. Until only recently, Facebook Impressions were classed as whenever an ad was served to a newsfeed. As a result, impressions were being counted with 0% degree of certainty that they were actually being seen.

Even the new change does not guarantee that the ads are being seen by those targeted with it.

Next time you’re on Facebook, just give your newsfeed a quick scroll up and down. At normal speed. How many brand names, product features or clever copy lines do you actually see or recognise?

The speed in which most people scroll up & down their feeds means that “impressions” can be delivered and counted, literally, in the blink of an eye.

Therefore, using Facebook as a way of “getting eyeballs” on an ad or piece of promoted content is a totally redundant term – there’s absolutely no guarantee that your target audience has seen it.

In Chinese, they use the same word for “crisis” as they do for “opportunity”

Because Facebook advertising cannot guarantee that an impression translates into someone actually seeing or registering an ad, measuring impressions or reach on its own presents a major issue when it comes to analysing Paid Facebook advertising.

If Reach & impressions cannot be guaranteed “eyeballs”, they must be classed as “opportunities to see” (OTS) metrics.

As with all OTS metrics, at best they present a waste of time; at worst they are misleading and deceptive.

Take two ads:

  • Ad A – 10 impressions
  • Ad B – 1 million impressions

Speaking in certain terms, there is the exact same chance that between 0-10 people saw both ads. However, there is absolutely no certainty that any more people actually saw Ad B just because the impressions are higher.

Stop hypothesising about impressions & start talking in certainties

In order to start talking in certainties, other metrics must be used as a means of guaranteeing whether someone saw the ad or not.

This is where metrics such as video views, clicks or photo views become more valuable. A 3-second view (often mocked for its lack of value) is a guarantee that an ad has appeared on screen for at least 3 seconds.

Again, try it out on your phone. Look at every post on your feed for at least 3 seconds. What can you tell me about it? Almost certainly:

  • The brand / person who posted it
  • Their company logo
  • What their company does and the product it makes/offers

While you won’t be able to guarantee the viewer will be able to remember all 3, at least you can be certain they have seen it.

And if have the choice about being certain about who has actually seen our ads rather than hypothesising this, then we know which one we’d choose.

So given how much money you’re about to spend on your next Reach or Brand Awareness campaign, are you happy measuring your Paid Social campaigns on something you cannot guarantee?