Facebook Measurement: Impressions from Status Updates

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[Update October 2011: Facebook recently released a new version of insights that renders some aspects of this post as moot. My take and explanation regarding this release is available in this post.]

[Update: It looks like a lot of people are arriving on this page simply looking for the definition of a Facebook impression, so it seemed worth explaining that right up here at the top. It is a damn shame that Facebook doesn’t provide clear and accessible documentation for analysts.]

As best as I can tell, Facebook defines an impression of a status update as any time the status update was loaded into a browser’s memory, regardless of whether it was displayed on the screen. So:

  • User visits a brand’s Facebook page and the status update is displayed on the Wall (above or below the fold) –> counts as an impression
  • User views his/her News Feed in Facebook and the status update is displayed in the feed (above or below the fold) –> counts as an impression
  • User shares the status update (from the brand’s page or from his/her News Feed) and it is viewed by a friend of the user (either in their News Feed or when viewing the initial user’s Wall) –> counts as an impression
  • In any of the scenarios above, the user refreshes the browser or returns to the same page while the update is still “active” on the Wall/News Feed –> counts as an additional impression
  • User has hidden updates from the brand and then views his/her Wall –> does NOT count as an impression

I hope that’s clear enough, if that’s what you were looking for when you came to this page. The remainder of this post discusses Interactions and %Feedback.

[End of Update]

In my last post, one of the challenges I described was that it was impossible to get a good read on the number of impressions a brand was garnering from their fan page status updates — a status update on a fan page appears in the live feeds of the page’s fan…assuming the fan hasn’t hidden updates from that page and the fan logs in to Facebook and views his/her live feed before there are so many new updates from his/her other friends that the status update has slid down into oblivion.

A lot has changed since that post! A few days after that post, Nick O’Neill reported that a Facebook staffer had let the cat out of the bag during a presentation in Poland and announced that impression measurement was on the way. And, last Thursday, it became official. IF you have an authenticated Facebook page (at least 10,000 fans and you’ve authenticated the page when prompted), you now get (with some delay), something like this underneath each of your status updates:

Pretty slick, huh?

First, Impressions

I’ll be the first to say that “impressions” is a pretty loose measure — it’s a standard in online advertising, and it became the go-to measure there because print and TV have historically been so eyeball-oriented. It’s not a great measure, but it does have some merit. I’ll even go so far as to claim that a Facebook impression is “heavier” than a typical online display ad (be it on Facebook or some other site), because many online display ads are positioned somewhere on the periphery of the page where we’ve trained ourselves to tune them out. A Facebook impression is in the fan’s feed.

Of course, the other way to look at it is that it’s only showing up for people who are already fans of your page, which, presumably, are people who already have an affinity for your brand (although, considering that “fan” is short for “fanatic”…methinks the meaning of the term has evolved to be a much lesser state of enthusiasm than it was 20 or 30 years ago). So, it’s not much of a “brand awareness”-driving impression.

Facebook’s note on the subject gives a pretty clear definition of how impressions are counted:

…the number of impressions measures the number of times the post has been rendered on user’s [sic] browsers. These impressions can come from a user’s news feed, live feed, directly from the Page, or through the Fan Box widget. This includes instances of the post showing up below the fold.

Clear enough. This will be really useful information for sifting through past status updates and seeing which ones garner the highest impressions per fan to determine what day (and time of day) is optimal for getting the broadest reach for the update (remember that impressions have nothing to do with the quality of the content — it’s just a measure of how many people had that post rendered in their browser). Juicy stuff. The impression count will (or should…Facebook metrics have a record of being a little shifty) only go up over time. So, to get a good handle on total impressions, you’ll have to let the update be out there for a few days or a week before it really closes in on its top end.

% Feedback

So, what about that “% Feedback” measure? This is a good one, too — it’s actually a tighter measure of “post quality” than the Post Quality measure provided through Facebook Insight (Post Quality is vaguely defined by Facebook as being “calculated with an algorithm that takes into account your number of posts, total fan interactions received, number of fans, as well as other factors.” Yeesh!). It’s simple math:

(Likes + Comments) / Impressions

What percent of people not only had the status update presented to them, but also reacted to it strongly enough to take an action in response to the post? In the screen cap above: (11 likes + 9 comments) / 31,895 impressions = 0.06% Feedback. Is that good or bad? It’s too early to tell (the same page that I pulled the above from had another status update with a 1.62% Feedback value), but I like the measure as a general idea. And, it’s easy to understand and recreate, so all the better. It is a measure of the quality of the content (although, in theory, a status update could go out that really upset a lot of people, which could drive a high % Feedback score by attracting a lot of negative comments).

I’m a little bothered by combining Likes and Comments. To me, a Like is a much lower-weighted interaction than a Comment — a like is a “I read it and agree enough to click a link while I move along” reaction, whereas a comment is a “I read it and had a sufficiently strong reaction to form a set of words and take the time to type them in” reaction. But, for the sake of simplicity, I’m good with combining them. And, the calculation is so simple that it would be easy enough to manually calculate a different measure.

As far as I can tell (so far), Facebook isn’t providing a way to get “overall impressions and % Feedback” measures by day through Facebook Insights. The data is available on a “by update, manually gathered” basis only. But, I don’t want to be difficult — I love the progress!

24 Comments


  1. You list impressions as only the visibility in a fan’s live/news feed as being not really helping brand awareness. But what about in their friends’ feeds? eg, “So and so became a fan of …” do they count those as impressions? Or even in the suggestions list on the sidebar (almost but not quite as ignored as the ads box itself)? (and if they used a varied weighting scheme, I’d say those should be weighted higher than even just fan impressions.)

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  3. Alan — the functionality that Facebook rolled out is only impressions at the fan page status update level. So, no, they’re not providing data of how many “brand impressions” occurred because of the friends-of-people-who-became-fans ripple effect. That really would get to awareness: “My friend just became a fan of .”

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  5. The Facebook impressions do certainly lend some insights to the administrator and it wld be better if they could be provided to all fan pages whether big or small

  6. Facebook is measuring Fan Page Content the same way ads are measured… A great way to let advertisers think of their facebook as an a promoting tool as efficient as paid campaigns! Especially for Brand Marketers.

  7. Hi,
    I built my website, http://www.fullfiguredgoddessyoga.com, on a server that is accessed through my facebook landing page… in essence, someone can navigate my entire website without leaving facebook. I am having trouble with understanding why I wouldn’t just measure those people who either liked my comment or commented. I find that the impression measurement is all over the map.

  8. Jenifer – I haven’t been able to find your Facebook page (and the link to it from your site throws an error for me). But, in a sense, you’re right — looking at total “page likes” (Likes of the overall Facebook page) as well as traditional traffic (visits) to the content that you’re hosting on your own server (using Google Analytics or some other web analytics platform) are both good measures. However, measuring impressions is about the overall reach of messages you post through status updates — how many people had the opportunity to see that status update? If you have a highly engaged fan base, and you are posting share-worth and likable status updates, you have an opportunity to hook into the social graph of your fans to spread awareness of your brand.

  9. Hello,
    I am not clear on what constitutes a page visit. When I get my weekly update email from FB, I see that I got 345 “visits” this week. My impressions on the other hand, were very low throughout the week. Typically my impressions are much higher. I am assuming that “visits” are a certain amount of time a person spends on the page. Is this correct? How is a visit measured? I looked but haven’t been able to figure this out. It seems to me that then number of actual visits is more valuable than the number of impressions. Thanks for you time!

  10. @Michelle

    n Facebook speak, “visits” are a metric related to the page itself — how many times people came to any area of your page — your wall, your Photos, etc. Impressions, on the other hand, are related to status updates. As Facebook continues to refine its “news feed” logic, you may find that your status updates are more or less likely to appear in your fans news feeds. While each status update will also get an impression when someone visits your page and views your wall, typically, I think, status update impressions are more driven by the page’s status updates appearing in fans news feeds.

    Does that help? It is confusing. Neither metric is inherently “more valuable.” If you have a rich experience actually on your page, then you may really care about visits. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to get your message out through status updates to a broad set of people, then impressions is a better measure for how effectively you are able to do that over time.

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  12. are “visits” and “impressions” affected by checking my fan page? i mean my own “views” to my fan page… i need to check it several times a day and i’m wondering if i’m affecting the real data…thanx…

  13. @adolfo As far as I know, Facebook does not exclude visits and impressions generated by admins of a page viewing the page or a status update.

  14. After a month do I have to pay for FBook impressions? This is the 30th of June and there has not been an impression numerical change in my insights since the 27th.

    Am I not doing something I should do?

    I was under the “impression” this was free in FBook.

  15. @Jim Are you looking at impressions for a specific status update and not seeing them change? We typically see a pretty severe drop-off in impressions after the initial bump, as the status update quickly falls off the feed of fans of the page and relies solely on traffic to the page itself to generate additional impressions.

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  17. Tim, thank you for taking the time to explain how it all works! I have a question about links in the status updates. You said that feedback = comments + likes. So clicking the link doesn’t count? Is there a way to find out how many people engage with the content you post?

  18. @Elena That’s correct. Just likes, comments, and shares are considered “feedback” (presumably because a click through isn’t a public acknowledgment of an opinion/reaction to the content.) The new Facebook Insights *does* provide click data at the post level (really well) and at the page level (somewhat murkily). Check out this post for my explanation there (there are a number of posts on the new Facebook Insights): http://www.gilliganondata.com/index.php/2011/10/14/the-new-facebook-insights-one-more-analysts-take/

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