Facebook Measurement: Impressions from Status Updates
By Tim Wilson on in Facebook Insights, Metrics with 23 Comments
[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?
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.
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!