Facebook puts a lot of faith in the power of their algorithms and data. In fact, so do a lot of business owners and marketers. Facebook’s data about the reach of posts, the effectiveness of ads, and so on, are often taken at face value. However, a new issue involving erroneous metrics from Facebook has arisen. The social media giant has taken steps to correct the issue, but it raises questions about the reliability of Facebook Insights and other metrics.
This time, the issue involves underreporting. According to comScore, who is metics partner for Facebook, the social media network was missing iPhone traffic on some Instant Articles. While this may seem like a small thing, and it sorta of is, this does have implications for mobile marketing.
Facebook’s Instant Articles is a mobile publishing format enabling news publishers to distribute articles to Facebook’s app. Those articles load and display faster than standard mobile web. So even though the error only affected iPhone metrics, this is a very important demographics for mobile marketers, as iPhone users spend more time on their devices and spend more money through mobile channels.
Having been notified about the issue, Facebook says they took immediate steps to deal with the issue. Facebook technicians blame a recent update for the problem, so it hasn’t affected the numbers for a very long time.
“ComScore alerted us to the issue, and we’ve since identified this is a result of a recent Facebook update that impacted publishers using our legacy comScore integration who support HTTPS on their websites,” the company wrote in a post last week about the situation. “This caused an underreporting of iPhone traffic from Facebook in comScore products between Sep 20 to Nov 30, 2016…We have fixed the issue and are working with comScore to produce updated estimates for the relevant time periods for the small group of partners affected. We have reached out to affected publishers.”
This is just the latest in a series of stories about issues with metrics at Facebook. Just a few months ago, Facebook made headlines (the bad kind) when it was discovered that the way they counted video views for ads were inflating the counts, or at least confusing people about the quality of the metric.
For its part, Facebook is trying to be more open about how they handle metrics, updates and other things that could affect the way business owners and marketers use the platform.
“We know how important it is to be open about meaningful updates we make to our metrics, so we’ve created this channel for regular information on metrics enhancements,” the company continued in their post. “This series will be similar to our News Feed FYI series.
In the end, the current situation is a reminder that you can’t put all your faith in big data. The automated nature of how big data is collected means that a small mistake in an algorithm can grow to huge errors in the data. People could end up making assumptions that aren’t in line with reality. In this case, people might have thought their content was underperforming in key markets because of the under reporting.
For more information about social media marketing, read this article on another recent study on consumer behavior and social media.