Facebook Has Been Exaggerating its Video Views, Now What?

Photo Courtesy of tubefilter


The recent news of Facebook’s miscalculation of Facebook Video Views metrics leaves many wondering if a more accurate representation of viewer engagement exists.


Facebook released a statement saying that they discovered an error in their calculation for “average duration of video viewed” which they have since fixed and renamed. 


David Fischer, Facebook’s VP of Business and Marketing clarifies Facebook’s statement writing, “The metric should have reflected the total time spent watching a video divided by the total number of people who played the video. But it didn’t – it reflected the total time spent watching a video divided by only the number of “views” of a video (that is, when the video was watched for three or more seconds)”.


Let’s break that down for you:


For example, say four people each watched the same ad for one second, and a fifth person watched for six seconds. In Facebook’s world, those five people only count as one video view, because only one person watched the ad for more than 3 seconds.  


However, Facebook analytics still counts these interactions as 10 seconds of total view time. In the previous formula of average duration of video viewed, Facebook would take that 10 seconds and divide it by that one view- making the average view duration a whopping 10 seconds.


Compare that to if all five people who actually contributed to those ten seconds of video view were counted in the equation. That means that 10 seconds of view is divided by 5 people, bringing the average down to only 2 seconds.

Facebook Video Views Explained

That’s a big deal.


In fact, this miscalculation overestimated the amount of time viewers spent watching ads by a possible 60-80%  – and this overestimation has been going on for the past 2 years. Obviously, it has ad buyers questioning what their facebook video views really look like.


All of this has us wondering if there is a better way to determine the success of video ads other than calculations and equations that may not tell the whole story – or are entirely misleading.


First of all, it isn’t all in tallying Facebook Video Views.





There’s a lot of information in seeing how many views your ad has, but it isn’t just about the number. While it’s useful to know the metric for how many viewers an ad has, and for how long it’s viewed, those numbers don’t tell you much about viewer engagement with your ad. Facebook videos play automatically as the user scrolls through their feed which means that prized views are being racked up just because someone got distracted while your video played on their screen. This doesn’t benefit the advertiser or the user.



Facebook videos play automatically as the user scrolls through their feed which means that prized views are being racked up just because someone got distracted while your video played on their screen.



An easy way to measure viewer engagement without relying on analytics, metrics and calculations, is to go back to basics – the like and share buttons! Seeing how many likes and shares your ad has is a key way to tell how active your audience is with the content.


Audience promotion through likes and shares count for much more than a view, however a view is defined. Focusing on those metrics is a smart and underrated move. Checking how many times your video was liked and shared can speak to much more about how successful your ad is than just the number of people who let it play through.



But No One Likes Ads!


Viewer Engagement

Photo Courtesy of Forbes


There’s one frustrating element to this equation: ads get a bad reputation for being obtrusive annoyances throughout our daily lives, especially online. It doesn’t have to be that way! Video advertisements can be just as informational and important as the viral videos that get shared over and over again. If your content is truly relevant to your audience, and it is presented in a relatable and engaging way, your viewers will want to interact – even if it is an ad.  




However, when viewers see that content is an ad, it can make them reluctant to interact. In fact, some viewers may not even realize that they can like a video ad. Because of this, you’ll have to recognize that viewers may be unsure of sharing a promotional video, and tailor your content accordingly. Remind them to take action by encouraging them to like and share – they may not know that they can or should.



Track unique links back to your site.



Viewer Engagement

Photo Courtesy of Brent Carnduff

A different, yet extremely effective way to track the success of your video ad is to include links to your website using a specific URL – that way you can use Google analytics to see for yourself which of your site’s visitors found you through your Facebook ad.


You can easily create these URLs unique to your specific campaigns using UTM URL tools like this. Then, use Google Analytics to create an audience segment that corresponds to that UTM URL. You’ll be able to see not only who visited your site, but where they went on your pages. It’s a cost effective, simple approach to seeing which advertisements are really generating the best results. Who needs Facebook Video Views when you can track measurable success?

Track Facebook Video Views with a grain of salt


Just because the calculation may be off doesn’t mean you can’t trust it. Take Facebook’s metrics for what they are: an estimation. They are still important to understanding your place in your audience’s feed, and ultimately their mind.


The inflated numbers could also mean something else – maybe Facebook video ads aren’t all they are made out to be. That may sound bad to all those ad buyers who invested in the promotion, but the lesson here is you may not always need to spend the most to get the most out of your advertising.

It could also be  good news if you don’t have the funds for Facebook ads right now – it means you’re not so far behind. There are so many ways to find and engage your audience online. Don’t  always believe when everyone else says that one platform is the ultimate best. They may be fooling you.

emilyEmily Stewart is a Marketing and Communications Intern at Green Buzz Agency. She was never in it for the views, anyway.

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