Breaking: Facebook Clicks Are Worthless

Well, clicks aren’t completely worthless—but their importance is vastly overstated. That’s the verdict rendered by Facebook’s own Brad Smallwood in a report beamed in from this week’s IAB MIXX Expo—and it’s something of a revelation for those who use data to drive marketing/promotional strategy (aka all of us). But what does it mean?

According to Smallwood, all professionals trying to measure the success of Facebook ads or branded content should focus on three things:

  • Impressions – number of people who see your content
  • Reach – size of audience vs. cost of promo efforts
  • Frequency – achieving a “sweet spot” balance between over-exposure and under-exposure

The overall message: Don’t use click-through rates to judge the success of any given campaign. It makes sense because many users see Facebook posts and ads without clicking on them–good luck selling that point to any marketing department, though. The issue may be a bit more complex than that though, and the people at HubSpot aren’t quite on board:

They believe that “cost per lead” is the most important metric to follow, because leads are the best way to measure true value. They also join others in noting that sponsored stories are far more effective than standard display ads. This is probably because sponsored stories feel more like “earned” than “paid” content, even though they’re not.

Also of note: click-through rates for Google Ads are often as much as 10 times higher than rates for similar Facebook content—but this fact doesn’t mean they’re more effective. It’s simply a reflection of differences in audience behavior.

Facebook has been making the “clicks don’t matter” argument for some time, and we wonder what their ultimate goal might be—maybe they want to convince marketers who doubt Facebook’s true ROI value to keep posting content. What do we think?

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.