After the recent news of Facebook’s video-viewing overestimation, the company has experienced a mixed response.
While the consensus seems to be that the backlash is a bit of an over-exaggeration, the truth of the matter is that the miscalculations come at a time when businesses are spending significantly more on video content production and ads: Coincidence or negligence?
What happened with Facebook raises two important questions: Is it wise to rely on metrics delivered by the same people who benefit from outperforming metrics? And is it wise to rely on a third party at all and cede control?
Marketers are dedicating more budgets than ever to paid advertising on social media; roughly 80 percent of marketers recently surveyed by Gartner indicated that they’d be investing in the tactic over the next 12 months.
The massive user base on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter make social as a distribution channel a “no-brainer” for many. This is, however, a slippery slope, since posting content on these platforms means that the data, and access to it, is at the mercy of the platform itself. Brands are voluntarily giving up control, meaning the rules can change at any time.
The challenge here is that marketers have zero recourse if an unfavorable change takes place—or, in the case of Facebook’s video metrics, if the information is inaccurate. While trust is a good thing, I again mention the conflict of interest between being the data provider and the seller of value based on that data. It’s not a clear or clean line of distinction.
The act of leaning on another digital entity to further one’s growth is what is known as digital sharecropping, a term coined by Nicholas Carr. Marketers are now in the habit of creating content and posting it to social platforms like Facebook, which profit from marketers’ collective hunger for more exposure.
Digital sharecropping has certainly worked for some; many businesses have transacted based on what they’ve built on top of the social media behemoths. Yet it’s risky. The alternative is control through ownership, and on the web, that means self-hosting. If marketers host their own content, they can rest assured that the rules don’t change unless they change them.
When a marketer hosts its own content, it owns the source of truth, and the benefits are many. All of the data gathered from each viewer’s engagement belongs to the marketer the moment that action is taken. That information is the key to unlocking the future of a brand’s relationship with any given individual customer.
With trustworthy data that won’t experience undisclosed tweaks to how it’s reported out over time, marketers can create their own standards for success, accurately benchmark their performance, adjust strategies and learn from failures.
Marketing has never been a particularly humble field–the task is, after all, awareness and business growth–but in the constantly changing digital marketing climate, failure is more valuable than metrics inflation in the long run.
Don’t get me wrong: With their vast networks of users, social platforms are important for generating brand awareness. This sort of reach simply cannot be found elsewhere on the web. Yet while reach is important, it’s not the end-all-be-all of metrics. Leveraging search-engine optimization and word-of-mouth strategies may prove more challenging, but ultimately more valuable. Relying on a single tactic or key performance indicator alone is dangerous.
Facebook’s mistake underscores the risks inherent in digital sharecropping. A single data point cannot be the entire basis of budgeting decisions. And although Facebook was the one that got caught, there is no guarantee that any metrics received from a third party–especially from those that have a stake in the results–are accurate. To quote agents Mulder and Scully of The X-Files, “Question everything.” Or, to quote the old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”
Facebook and other social platforms are great, but they shouldn’t be relied upon as the primary source of truth to inform future video decisions (which are coming as the format continues to surge). Host before a post, observe the results and then test content on social to determine if it’s worth further investment.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.