Social media management

Facebook KPIs: from fan gathering to 'time spent'

  • Amy van der Plas
  • 12 / 06 / 2020
Leestijd: 6 min

Facebook KPIs from 2007 to now

Facebook KPIs. From the inception of Facebook pages, there have been a lot of them. Want to know which Facebook KPI you currently opt for best in your social strategy? Read in this long-read how we went from as many fans as possible to a few seconds of everyone's attention span.

Whoever has the most fans wins the internet

It seems like an eternity ago, but the first Facebook pages were only started 12 years ago, when, incidentally, the Netherlands was still under the spell of Hyves. Although Facebook's advertising component made its appearance not much later, many Facebook pages at the time grew organically. So, it was logical that getting fans was one of the most important KPIs for most brands in the beginning: after all, it was a measure of how much reach you could achieve per post. About five / six years later, this nonsense was over - because with the breakthrough of Facebook advertising, free (read: organic) reach was limited for all pages. Panic in the tent, Facebook would bleed to death now that everything became paid. Haha, social media. The joke of the zeros.

But he who has the masses does not die. Facebook continued to grow in the number of users in our country too, starting in 2009 with Edgerank, which continued to expand. Edgerank is the algorithm behind the newsfeed that determines what is important to the user and what is not. Soon, the KPI "fans" or "likes" took a bit more of a back seat and investments were made to get back into the feed of a specific(er) audience. Thus, Facebook advertising became an increasingly essential part of the marketing strategy. Smart, Mark.

Community building

Not long after, there was a focus on engagement. Because the only way to beat Edgerank and get to the top of users' newsfeed was through engagement on social posts. The more likes, comments and shares a post achieved, the better. The content therefore consisted of games, catches, win actions, sneak previews, questions, etc. Anything just to gain interaction with the audience. We were in the business of building a community, including customer care - hence positions like 'community manager' and 'conversation starter' popped up like mushrooms. For a long time, the IPM or IPM+, or interaction per mille (read: ratio between reach and interactions) was our measure of success.

The focus on engagement was logical, as social media were still seen by users as fun channels and social media was still relatively new within many marketing strategies, so investments were not yet through the roof. Advertising loads were out of the question for many users (that has since changed!). Only later do we see larger (advertising) budgets going towards social media and Facebook "improved" its algorithm for the newsfeed. Under the motto "we want to make Facebook as attractive as possible for users", they made it a bit more complex for advertisers. Ad dollars became worth less on Facebook, it became harder to reach people. But again: he who has the masses does not die.

From social networking to broadcasting

And by mass, we really mean mass. Because when even the laggards have converted to the dark side called Facebook, you have to watch out Zuck! And the latest developments certainly show that. Besides improving the new newsfeed for users, Facebook had obviously not stood still in terms of advertising. Relatively newer targets frequently used as reach, stories and video views combined with low CPM (cost per 1,000 people reached) caused shifts in media budgets. Even entire television budgets were suddenly transferred integrally to digital & social. Without pardon. Video became (and is!) the new showpiece, in short: a new way of broadcasting, but much more measurable and flexible than any other broadcasting model has ever been.

Within no time, end users were complaining that it was no longer about them, but about the Zuckerberg advertising machine. It probably won't have escaped your notice, nor surprise you, that over the past 2-3 years, criticism has been skyrocketing and even the number of users is declining. Young people in particular (early adopters) prefer other media.

Zuckerberg wrote about this in early 2018: "It's easy to understand how we got here. Video and other public content have exploded on Facebook in the past couple of years. Since there's more public content than posts from your friends and family, the balance of what's in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do -- help us connect with each other". In a way, he is trying to go back to the networking model because he is afraid of losing the masses. And without mass no advertising cash cow....

Fortunately, he is losing many of his Facebook users to Instagram. Give the man a statue.

Struggle for attention

With the Facebook knowledge that its users have, the increasing negativity around the platform & privacy and the current advertising budgets, we can never really go all the way back to the networking model. Even more so: we are fighting for a piece of the attention of consumers who - however fitting the story - have a keen sense that there is a commercial mindset behind it, and in doing so, we are not only competing with our competition's advertising budgets, we are also fighting with (or against) our consumer's attention span. And that also impacts content and KPIs.

So, we are not going back to measuring engagement. Or at least not quite. Likes, comments and shares are obviously still indicative KPIs that tell us something about how content is catching on. But it doesn't actually tell us the whole story. In doing so, we miss the people who might be interested, but who do not let us know by a like, comment or share. Just think to yourself: how often do you do this with a page's content? Actually, the time you spend on content is just as important. If we were able to captivate someone from our target audience for x number of seconds, that is a great insight. By measuring this, we can say something about interest that may not be visible on the surface - how cool is that! Therefore, we always keenly watch viewout percentages of our videos and optimize our content accordingly.

Long story short: we have all evolved on Facebook from fan gathering to time-spent on content!

Do you measure other things on social media / Facebook? We would be happy to help you think about whether your KPIs are a good match for the platform and your target groups. Mail or drop by for a coffee at our (fairly new) office at the Triple O campus in Breda.