I had interesting discussion on Twitter the other day around the general trustworthiness of Facebook versus Google. This was in response to a post I wrote about how Facebook had backhandedly admitted that it was squeezing reach to encourage use of its promotional products.
I argued that Google appears more trustworthy because of their consistency with their ad product. At the time I really didn’t have any substantiation of the relative trustworthiness of Facebook relative to Google, but maybe now I do.
It turns out that some small businesses are suing Facebook in U.S. District Court for not sufficiently verifying the clicks on their CPC (cost-per-click) advertising product. And the standard that they use as an example? Google.
What should Facebook be responsible for?
In the Facebook Advertising Click and Impression Quality, they say this about how they ferret out bad clicks:
You see, Google is party to the Interactive Ad Bureau (IAB) Ad Verification Standards. Among other things, this means that their CPC ads have been audited to determine that Google is being earnest to filter false clicks. It doesn’t mean that competitors aren’t running up your AdWords tab, but known miscreant sites and robots aren’t.
Facebook is a part of the IAB, too. They don’t do external audits of their CPC practices, though. So, businesses that advertise have to trust that Facebook is going to have their best interests at heart.
What this means for businesses advertising on Facebook
There has always been a portion of Facebook activity that has been noise. One of my favorite explanations of this was Merry Morud’s great analysis in Search Engine Watch which estimated that 17-28% of clicks on a particular ad could be bots.
Businesses should expect noise on Facebook. And they should have clear metrics in place to determine whether Facebook Advertising is achieving their objectives. This should be a practice regardless of trustworthiness of Facebook’s ad product. If Facebook’s honesty is a concern it seems that the metrics could be tested with greater frequency, and that alternative advertising methods (such as AdWords) should be considered.
But is honesty REALLY the measure? Probably not. Trying to develop a viral campaign on app.net might align you with truthful people, but it’s not going to accomplish much. Having good measurement in place to judge whether Facebook ads are successfully doing what you want them to is probably a better solution. And my guess is that businesses that are sore about fake clicks should have had known about it a long time before they blew $1000 on advertising (one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit spent $1000, one spent about $700).
If businesses develop thoughtful campaigns with good metrics, they don’t have to worry about who they trust. And to me, that seems like the best case scenario.