Resisting the Siren Call of Popular Digital Media Measures: Facebook Research Shows No Link between Trendy Online Measures and Ad Effectiveness

Brad Smallwood


Editors' Note

Brad Smallwood leads Facebook’s Marketing Science team, which captures insights on people’s attitudes and behaviors across generations, geographies, devices, and time. The team also measures the value of digital advertising and creates methods and partnerships that, Facebook believes, provide value for marketers. In this article, Smallwood describes Facebook’s early struggles with assessing the value of popular metrics—such as building a brand’s fan base and using the topic data—that Facebook’s own research eventually found to have no impact on brands’ performance. As a result, Facebook is diminishing the stature of “shiny” metrics, such as users’ “Likes,” “Shares,” and message posts, yet admits to being complicit in the spread of “some that still litter your dashboards.” The details of this cautionary tale offer important lessons for executives who, Smallwood says, will succeed only if they empower their organizations to become more data-literate and elevate the role of analytics in the decision-making process.1