Facebook (Possibly) Lies About Post Engagements On Boosted Posts

Posted By Debbie on September 2, 2014

I recently ran an experiment. I had a blog post here. I posted it to my Facebook page. And I wanted to try “boosting” it so more people would see that Facebook post (and hopefully click it to see the blog post). Seems simple, right?

For a flat fee, Facebook will offer to push your post to a range of people. I chose to spend $60 on the 2900-6000 range. That makes you assume what??? Oooo I might get 6000 people. Right there, Facebook should do a better job setting expectations. I’ve run lots of Facebook ads that promised lots of “reach,” and they always come in at the low end.

I also chose to push the boosted post to friends of people who already like my Facebook page. This was mostly an experiment for me, so I didn’t get too crazy with targeting. I created my ad and Facebook created 2 versions of it for the sake of reporting/tracking. One was what was shown to the people who already like my page (weird, I thought I was just showing the boost to their friends and not them) and one was show to their friends.

Let’s start with one main metric you need to know. Click to enlarge.

ScreenHunter_127 Sep. 01 17.38

Post engagements. 58 of them according to Facebook. At $1.03 each, I spent the $60 I chose to spend at the beginning of the Boost process. OK what are post engagements?

Click to enlarge, and then let’s discuss what’s here because it gets really slimey really fast.

ScreenHunter_126 Sep. 01 17.32

Here’s another slice of it, click to enlarge:

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And yet another slice from the post itself:

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And from many clicks deep, there’s this:

ScreenHunter_131 Sep. 01 17.54

There are a lot of confusing and possibly misleading things here:

  • My post got 0 shares according to this. How did it get 1 comment on a share if it got zero shares?
  • Yes, the post got 2 comments. One was from a friend of a friend. The second was me responding to her. I saw another screen that made it look like those 2 comments were part of my 58 post engagements. So did I pay $1.03 for my own comment because that’s a post engagement?
  • I have 58 “post engagemgents” but 11 “likes, comments, and shares.” Well then what are the other 47? Not sure. Can’t be clicks to my website because Facebook claims there’s 48 of those, and I’m looking for something that represents 47. If Facebook is being precise, I’ll be precise too.
  • I have 51 clicks. 48 supposedly to my website’s blog page. 3 on “other.” Do we not know what “other” represents? The info icon says that an “other” click is on the page title or “see more.” Ummm, OK.
  • Wait, do I have 51 clicks, 48 clicks, or 47 clicks? I’m so lost.
  • That number of clicks doesn’t match what Google Analytics reports from those days from Facebook as a source. Goog shows fewer than that by about 25%.
  • I have how many of what??? One place says reach was 2906 people. But then it also says 3180 people reached and 3174 of those were paid. So which is it?

What did I really end up with?

Tangibly, I ended up with 1 new like to my Facebook page and 1 comment on the post. I probably got about 30 people going to my blog post to read it (based on Google Analytics and not Facebook’s claim of clicks).

Facebook counted my own comment on the post as a “post engagement,” and it looked like they do math like this:

Total spent divided by totally wanky number of post engagements = your cost per engagement. Well then please don’t count MY replies in that!

Why don’t the stats match up with each other? What is reach REALLY? What the hell is a post engagement?

As usual, I’m unhappy with having spent money running some sort of ad on Facebook. It always seems so unrewarding and like money was just sucked from me for no good reason. The stats don’t match up. Reporting is weird. It’s all very uninspiring.

But of course, Facebook wants me to boost that post again for more reach!

ScreenHunter_132 Sep. 01 17.56

For $15, I can reach 3500 – 9200 people. Well, are those unique people? Or are those in addition to the nearly 3200 you say I already reached? Could you take $15 from me, reach 300, and say we’re done? I can’t tell. This is just completely unclear (and I’m not going to do it for the experiment).

The ranges are also kinda weird. For $50, I can reach 4600 – 12000 or for $60 for 4800 – 13000. So I could spend $50 or $60 and end up with 4800. That seems a little weird.

I also noticed I’m not paying specifically for post engagements.

I spent $60. I got somewhere between 2909 and 3184 “reach” based on which of Facebook’s numbers you believe. I got 58 post engagements, and I was told that means they were $1.03 each. But I didn’t get to bid on post engagements. I didn’t get to say HEY I’ll pay a dollar each for a post engagement, and run this ad until I’ve spent $60.

The tail wagged the dog. I got X amount of reach. I got Y amount of post engagements (whatever those are). And then the math was done later as some sort of “cost per.”

It would be interesting if like regular Facebook ads you could pay per click or engagement and bid on that amount. Otherwise, this is the old pay per impressions model (reach are impressions) later manipulated to look like pay per action. Which also ends up feeling like I paid for over 3100 people to see my ad and ignore it, assuming we believe that Facebook showed it to them.

I hope someday someone at Facebook decides that consistency and honest are important in all of their ad products.