Facebook Apologizes…Again

Facebook announced yet another major miscalculation on the part of their advertising platform, the tenth such mistake in the last eight months. This time however, the error wound up costing advertisers who used the platform’s carousel video ad product and were charged for clicks that didn’t actually occur. So, what exactly happened?

When an advertiser sets up a video ad, they’re asked by Facebook if they’d like to be charged per impression, view, or click to the website. For advertisers who chose “click to website”, Facebook inadvertently charged them not only when someone clicked on the link to their site, but also when a user clicked to play the video in full-screen mode. This mistake was limited only to ads shown on Facebook’s mobile site, and not on their desktop site or native apps. Facebook has fully refunded the affected advertisers.

Potentially catastrophic damage was mitigated by the fact that a relatively small proportion of users access Facebook via the mobile site. But a larger problem looms for Facebook – Why have they had so much trouble with their ad platform’s reporting abilities in recent months? In September the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook had been using a questionable formula to calculate their video view metrics, leading to artificially inflated view totals and average watch time, with average CPV’s appearing cheaper than they really were.

Then, only a few months later, it was revealed that they had again been using faulty formulas in calculating the reach of organic posts on the platform. In the months that followed, they’ve found themselves in the news for more errors in video view reporting, and an array of other mistakes. For a company that was built around bringing people together through algorithms, they’ve really struggled to put together basic reporting formulas for their users.

Ultimately, this newest revelation isn’t the end of the world for Facebook. A relatively small number of advertisers were affected, and they were quick to get out in front of it and offer refunds. But as these problems become more rule than exception, we find ourselves more regularly cautioning clients to take their Facebook results with a grain of salt.