For years, the success of brands’ advertisements and content on Facebook was predicated on the idea of engagements — how many clicks the content got, how many comments it received, how many likes it generated, etc. But now, there’s a relatively new metric the social media platform started prioritizing: dwell time. This metric has quickly become one of the top considerations for brands and publishers who want to continue finding success on Facebook; here’s a rundown of dwell time and what it means for video content on the social site.

What Is Facebook Dwell Time?

Essentially, dwell time is the total amount of time a user hovered over a particular post or piece of content in their feed, and includes users who have both engaged or not engaged with the content. The longer a particular user keeps their screen frozen on a Facebook video, the longer its dwell time will be. For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume “content” refers to any type of video content or ad.

Why Does It Matter?

Dwell time is technically a more accurate way to determine whether or not a particular piece of content was impactful, reached its target audience, or had tangible business results, regardless of engagements or clicks. In fact, Facebook adopted this type of metric because the site found in 2012 through an ROI study with Datalogix that “more than 90% of offline sales come from people who don’t interact with ads during the campaign.”

This surprising statistic disproves the so-called value of click-throughs, clicks, likes, and similar action-based engagement metrics on Facebook. The social media site has even called these types of metrics stand-ins:

“Online engagement metrics are a proxy for interest, but they are not a reliable indicator of the content’s persuasiveness. Persuasive content influences your audience in a way that helps move your business.”

As such, Facebook has been placing more emphasis over the last year on dwell time as it is a better measure of effectiveness and helps prove a user’s actual interest in the content. This is the opposite of engagement metrics, which can merely reflect behavior patterns (i.e. a user might have a penchant for clicking the “like” button but not actually remember later what they liked).

How Does Facebook Dwell Time Work?

After implementing dwell time, Facebook created three new ad recall metrics for brands running promoted campaigns:

  • Estimated Ad Recall Lift (People)  —  The additional number of people Facebook estimates will remember seeing your ads if asked within 2 days
  • Estimated Ad Recall Lift Rate  —  The estimated number of people who will recall your ad divided by the number of people your ad reached
  • Cost Per Estimated Ad Recall Lift (People)  —  The average cost per additional person Facebook estimates will recall seeing your ad if asked within 2 days

To get an idea of how effective your content is actually performing based on these metrics, all you need to do is set up a campaign with brand awareness and reach optimization as your objective. Facebook estimates this particular objective results in an average 60% higher ad recall lift than campaigns which choose engagement as their primary goal.

Once your brand awareness/reach campaign is running, Facebook uses various factors such as the number of people you reached with previous ads and how much time people spent looking at those ads to serve your content to audiences who are most likely to pay attention. In the long run, this increases brand awareness and better ad recall ROI for brands most interested in increasing recognition of their company and message.

How Does Dwell Time Play into Your Video Strategy?

If you’re a brand or publisher who’s predominantly focused on clicks in the past, you’ll need to reframe the way you think about your video content strategy. Instead, you should be working to develop content and ads your audience members will keep their eyes glued to for longer periods of time, even if all they do is scroll through their feeds and pause on your video without clicking it. Make sure you keep a close eye on your metrics so you can see what type of content most resonates with your followers and continue to make more of it.

For brands who have tried to find a balance between engagements, clicks, and dwell time, there’s no reason to stop this practice. All you need to do is adjust it more in favor of dwell time if you want your videos to succeed on Facebook from hereon out. Some factors to consider are the effectiveness of the images and text you use and the amount of awareness your audience already has about your brand.

Additionally, if your brand is one of the select few looking to start using Facebook’s upcoming mid-roll ads, you’ll need to make sure your content is compelling enough to keep users interested beyond the interruption. Careful editing will help a great deal here (i.e. using a cliffhanger cut), and of course your ability to tell a story and deliver a message will also convince audiences to continue watching through the ad break.