Facebook can be an effective platform for advertisers, according to a report released Tuesday by comScore.
The results appear to counter the findings of a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll in which four out of five respondents claimed they were never influenced by advertisements or comments on the site regarding products or services.
The comScore report, however, found that Facebook users who were fans, or friends of those fans, of brands such as Starbucks, Target and Amazon were more likely to purchase from those companies than Facebook users who were not fans.
In the case of Target, Facebook fans were 19 percent more likely to purchase from Target in the four weeks following brand exposure on the site compared to a control group. Friends of those Target fans were 27 percent more likely to buy. ComScore saw similar positive results from fans of Starbucks.
Facebook users become a “fan” of a certain brand by “liking” it on Facebook. Then, they’ll receive updates from that company just as they would from their other Facebook friends. Brands can use that opportunity to post ad campaigns or pay Facebook for Sponsored Stories and Promoted Page Posts, which guarantee more exposure.
Still Feeling Out the Platform
The study comes about a month after Facebook went public and and faced stiff questions from investors about whether the site could maintain profitability in the ad space going forward, particularly in the mobile space. The company’s stock has had a rough first month out of the gate.
The study could help shed some new light on the most effective ways to use Facebook as an advertising platform, comScore said. That kind of knowledge is necessary, added Jennifer Sheahan, founder of FBAdsLAB, since placing ads via social networks is a relatively new method of branding.
“The reality is … Facebook is an entirely new platform,” she told the E-Commerce Times. “We’re selling in a social context, and this requires a fresh approach.”
That approach requires a new way of thinking outside of traditional methods of advertising, she said, which will result in a branding scene in which even small companies can compete with the likes of Starbucks, Target and Amazon.
“The bottom line is, you can’t use billboard-style advertising and expect direct response results,” she said. “Far too many companies think they can throw up generic branding ads and see an instant boost in sales. The cool thing is, this strategy is very effective for small and large businesses alike. It has leveled the playing field.”
Since the platform is in its infant stages, part of the learning process is understanding how to measure and quantify results, said Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research Group.
“There have always been effective ways to use Facebook, and a good agency paired with a client who has goals which are consistent with optimal ways to use Facebook can use it effectively,” he said. “Just because people don’t click on ads doesn’t mean they don’t work.”
To Target or Not to Target?
Since the comScore study revealed that Facebook ad effectiveness is tied largely to whether users are already a fan of the brand, it becomes part of a larger debate over how much personal information websites can use to target ads. Facebook and other websites, perhaps most notably Google, have come under fire from privacy advocates for the amount of data they collect from their users.
Google and other sites argue that even a few small pieces of information it can gather about a consumer, such as their location and eating habits, can help make search or ad results more efficient. For instance, a vegetarian in San Francisco who searches for nearby restaurants would be directed toward a vegetarian restaurant in the city rather than a steakhouse in New York.
Still, many consumer advocacy groups warn that there’s no end to the data sites like Facebook can collect, and that their gathering methods are too invasive. But studies like the one from comCast show that consumers might be growing accustomed to the more targeted ads, and even beginning to appreciate them, said Sheahan.
“Effective Facebook ads are narrowly targeted, using gender, location and interest targeting, and are written to encourage a response from viewers,” she said. “We’ve found consumers are far more likely to purchase from brands they know and interact with regularly.”
Facebook didn’t respond to our request for comment.