comScore just released report showing that Facebook gets nearly a third of ALL on-line ad impressions. That is almost three times as many as Yahoo and a whopping 15 times that of Google. Considering there were over ONE TRILLION ad impressions measures during Q1 – that is a darn significant amount of presence.
Not a bad bang for your advertising buck, y’know?
But do they actually work? Do display ads on Facebook actually generate what marketing is supposed to do – increase sales or, in the case of a non-profit, increase donations?
I am not going to degenerate into the pros and cons of click-through rates and how low the percentage of ad clicks actually occur. Heck, with over a trillion impressions a CTR rate of 0.1% still generates over a million clicks. Not too shabby.
But, I ask again – does it work? Do consumers see ads on their Facebook page and find they motivate them to seek more information? Or, are the display ads we see just mere wallpaper?
I am not doubting the comScore numbers in the least. I’m sure those ads are displayed and appear on enough pages to register these numbers. But are they really seen? It is like listening to the radio. The station may play a commercial and you may actually hear it – but did you listen to it?
This is a complex question that goes beyond a simple yes/no argument. The effectiveness of social media display depends on a variety of factors – starting with the content of the ad. As with any advertising medium, a campaign can fail because the message is unclear, poorly conceived, inappropriately placed, etc.
Still, given the relative low cost of getting big impression numbers on Facebook it would seem like a great place to advertise. Having done a few campaigns I know that Facebook does a good job of showing you impressions and clicks and the stats can be quite impressive. I have spent less than a thousand dollars and gotten literally millions of impressions (and literally hundreds of clicks).
If you let these numbers wash over you, you begin to think that ALL advertising should migrate to the web. The stats will dazzle you. Seventy-one percent of US Internet users have a Facebook account. The average time spent on Facebook per session is a whopping 23 minutes (top that Google!). Anyone you would possibly want to reach is on Facebook so you’d be a fool not to advertise there. Right?
If you spend any time on-line you will read pundit after guru signal that traditional media advertising is dead. Everything is on the Internet. Ask Pepsi how that worked for them this year.
The reality is that social media advertising – like social media marketing and social media engagement and social media hoopla – is an effective way to reach your target audience. It is just not the only way. Should it be part of your media mix? Absolutely! At these prices you’d be crazy not to participate.
From a traditional media marketing perspective I see social media advertising taking the place of traditional print ads. We spend more time on line than ever before and the dramatic decline of the printed newspaper is well documented.
Just don’t get blinded by these huge numbers. A trillion impressions is amazing…what did they get you?
Check out this chart from eMarketer. They suggest that unique visitors may not be all that unique since we all browse from different places and often clear out our cookies:
You can read the article here. But, this suggests that in the US unique visitors are inflated by a factor of three! How does that affect ad impressions?
The better question to ask is – how does that affect ad impression frequency. The age-old maxim for marketing is reach and frequency. Of the one trillion impressions recorded in Q1 – what was the frequency. I know we can do the math and approximate all of this but in the end….we just don’t know.
So, I return to my original question. With all the hubbub of social media marketing, how cool it is, how it is the next big thing and will eliminate all others – does it work?
I have seen case studies (and you can see plenty here) but I would love for someone to share with me one success story where social media was the only marketing medium used.
Steve Allan, Social Media Specialist
Addendum: Just as I was about to hit “publish” comes word that Facebook is refining their ad analytics to include measurements for both reach and frequency. a step in the right direction. Stay tuned.