Nielsen Study Produces Victory for Facebook's 'Earned Media'

  |  April 20, 2010   |  Comments

Joint report shows that paid ads perform better when combined with organic mentions in the news feeds.

Facebook ads perform better when brands employing them also have a healthy dose of fans on the social site, according to a joint report being released today by The Nielsen Company and Facebook. Their findings show that Facebook friends affect ad performance when it comes to recall, click-throughs, and purchase intent. It was an unsurprising, but still intriguing, victory for so-called earned media.

For instance, one aspect of the study looked at 14 campaigns including Facebook's "Become a Fan" ad unit (which will soon be replaced with the copy "Like.") It found Facebook users who saw a paid "Become a Fan" ad in conjunction with a news feed mention of the brand by a friend were three times more likely to remember the ad.

Nielsen spent six months surveying around 800,000 Facebook users from more than 125 ad campaigns on the social site. A total of 70 brands were included. New York-based Nielsen said it examined the ads from a paid vs. "earned media" angle. The term "earned media" describes advertising that Facebook friends share with one another.

About 18 million users saw Facebook ads in the study, Nielsen said, but only around 130,000 of those - less than 1 percent - clicked on the promos. For the brands utilized in the report, around 1 million users saw organic mentions of those companies without seeing the ads. Four percent of the users clicked through when they saw friends becoming brand fans in their news feeds. In other words, while the sample sizes were vastly different, earned media had four times the click-through rate as paid ads.

Meanwhile, Facebook home page ads - delivered to users' personalized home screens - performed well compared with a control group with similar demographics that did not. The ads, on average, produced a 10 percent increase in ad recall, a 4 percent lift in brand awareness, and a 2 percent hike in purchase intent.

Recall jumped to 16 percent when ads entailed mentions of friends who were brand fans, and to 30 percent when the ads accompanied a corresponding mention in users' news feeds.

Brand awareness was also aided by those social references. It was 2 percent higher when a user was exposed to regular home page ads, 8 percent higher when the ads mentioned friends who were brand fans, and 13 percent higher when a home page ad was viewed along with a mention of friends who were brand fans in the users' news feeds.

In addition, purchase intent was 2 percent higher for home page viewers' ads vs. non-viewers. Yet purchase intent jumped 8 percent for either social ads or when ads coincided with organic mentions of the brand in the news feed.

Nielsen utilized its BrandLift polling system to execute the surveys in conjunction with Palo Alto, CA-based Facebook. The polls were constructed to maximize responses and generally consisted of only two or three questions, according to the companies. They are announcing the study, dubbed "Advertising Effectiveness: Understanding the Value of a Social Media Impression," today at ad:tech in San Francisco.

You can follow Christopher Heine on Twitter at @ChrisClickZ.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christopher Heine

Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.

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