What Type Of Social Media Ads Are The Most Effective?

chartNow that social networks devour about a fifth of Web users' time, you might be wondering which ad formats are most effective on Facebook and its rivals.

Well, among the seven most common formats, sponsored content ads -- in which consumers viewed a page that was "brought to you by" a leading brand -- were the most engaging, yet produced the least purchase intent, according to a new study conducted by research firm Psychster, and commissioned by cooking/recipe hub Allrecipes.com.

Corporate profiles on social-networking sites produced greater purchase intent and more recommendations when users could become a "fan," and add the logo to their own profiles, than when they could not.

Meanwhile, "give and get" widgets -- in which individuals can create and customize something (a car or a dinner menu) and then either send it to a friend ("give" widget) or keep it for themselves ("get" widget) -- were more engaging than traditional banner ads, but no more likely to produce an intent to purchase.

Psychster's conclusions held across brands -- a leading soup brand and a leading car brand -- and publishers -- on Allrecipes.com and on Facebook.com -- but like traditional ads, widgets had increased success if the brand was relevant to the Web site.

"From banner ads, to widgets and branded profiles, ad types differ in the cognitive, social, and motivational foundations that make them a success, as well as the time and cost to bring them to market," said David Evans Ph.D., CEO of Psychster.

Whereas other research often focuses on marketing spending or performance metrics, Psychster's study focused on consumers' attitudes toward different ad types and the brands they promoted.

For the study, Psychster designed a multivariate online experimental survey. Mockups were created of seven ad types, appearing on one of two publisher Web sites (Allrecipes, or Facebook), and promoting one of two brands (a leading soup brand and a leading car brand), for a total of 28 combinations.

To capture the interactive nature of the ads, a video was recorded showing the screen activity of someone interacting with the mockups, complete with a narration.

The variations of the survey that depicted the ad types on Allrecipes were shown to 478 Allrecipes users who were recruited via a site-wide popover. Meanwhile, the variations that depicted ad types on Facebook were shown to 681 Facebook users recruited via a panel company.

Overall, "No ad type was so engaging that it overcame the advantage found by matching the brand to the Web site," added Evans. "It is widely believed that ads are at an advantage when the brand relates to the site on which it appears ... Our findings replicated this effect, such that the soup brand performed better on Allrecipes than it did on Facebook."

What's more, every format was clearly perceived to be an ad. Although none of the ads fully "disguised" themselves, sponsored content scored lowest on this scale, but possibly at the expense of a strong call to action.

Although banners and newsletters were most likely to be seen as ads, they were among the best at triggering purchase intent and viral recommendations.

4 comments about "What Type Of Social Media Ads Are The Most Effective?".
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  1. Joseph Pych from NextMark, Inc., March 30, 2010 at 9:16 a.m.

    That's an interesting study. I will be interested to learn more about the effectiveness of ads the context of the websites where they are displayed.

    In his example, the soup ad performed better on Allrecipes than on Facebook. It would be interesting to know the lift. If very significant, then that's a strong argument for site targeting versus audience targeting.

  2. Bill Mccloskey from Email Data Source, March 30, 2010 at 9:43 a.m.

    I'm always a bit skeptical when I read about studies "sponsored" by a particular brand or website. What strikes me about this particular study is it's implication that because an ad is seen on a "social media" site, it is therefore a social media ad. Social media marketing has much to do with two way interaction and less to do with traditional banner placement. At Email Data Source we track the effectiveness of Twitter marketing across thousands of brands. There is an art to science of social media marketing, but it has very little to do with what banner is placed on what web site. the key element is the motivation of influencers to expose your message to fans and followers.

  3. Eric Porres from SundaySky, March 30, 2010 at 10:21 a.m.

    An interesting but incomplete education. Too often, these studies ignore the cost of media relative to the effective lifts shared, and/or the frequency of exposure. In the first example, let's say that purchase intent on allrecipes is 2x greater than on Facebook. If Facebook is 1/3 the cost though, then Facebook is a more appropriate buy relative to the cost per brand point lift between both media entities. The same comparison can apply with respect to frequency. If the frequency of exposure was 10x for the greatest PI lift for site A and cost an effective $10cpm but the frequency to cause the same lift on site B was 5x but cost a $20cpm, both are equal.

    This study does not present the end-all-be-all answer to what social media ads are most effective. Our experience suggests that creative based on an understanding of human behavior for a given audience produces the greatest returns across most of the measurement spectrum (brand metrics, ctr, interaction rate, time spent). A given audience (forget about 'site specific' - think creation of audience and attributes based on age/gender/interests/actions, etc.) may have a higher propensity to 'rate content' or 'watch videos' than the Internet average; therefore, providing that audience with an ad creative with rating features and videos will be more apt to produce a favorable return. It's the fundamental understanding of audience that brings the returns that brands seek.

    Eric Porres, CMO
    Lotame Solutions, Inc.

  4. Ken Nicholas from VideoAmp, March 31, 2010 at 2:17 a.m.

    Not as much variance between discrete items as I would have thought, so I agree w/Joseph, and also wonder if this correlation holds for other Client segments; Entertainment, Movies, Autos, hair gel, Travel...?

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