comScore Upgrades Social Ad Tracking

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Despite the flood of marketers into social media, measuring the performance of advertising campaigns in the nascent digital category has remained a stumbling block to higher spending. With the release of a new service geared to tracking social advertising, comScore aims to help address the lack of standard metrics in the space. 

The enhancement to the company's core Ad Metrix offering will provide reporting and analysis of two different types of social display ads: Those appearing on social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn and "socially-enabled" ads appearing across the Web. The first type -- which comScore refers to as "socially-published ads" -- embraces non-IAB standard units combining text and images.

While comScore has always reported on the volume of display ads on social sites, the more granular reporting is intended to provide advertisers and agencies with a better understanding of how well they are working.

"Traditionally, the nonstandard nature of these ads has added to the complexity of classifying these ads according to advertiser and product," stated a comScore blog post Thursday. "With the introduction of Ad Metrix Social, comScore has resolved this issue through the development of a proprietary classification protocol, which ensures these ads are mapped to the appropriate advertiser."

The socially enabled ads, on the other hand, are standard IAB display ads running on the Web. Users click on them to go to Facebook or other social properties, usually via a "Like us on Facebook" or "Follow us on Twitter" button.

The goal is to drive up the number of brand fans. While these ads account for less than 1% of the entire U.S. display ad market, they are playing a more prominent role in certain categories, including CPG.

For example, comScore data shows 10% of all food and beverage advertisers' display ads are socially enabled, with several large brands, including Budweiser, Lifesavers, Oscar Mayer and 3 Musketeers, north of 40%. Mars Inc. ranked No. 1 among the top socially enabled display advertisers in August, with nearly 300 million impressions -- nearly 30% of its total ads -- across brands including M&Ms, Snickers and Skittles. Kraft Foods was runner-up, with 179 million impressions, or 32% of its display ads.

The top advertiser in terms of its number of ads on social networking sites was AT&T, with 3.9 billion, or 30% of its display ads, followed by Experian Interactive (1.7 million) and InterActiveCorp (1.3 million), which had the highest percentage of socially-published ads among the top 10 in the category, at 38.8%.

Facebook earlier this week itself introduced a new set of analytics for brands on Facebook including a new metric that tracks various types of social actions (comments, Wall posts) that a brand post generates over a week. The updated analytics dashboard for page owners on Facebook also shows the total number of "friends of fans" of a brand (excluding overlap) and overall reach -- the total audience exposed to a brand's content on the site, including earned and paid media.

Facebook now accounts for about one third of all display ads served online, according to comScore. The research firm also said that one out of every six minutes spent online is on a social networking site and that the average Internet user views more than 2,000 ads on social sites each month.

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