- Category: September 2012 - Performance Marketing
The research, which primarily leverages data and analysis from comScore and Facebook’s internal analytics platform, focuses on the impact of branded, earned and paid media exposure on the behavior of Facebook Fans and Friends of Fans. The most interesting part of the research is the three intermediary steps to really get results, which apparently most brands don‘t consider.
Brands can maximize the impact of their social marketing programs on Facebook by leveraging a framework that helps them move beyond Fan acquisition to delivering reach, impact, and measurable marketing ROI. Using the Brand Page as a control panel for creating social marketing programs, brands should focus on benchmarking and optimizing on the following dimensions to deliver against their broader marketing objectives:
• Fan Reach: Exposure in the News Feed
For brands to resonate on Facebook, the first step is literally to be seen. While brands have the opportunity to communicate directly with their Fans through the News Feed, not every brand message delivered results in an exposure to a Fan. Facebook uses an algorithm to help optimize the messages users see in their News Feed, and while the exact algorithm is not public information, it is clear that relevance plays a role in message visibility. So brands in which consumers engage more regularly, whether through a comment, share, like, or check-in, have a greater likelihood of being seen on the News Feed, otherwise known as Fan Reach or “cut-through”. In addition to optimizing with a focus on delivering relevant earned messages to Fans, brands can also extend their reach on Facebook using Facebook’s ad platform. For example, a Page Post can be promoted to ensure it reaches a far larger percentage of a brand’s fan base than would be reached organically.
• Engagement: Fans interacting with Brand Page Marketing Content
Engagement with brand messages – such as a like, share, post, check-in, etc. – has recently become a hot topic of discussion in the social marketing arena. A recent study demonstrates that only a small percentage (typically just around 1 percent of Fans) actually engage with a given brand message. The research concluded that due to the low engagement rate, brands should perhaps not look to Facebook as a primary marketing channel.
However, this research conclusion overlooks a few critical aspects of why even apparently low engagement rates may be more valuable than one might think. Consider, for the sake of comparison, display ad engagement (i.e. click-through) rates. According to DoubleClick, click-through rates on display ads most recently stand at approximately 0.1 percent. When examined through that lens, a social marketing engagement rate of 1 percent is greater by a factor of 10.
If any value at all is placed on the display ad click-through, then perhaps more credit should be given to a social engagement rate of 1 percent. But this argument still ignores the full effect of social engagement, which is that such actions – however low in incidence – provide a means of significantly expanding the reach of a particular message throughout the user’s network. This phenomenon is referred to as amplification.
• Amplification: Expanding Reach by promoting Content to Friends of Fans
Amplification is perhaps the most important, and least understood, element of achieving brand reach and resonance on Facebook. The idea behind amplification is that Fans who are reached with brand messages can also serve as a conduit for brand exposure to Friends within their respective social networks. Because the average Facebook Fan has hundreds of Friends, each person has the ability to potentially reach dozens of Friends with earned impressions through their engagement with brand messages.
Due to factors like Fan Reach, the average brand message from the Top 1,000 brands on Facebook is able to deliver an actual amplification of 81x if their efforts are maximized. In practice, while organic virality at times falls short of this ideal scenario, brands are often able to double the reach of their Page Posts through Friends of Fans. To help brands maximize the effect engagement can have on reach Facebook offers Sponsored Stories, a means for promoting brand engagement to users’ Friends.
One way to quantify how brands are performing in terms of brand amplification is with the Amplification Ratio, a metric that divides the number of Friends of Fans reached by the number of Fans reached with earned media, or the number of impressions reaching each of these segments. An analysis of the top Facebook brands was conducted to determine their respective Amplification Ratios as a way of establishing some basic benchmarks around how top brands perform on this dimension. The top ten corporate brands had an average Amplification Ratio average of 1.05 (Range: 0.42 to 2.18). The top 100 brands (excluding Celebrities & Entertainment) had an average Amplification Ratio of 0.84 (Range: 0.06 to 2.87).
Further Key Findings of the Research were:
- Most leading brands on Facebook achieve a monthly earned Amplification Ratio of between 0.5 and 2.0, meaning that they extend the reach of their earned media exposure of Fans to Friends of Fans by 50-200%. These ratios can be increased to improve brand reach by focusing on tactics to optimize Fan Reach and Engagement and by supplementing with paid advertising strategies.
- Facebook represents a unique marketing channel that enables Paid, Earned and Owned Media to be leveraged to create a virtuous cycle of brand impact. Brands use display ads and other paid media (Paid) to attract Fans to the Brand Page (Owned), which serves as a platform for marketing communications that reach Fans and Friends of Fans (Earned) in the News Feed and other sections of the website. These communications can then be supplemented through paid display campaigns, such as Sponsored Stories and Promoted Page Posts, to maximize reach and brand resonance (Paid).
- Concentrated social media campaigns, such as those performed during important marketing promotions, can significantly amplify the reach of earned media exposure. Such amplification may drive increased awareness and consideration that is manifested through higher brand purchase behavior among exposed Fans and Friends of Fans.
- The causal effects of earned media exposure on Facebook Fans and Friends of Fans can be isolated using a test vs. control methodology. In the case of Starbucks, exposed Fans and Friends of Fans showed statistically significant lifts in in-store purchase incidence for each of the four weeks following earned media exposure.
- The increasing cumulative lift in purchase behavior among exposed Starbucks Fans and Friends of Fans provides strong evidence of a latent branding impact of earned media exposure. This same latent effect was observed in the lift in purchase incidence among exposed Fans and Friends of Fans of retailer Target.
- Exposure to Facebook Premium Ads also drove statistically significant lifts in both online and in-store purchase incidence for a major retailer over a four-week post-exposure period. This research highlights the importance of using view-through display ad effectiveness in a medium where click-through rates are known to be lower than average for many campaigns.
Collectively, this research focuses on how social marketing works and enables brands to understand useful frameworks for quantifying their social marketing efforts and evaluating its impact. The data and analysis included in this paper will demonstrate how social marketing programs can be optimized to deliver against marketing objectives within the context of a brand’s broader marketing mix.