Social media advertising may have a bad reputation, but it doesn't have to be that way. According to a new study from Dynamic Logic, consumers are not any more annoyed by ads on social nets than other online ads. Howver, considering how little consumers like online advertising, that may be faint praise.
According to Dynamic Logic's Ad Reactions 2009 study, consumers consider social-media ads to be on par with online video advertising and just a bit more annoying than search and banner ads. Of course, TV and print have twice the favorability rates as online ads, but for a struggling medium, that should come as good news.
Out of 2,000 consumers surveyed in August 2009, 22% expressed a positive attitude toward ads on social media as well as online video ads. But consumers still tolerate offline advertising more than online ads — more than 40% had favorable reactions to print and TV ads.
However, with 59% of online users actively participating in social situations online, social media gives marketers many opportunities to engage with consumers. The question, of course, is whether advertising is the way to start those conversations. So far, sites like Facebook have had some trouble selling banner ads to brands. But according to this study, almost 3/4 of social media users would tolerate more advertising on the sites they visit in exchange for free content.
And of all online venues, Facebook has the highest advertising recall, with 58% of respondents remembering advertising on the site. That's compared to 52% of MySpace users, which is still far above the market norm of 39%.
Meanwhile, Facebook is working hard to translate the social graph into advertising dollars. The site is currently testing a tool to let advertisers track conversions from Facebook ads. The new effort would let brands buy "cost per acquisition" (CPA) advertising, and help Facebook prove that engaged consumers translate into paying customers.
There are still plenty of skeptics. Steve Rubel, Edelman Digital's senior VP-director of insights, tells AdAge:
"I don't think social-media ads are a long-term marketing vehicle. They are good for pushing people into a bigger brand platform like a Facebook page, but I don't think this will be a hugely dominant platform."
But the online ad market has skyrocketed in the past two years, and while it has fallen off in recent months, it's doing supremely better than traditional advertising. Favorability for newspapers ads fell from 56% two years ago to 42%, while TV has gone from 50% to 47% and magazines 53% to 45%.
Facebook estimates is has 350 million global users. Meanwhile, 80% of respondents said they had visited a social site and 59% claimed to be active users. Dynamic Logic says 13% of respondents follow brands on social networks. Retail, consumer packaged goods and technology are the ares that have the most followers, in that order. Consumers looking for new products, sales and discounts are the most avid brand followers in social media, meaning that individuals who follow brands in social media are looking to save money — and make purchases.
Convincing marketers to put their branding dollars into social media might be a harder sell, but the important thing to remember is that social media is an excellent way to grow the numbers of engaged consumers, and if sites like Facebook can show that their display ads grow the number of customers and brand loyalists, then they may just become a long-term marketing vehicle.