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Since going public in what may be remembered as one of biggest IPO disasters ever, Facebook has come under fire as industry observers question the efficacy of its ad offerings.

But is all of the criticism of Facebook deserved? No, at least according to comScore.

Despite the fact that a large percentage of Facebook users say they're ignoring Facebook ads, comScore says that it's "time to change the discussion on measuring Facebook effectiveness."

In a blog post last Thursday, it previewed some of its findings from its upcoming report, The Power of Like 2: How Social Marketing Works. comScore's key claim: "Facebook earned media is having a statistically significant positive lift on people’s purchasing of a brand."

It came to this conclusion through a "test vs. control methodology", which the analytics firm believes is far superior to the surveys which have indicated most Facebook users are not paying attention to ads and marketing content on Facebook.

"While surveys can be useful in assessing ad effectiveness lifts across attitudinal dimensions such as brand awareness, favorability and purchase intent, people tend not to provide very accurate assessments of their own behavior. And their accuracy in recalling their own behavior over an extended period of time can be especially unreliable," comScore's Andrew Lipsman explained.

So do comScore's findings, which will apparently cast a more positive light on Facebook, trump all of the evidence, some of it anecdotal, that Facebook just isn't as powerful a marketing platform as many had hoped it would be? Perhaps, but there are a few key points worth keeping in mind:

  • comScore is not a disinterested observer. As AllThingsDigital's Peter Kafka notes, Facebook is a comScore client and the two companies collaborated on this new report, as well as an earlier report on Facebook marketing. While it would be inappropriate to suggest that comScore and Facebook are cooking the books so to speak, there's no doubt that with so much money being invested in social, companies in the online advertising ecosystem have little incentive to say "It just doesn't work!"
  • There is no such thing as earned media on Facebook. comScore's report focuses on 'earned media' on Facebook, but is there really such a thing? Brands invest a lot of money in their Facebook Pages, but they don't really own them. Through its EdgeRank algorithm, Facebook can control the reach of brand messages, and when Facebook makes changes, those changes can have a huge impact -- and not always for the better.
  • ROI may still be questionable. Even if there are ways marketers can use Facebook to positive effect, brands will still need to look at ROI. After all, 'earned media' on Facebook isn't free. Case in point: of GM's $30m in Facebook spend, $20m of it was apparently going to its 'free' Facebook Page. Clearly, content doesn't create itself, and Facebook initiatives don't run themselves.

At the end of the day, the differing views on the efficacy of marketing on Facebook serve as a strong reminder that there's no substitute for defining, tracking and analyzing.

Facebook is changing, and will continue to change. Mobile usage is up, audience growth is slowing, and the company will continue to try new things. The only way brands can really make smart, well-informed strategic decisions around their Facebook marketing investments is to make sure they've defined KPIs for Facebook initiatives, are collecting the data needed to measure them and have staff diligently analyzing the data regularly to see if their investments are bearing fruit.

Brands doing anything less than this (like trusting a survey or a report) might as well flip a coin to answer the question, "Does Facebook marketing work?"

Patricio Robles

Published 11 June, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2391 more posts from this author

Comments (7)

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ONPOINT IT SOLUTIONS

I would say facebook marketing works especially for businesses-mostly those are entirely online but a strategy can be formulated to instil social media marketing as a marketing tool in a company.

about 4 years ago

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Alisa

GM pulling its $10 million in ads is a pretty strong indication to me that businesses don't think Facebook is effective. The fact that FB collaborated with comScore to create this flattering report is further proof that FB is floundering at the moment. It's possible that the social network would start to charge general users. These fees would be for more advertising that is sure to come and of course the opportunity to connect with friends and find out what your friend's cousin's wife is eating for dinner...

You say, "...in what may be remembered as one of biggest IPO disasters ever..." ...very well put!

about 4 years ago

David Gelb

David Gelb, Director at www.JBiWebDesign.co.uk

We have found that facebook is only strong with certain B2C campaigns rather than B2B. With businesses we tend to get better results using other platforms such as LinkedIn.

about 4 years ago

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Lisa Gan

Facebook marketing works most for informal brand introductions. Like David (above), I believe businesses will stick to traditional methods for a while yet.

about 4 years ago

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Rosie

I've seen a trend over the past 3 years. I run a professional/technology network. LinkedIn use to drive lots of traffic, not so much now that it feels like it is full of spam. Facebook was hard to take off. I have a FB Page which now has over 3,000 likes, a reasonable amount, but still less then the 9000 in my LinkedIn group. However, FB now brings in more traffic.

about 4 years ago

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Stuart Meyler, Co-Founder at Beeby Clark + Meyler

Alisa - Since when do we consider decision making at GM to be particularly effective? The company would be out of business based on decisions made by marketing and product development if it were not for government backing. Can we stop crediting GM's management echelons as being stocked with marketing geniuses? After all, these are the people that brought you the Aztec, lest we forget.

Facebook and all forms of social media can be effective when deployed and measured accurately. comScore is reporting on that. What GM has decided (which looks like it was driven largely by ego) is immaterial. In fact, if you had done the opposite of what GM had done over the last 25 years, you would probably have a rather successful car company.

about 4 years ago

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JM Rodkey

Truth is, I've never used Facebook for anything by social networking. I've never bought anything based on a Facebook page, and can't figure out what all the hubbub is about. Facebook for marketing seems as weird as the paper bound Yellow Pages. What's the point? Who wants to be bombarded by dumb blogs and notes from marketers on their inbox? Who on earth is really going to go to Facebook to search for anything when a search engine trumps it? And who wants to spend time setting up accounts and chasing alerts when they have email, Google and a telephone? So if ANYONE is finding they are actually generating business from Facebook, I'd love to know about it.

almost 4 years ago

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