Facebook has said all along that CTRs are irrelevant as a metric for social ads, instead trotting out the line that “you can’t click on a TV ad, but we know that they still work.”

If you were cynical you may think this was a way of masking the fact that people don’t click on Facebook ads in huge numbers.

But should social ads be treated differently to other digital channels such as display ads found on other sites or Google’s PPC ads, which are judged to a varying extent on their CTR?

A recent infographic from Wordstream compared the effectiveness of ads placed on Google and Facebook, highlighting that the average CTR for Facebook ads is 0.051% compared to 0.4% for Google.

But this discrepancy is to be expected, as Google ads are presented when a user is actively searching for information about a particular topic or product while Facebook ads appear when the user is essentially socialising.

Facebook would counter that the longer term impact on brand value is more important and that can’t necessarily be measured in clicks. But does that mean CTR should be ignored?

Facebook’s EMEA head of customer market insights Andy Pang said at Facebook Marketing 2012 last week that we “shouldn’t get too hung up on CTRs” as there are more relevant metrics such as reach and consumer reaction to the ads.

To support his case, he highlighted a KitKat campaign that ran in the UK in January. It generated £1.34 in sales for every £1 invested in Facebook ads compared to £1.11 from TV and £1.02 from online display ads.

It wasn’t surprising to hear another Facebook exec defending its ad platform, but at the same conference TBG Digital head of social strategy Jeremy Waite made a similar point.

He suggested that social isn’t like Google where campaign success can be measured in clicks. 

Instead brands should be using social to build a relationship with consumers and telling stories that create an emotional connection.

But in a digital world where everything is measured in clicks, will agencies be able to sell this to their clients who need solid metrics that help them to justify their budgets?

A new report released by TBG Digital shows that Facebook CTRs in the UK are 0.032%, rising to 0.041% in Germany.

This roughly tallies with a report that Marin Software published in May which set Facebook CTRs at 0.04% in the UK.

However TBG’s report states that Facebook’s Sponsored Story ads, which basically flag up the fact that a friend has liked a brand or product, led to a 53% increase in CTRs.

This indicates that social ads do have a higher resonance with consumers, but the fact that TBG used CTR as a measure of success shows that it is still a relevant metric.

AlchemySocial global strategy director Will Ashton said that while CTRs are important, it is only one of an ever-growing number of performance metrics on Facebook.

The 'best' measure of success for ads on Facebook should be the one that is the most relevant to your marketing objectives.

He said that no digital marketing channel should look at metrics in isolation, as a particular ad may have a low CTR but a high conversion rate. It all depends on what the objectives of the campaign are as to whether high CTR is deemed to be a measure of success.

Ashton said that for other channels (such as PPC, SEO or display) CTR is just one of a number of KPIs, so Facebook is no different.

It is simply a case that whatever channel brands or marketers are working with they should take time to understand what can be measured and for what purpose versus what they want to measure.

So, what do you think? Should Facebook ads be measured on CTR? Or are there more important metrics? Let us know in the comments below.

David Moth

Published 24 July, 2012 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (8)

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Richard Conyard

I'm glad to see that the article is not ultimately reflective of the title, but still it is a push.

The challenge in measurement of any campaign are not metrics, but metrics that matter. Engagement is core to the FB platform and engagement metrics will always be favourite to route into KPIs to measure success. The trouble is to engage campaigns are often boosted by the awareness that is created by on-platform advertisements, and that is where whether through agency and / or direct ROI comes to the fore.

CTR across social (not just Facebook), is lower, but ignoring attributable spend in campaign is only throwing the baby out with the bath water. To do otherwise pushes us back to the bad old days of GRP. CTR may not form the backbone of return (in fact it really shouldn't), but as a metric of funnel success across spend it's invaluable; I spend money = I want the most bang per buck.

Digital is many things, but one definite point is that digital is measurable and provable; to treat a campaign in any other fashion is at best unprofessional.

about 6 years ago


Jeremy Waite

Nice article. The whole ROI debate is a good one and certainly the hottest topic of any social media event. What brands / marketers need to remember though is that ROI is going to mean different things to different brands. For some - a straight £ measurement (traditional return on INVESTMENT) metrics are the most relevant.

But for FMCG brands it may be that brand awareness (return on IMPRESSIONS) is the most important. If you wanted to take the analogy further - targeting the most valuable fans / followers / subscribers is incredibly powerful as well and a very powerful KPI. Like Kred for example --> this could be return on INFLUENCE.

You want to build a community, like Nike+ are doing for the Olympic with #makeitcount - maybe engagement is the most important factor to measure - this could be return on INTERACTIONS.

It's a complex issue and one that very few brands and agencies understand. Thanks for the article - good to keep this debate going. The more people we can educate about what ROI in social really means, the easier all our jobs will be. :)

about 6 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Managing Editor at Barclaycard

Thanks for your comments guys, it's definitely a tricky subject and one that warrants further debate.

However I have to hold my hands up and admit that the headline was supposed to say 'Is CTR an irrelevant metric for Facebook ads?'! It still sort of made sense with the old ROI headline, but I've changed it to reflect my original intentions :)

about 6 years ago

Nichola Finan

Nichola Finan, digital marketing at Media-input

I think we should look at social ads differently to conventional display placements. Social ads essentially 'eavesdrop' on conversations and exchanges between friends/family, and we wouldn't dream of interrupting a real conversation, to which we haven't yet been invited to join, with a sales pitch! But the invitation may be forthcoming, if something of value and relevance is offered up - then the CT will come, and the subsequent follow up will determine how the relationship develops. So, yes to CT, but consider the intervention and track the subsequent behaviours in qual or quant form, depending on campaign objectives etc

about 6 years ago


matt dailey

Hi David,

A few points I would like to make on this. Firstly, Facebook comparing anything they do to a TV ad is nonsense because a static ASU has no where near the impact of a good TV ad. Secondly, I would like to know the methodology behind the Kit kat ROI example and as unsurprising at it is that an agency that only works with Facebook, supports Facebook efficacy, the argument that it should be used to build relationships and tell stories is correct but that is not done through Facebook ads.

I am also a bit confused about some of the information you have provided. You mention the Wordstream infographic and then comment that the better Google CTR is to be expected because people are actively searching. But the infographic is comparing Facebook to GDN and not Search? So actually it is a fair comparison and just shows that allowing greater levels of targeting will increase relevancy and therefore response. The other thing that needs clarity is that you say the wordstream study showed a Facebook CTR of 0.051%. You then go on to say that TBG have put it at 0.32% and that this tallies with a Marin study which puts it at 0.04%. So either, you have some typos in some of these figures, or you believe that a study that claims a CTR figure 10 times larger than another, somehow "tallies"?

Facebook provides advertisers 2 options. Either push advertising at people with a basic level of targeting, in which case it should be measured on CTR and other hard performance measures, or actually engage with them as a brand on a brand page and this should be measured on other engagement measures. Brands need to decide which best suits there KPI's but Facebook and other interested parties like TBG should not be trying to mix these things together to turn a negative comparative performance into a positive

about 6 years ago


Larry Kim

Hi - As the previous commenter pointed out, the WordStream study compared display ads on google vs. display ads on facebook, So the comparison is valid.

We did however, recently release a different study comparing CTR on Google Search vs. Facebook Display ads, in which case Google Search beat Facebook Display by 600x.

As for the title of this article: Is CTR Irrelevant Metrics for Facebook ads? I think that many publishers with lousy CTR's have tried to justify their existence to sucker marketers for years by jamming your banner ads in front of random people who are not at all interested in their offering, and calling that 'branding'.

about 6 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Managing Editor at Barclaycard

@Matt, thanks for your comment. You are right about the stats not tallying - it should have been 0.032% so I have now corrected it. Thanks for pointing that out.

@Matt and Larry, thanks for your clarifications on the Google vs. Facebook comparison, I hadn't noticed it wasn't talking about search.

about 6 years ago


Stephan Jaeckel

Well if CTR is what the customer wants he or she will likely get it. ROI is a much better value but how should ROI actually be defined in a Social Media context?

If we limit it to those facebook-ads being clicked and a sale executed somewhere donw the line within the next 3 or 7 days then its way too limited.

Hence while we have to acknowledge that many companies with hybrid slales models do have troubles already tracking a slae that took off online yet got completed offline, we also have to see that Social Media impact goes way beyond the ordinary sales process.

Just look at the recent strom Vodafone had in Germany with just one Lady complaining about getting a 250+ Euro bill for a device which was turned off for the whole month. 60.000 Likes and over 6.000 comments.

This is worth something and it shows how much qualified staff is needed for social communication in a large enterprise! However you want to put it into USD, Euros, Pound Sterling, Swiss Francs or whatsoever currency?

How to value the return of a customer complaint that leads to detecting a serious flaw with your software, accounting processes, customer care or complaints response departments? Sure, if bean-counters sit together for long enough they will find prices to stick to each possible and even the unthinkable occurrance in Socila Media. And programmers will be glad to assist business by implementing all this in code. But will that pay off?

Social Media activities go way much beyond the traditional banner-, advertising-, allifilate- newsletter- or "whatsoever"-marketing. We can take time to find ways to calculate the ROI or can simply act on the firm belief and knowledge that interacting serioulsy, honestly, respectfully with clients and potential clients in an transparent business process environment will pay-off - many, many times higher than any impementation of yet another analytics tool to track CTR or ROI or even the popularity of the CEO.

about 6 years ago

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