As new ways to advertise and market products in the social sphere continue to proliferate, it's important to keep track of what is performing best for brands. According to a new study from psychological research firm Psychster, sharable items increase both engagement and purchase intent. 

And while it may be hard for branded content to assimilate completely into the social world, matching advertising to its surroundings is still a great way to increase performance in the space.

With a study commissioned by, Psychster found that letting consumers participate with branded experiences in social media increased their likelihood to recommend brands to friends as well as purchase products from brands.

Psychster tested mockups of seven types of ads on both Facebook and AllRecipes. They included banner ads, newsletters, branded profiles with a reciprocal logo, branded profiles without reciprocal logo, "give widgets," "get widgets" and sponsored content. They then created a video of consumers interacting with the mockups. In total, the ads were shown to 478 Allrecipes users and 681 Facebook users.

Sponsored content, which is most likely traditional advertising, resulted in the most engagement, but lowest purchase intent. Corporate profiles on social networks resulted in greater purchase intent, but that multiplied when users could fan a page or add logos to their own profiles.

Sharable widgets were more engaging than traditional banner ads, but did not increase intent to purchase. Newsletters and banner ads were the most recognized kinds of ads, but banner ads increased the chances of recommending a brand to a friend, as well as purchase intent.

According to the study:

"Not surprisingly, once people purchase products from a brand, they report liking the brand more.  But the reverse is also true – when people declare publicly that they like a brand (by putting a logo on their profile for all of their friends to see) they are more likely to buy from it."

But context is still an important factor. Brands reported getting better results when their advertising and branding was surrounded by relevant content.

Psychster's CEO David Evans told MediaPost:

"No ad type was so engaging that it overcame the advantage found by matching the brand to the Web site. It is widely believed that ads are at an advantage when the brand relates to the site on which it appears ... Our findings replicated this effect, such that the soup brand performed better on Allrecipes than it did on Facebook."

Image: Psychster

Meghan Keane

Published 30 March, 2010 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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