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.