Facebook, Nielsen Try To Put A Value On ‘Earned’ Media

Lots of nifty stats from Nielsen and Facebook in the first major report since they started partnering on data last fall — and you won’t be shocked to hear that it all bolsters their ideas about the value of social media advertising. Nielsen is pitching its BrandLift product and the notion that it can measure ad effectiveness in social media, while Facebook has to prove its ad value beyond anecdote and product case study.

To achieve both goals, Facebook is providing Nielsen access to massive amounts of information (all unidentifiable, they promise). Over the past six months, Nielsen conducted very brief surveys of 800,000-plus Facebook users and at least 125 individual Facebook ad campaigns by 70 brands, then followed those up 24 hours later with polls gauging impact. The result is some statistical backup for common-sense planning, including the need to mix paid and so-called earned media to most successfully reach consumers, and a reminder not to ignore more traditional forms like press coverage, reviews and the like. Some bits that stand out (you can download the 12-page study here):

— Looking at 14 campaigns that included Facebook’s “become a fan” ad unit, ad recall was consistently higher for those who ads with social context compared with those who saw none. An example would be someone who already had a friend become a fan compared with someone who didn’t.

— Those who saw a paid ad but also were exposed to the newsfeed mention of the product by a friend were three times more likely to remember the ad. Paid ads on the homepage upped awareness by 4 percent; matched with social mentions, that went up to 13 percent. Purchase intent also rose. (See graphic below.)

What will have the biggest effect on Facebook’s image today — the 12-page study by Nielsen and Facebook or the glossy look at COO Sheryl Sandberg in the current issue of Vogue? Based on the results of the study, the answer should be the very positive Vogue article as it is picked up and passed along — as long as it’s backed by a targeted, paid campaign. If Facebook has to rely on word of mouth, it might not like what it hears, no matter how glowing the mention seems to be.