Paid Media Turbo Charges Reach, Says Facebook

October 29, 2012

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Brand Metrics | Data-driven | Digital | Social Media

For even the most successful brands on Facebook, paid media can significantly amplify total reach over organic reach alone, argues Facebook [pdf] in a study conducted in partnership with comScore. The study examined 100 brand pages that were among the top in the US by fan count and that reached an organic audience of at least 1 million during a single week in June. Separating those pages into 2 groups (50 organic-only pages and 50 paid and organic pages) with similar fan counts, the report finds that while both groups had similar organic reach of roughly 2.9 million, the group that used both organic and paid media had an average total reach more than 5 times higher – of almost 15.5 million.

The paid audience for those brands was chiefly represented by friends of fans (more than 80%), while up to 10% were fan networks. As a result, Facebook concludes that the paid impressions carry the same social weight as the natural organic impressions.

It is worth noting that Facebook is a comScore client and is obviously in the midst of convincing investors of its monetization potential (and prove to brands that its ads work). Also, this research comes on the heels of a Facebook algorithm change that has been accused of massively decreasing organic brand post reach.

Paid and Organic Audiences Share Age Similarities

Leaving aside skepticism for the moment, further results from the study indicate that the audience demographics of paid and organic media are quite similar. Using data from comScore’s Social Essentials, as well as internal Facebook data, the study looks at 3 brands as examples: a major retailer; Samsung; and a major financial services company. It is not clear why those brands were chosen, although they were among those that have top organic reach for their fan size and vertical.

Overall, for these test cases, the proportion of paid and earned media audiences falling into 1 of 6 age brackets differed by an average of just 3% points. Among the case studies, only 3 age segments saw significant differences: the retailer and Samsung had a much higher organic reach among 13-27-year-olds (around 7% points higher), while the financial services company had a higher paid reach in the 45-54-year-old group (11.4% share vs. 5.4% share for earned media).

Paid Media Reaches More Lightweight Facebook Users

The paid and organic audiences were also similar in terms of their engagement (measured as the number of pages liked per user and the number of status updates posted in 28 days). However, the paid audience was more likely to be “lightweight.” That is, compared to earned media, paid messages were 30-60% more likely to reach users who had liked less than 100 pages, and 17-32% more likely to reach users who had not posted a status update during the previous 28 days.

Other Findings:

  • On average, paid media was found to be able to amplify the lifetime reach of a single piece of content (for those 3 brands) by between 2 and 24 times.
  • Using comScore panel data, the study found that the audience reached by the retailer’s paid media was 66% more likely to buy at its online site and 45% more likely to buy in-store.
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