Paid, Owned and Earned: Social Becoming More Valuable to Brands

October 29, 2013

This article is included in these additional categories:

Digital | Return on Investment | Social Media

Adobe-Social-RPV-Trends-Oct2013Here’s one counterpoint to that contested Forrester report on how Facebook is failing marketers. Adobe’s inaugural “Social Media Intelligence” [pdf] report, a wide-ranging analysis of social’s value to brands, indicates that, well, that value is growing. The study reveals that revenue per visit (RPV) is rapidly growing across key social platforms: RPV grew 39% between 2012 and Q3 2013 for Facebook (to $0.93), while growing by 150% for Pinterest (to $0.55) and quadrupling for Twitter (to $0.44). And that’s despite attribution tracking possibly undervaluing social.

One key caveat before proceeding: the RPV figures appear to compare September 2013 results to 2012 as a whole, such that seasonality may play a role in the big gaps. (Another caveat of perhaps lesser importance: the analysis is limited to retail, travel, and media and entertainment sites.)

Nevertheless, according to the study, social’s first-click RPV is 116% higher than its last-click RPV, a result that may be lost on many, given that last-click appears to be the most commonly used attribution method. RPV remains much higher on search than social, although the gap narrows from 400% for last-click to 325% for first-click. Adobe also reveals that social’s effect on retail sites could be undervalued by as much as 450% when it comes to Tumblr. The data is the latest in a growing body of research (some links provided here) pointing out that social is being undervalued by last-click attribution.

In other owned social trends, Adobe’s data finds that Facebook is still the dominant social referrer to retail sites, but its share of visitors has decreased by 20%, even as Pinterest’s share has grown by 84% and Twitter’s share by 258%. Shareaholic data, meanwhile, covering a broader range of sites, shows Pinterest and Twitter also growing strongly as social referral channels, but sees no dip for Facebook.

Earned Trends: Engagement Still Centers on Likes, Images

Adobe-Social-Engagement-Rates-by-Post-Type-in-Q3-Oct2013The report’s section on earned trends reinforces some existing findings from other research while providing some interesting data on brand activities. Unsurprisingly, likes account for the vast majority – 87% – of social engagement, but that share is inching back at the expense of comments and shares. While brand posts grew by 9% between August 2012 and August 2013, average social engagement increased by an outsized 115% over that same period, a result Adobe attributes to Facebook updates restricting the amount of posts a fan sees (one of the complaints made by Forrester).

During Q3, images and videos produced the highest engagement rates, of 4.3% and 3.5%, respectively. While it wasn’t surprising to see images attain the highest engagement rate, it is interesting to see that the engagement rate for video posts was fairly close behind. (Socialbakers has previously found a much bigger skew towards photos when it comes to brands’ most engaging posts.)

Despite videos being narrowly behind images in engagement rates, brands are posting many more images than videos. In fact, the share of posts including a video has dropped from 10% in Q2 2012 to 6% in Q3 2013, while the share of posts including an image has grown from 65% to 70% during that period.

Brands looking to up engagement rates should take a close look at geo-targeted posts, which do narrow the audience but tend to produce higher engagement rates than their counterparts (3.4% vs. 3%).

Finally, average social sentiment in the US continues to grow, reaching a value of 5.3 on a 10-point scale. Of note: Tumblr has the highest social sentiment (5.34) of the various platforms tracked, followed by Twitter (5.08), Facebook (4.67), YouTube (4.57) and blogs (4.33).

Paid Trends: Facebook ROI on the Rise

One of the headline results here is that Facebook ad ROI is growing, up 58% year-over-year in Q3, a result that comes on the heels of Kenshoo data showing that Facebook ad ROI tripled year-over-year among a sample of its advertising clients.

Still, CPMs are growing even more rapidly, up 120% year-over-year, leading Adobe to see an “increased need for optimization to ensure profitability.”

Other paid trends include:

  • Facebook cost-per-click dropping 40% year-over-year;
  • Click-through rates jumping 275% between Q3 2012 and Q3 2013;
  • Click volume growing by 29%; and
  • Impression volume increasing by 85%.

About the Data: The report is based on consumer data to brand sites during 2012 and 2013. It is comprised of aggregated and anonymous data from retail, media and entertainment, and travel websites. Ad data does not included retargeted ads on social networks.

Sample data includes 131 billion Facebook ad impressions; 400 million unique visitors to social sites; 1.04 billion Facebook posts; and 4.3 billion Facebook comments, shares, and likes.

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