Two Studies, One Conclusion on Social: It Makes a Huge Difference

I came across two entirely different studies on social media this week that led to a pretty ineluctable conclusion; we got to get more of our clients into this.  A smart social program can create a quantifiable lift to traditional advertising efforts.

That’s the conclusion of a joint study from Nielsen and Facebook reported on MediaPost earlier this month.  In a report titled “Advertising Effectiveness: Understanding the Value of a Social Media Impression,” they analyzed 800,000 Facebook users’ survey data about seventy different brands and 125 Facebook ad campaigns for Ad Recall, Brand Awareness, and Purchase Intent.

Perhaps not surprisingly to anyone who puts any faith in word of mouth marketing, they once again proved that recommendations from friends and peers drive a whopping majority of purchase intent.  With access to Facebook’s voluminous data, Nielsen was able to compare responses of users who had seen the ads with some social context against users who did not, and the results were extremely clear.  Purchase intent soared from 2% to 8% when social is added to the mix, awareness doubled from 4% to 8% and ad recall improved dramatically, from 10% to 16%.

All of which makes you think Social must be the biggest thing since Lady GaGa.  Hardly…  Another recent report pulled numbers from Arbitron-Edison, ComScore and Nielsen to show that while 87% of Americans recognize what Twitter is, only about 7% use the service at least once a month.

For something so recognized and so reported on, that’s seems awfully paltry.  But the issue is simple: most Americans don’t see the value in it.  And they are probably right.  The people who really use and engage with Twitter are opinion leaders and dynamic connectors who thrive on being the first to know and always on the leading edge.

From an advertiser’s point of view, those people are particularly valuable because they influence so many others.  And so once again, the wisdom of the Nielsen/Facebook study makes total sense.  Of course the returns are higher when you add social media, even if Twitter is not a dominant medium–you are engaging with the type of people who like to drive opinion, to influence others and share perspective.  If you engage them, you radically expand the impact of your paid media plan.

All of this is why I support the notion of Social Creative more than mere Social Media.  Developing Social Creative means developing ideas and tactics to engage and involve influential people to spread your brand story, people whose influence directly impacts purchase intent.  It’s a simple addition to any creative assignment and we’re getting better and better at fulfilling it.

To my way of thinking, these studies are just more evidence of the need to drive convergence between advertising and public relations.  Because despite what some self-interested new media advocates might want you to believe, it’s not one or the other–it’s both.  The most effective selling programs use all the available tools.

And Social Creative must be one of them.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79