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Do Facebook Friends Influence Advertising?

Facebook is always looking for ways to make their advertising platform more social. Their assumption is grounded in the old paradigm that we listen to our friends more than we listen to advertisers. Does this assumption hold true?

We have been kicking this around in the office since Facebook started including social connections in ads. The thought that an advertiser can target friends of current fans seems logical, because you are most likely targeting like-minded individuals. I think most would agree with that notion.  So Facebook started showing which of your friends already like a product/organization/website in the ads that those folks take out.

Our data shows that social ads do not perform as well as non-social ads. What does this mean? Well… Facebook only provides one valuable metric for its social ads – social click-through rate. But as every good Facebook marketer will tell you – Who cares? Do these folks convert more than other folks? What is the action rate of those folks becoming fans of my page? What is the conversion rate to a like overtime? This is data that Facebook does not provide. Our guess is that they know the data in the graph below. Users haven’t been compelled to like a page more just because their friends do from a standard ad.

Effectiveness of Facebook Social Ads

Is this a fail? We don’t think so. With everything in the digital space it is about trial and error. Test, learn, modify, repeat. Facebook rolled out Sponsored Stories in response to the learnings from social ads.  It is too early to tell if these have been successful yet, but we will be sure to follow up once we have collected enough data.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for more musing from the trenches @codydamon

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