The power of like: how brands reach and influence fans through social media marketing

Information technology North America
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The following white paper is based on a collaboration between comScore and Facebook. The research, which examines the nature of the reach and frequency of branded content on Facebook, is largely based on May 2011 findings from comScore Social Essentials™, but also includes insights from Facebook’s internal analytics platform. 

The summary below establishes the key findings and implications of this research.
Facebook is the dominant social networking site with an audience of approximately 160 million U.S. visitors each month and accounts for 90 percent of all time spent on social networking sites. (Source: comScore)
Branded content on social media can take many forms – content shared directly from brands, re-shared content from connections, or social marketing such as Facebook’s Sponsored Stories ad unit. While there has been tremendous focus on counting the incidence of these brand mentions on social networks (and, to a lesser degree, categorizing it), we find that the reach and frequency of social media brand impressions is far more important than simple counting statistics.
Facebook users spend more than a quarter of their time on the site consuming and interacting with the Facebook Newsfeed, and this activity represents 4 percent of all time spent online in the U.S. The Newsfeed is also the primary location where branded content is consumed. In fact, users are 40-150 times more likely to consume branded content in the Newsfeed than to visit the Fan Page itself. (Source: comScore) 
There are typically two potential audiences for branded content on Facebook. Fans of brands on Facebook (those who have explicitly “liked” a brand) are the easiest to reach with social media brand impressions, but the Friends of those Fans also constitute an important incremental audience. Friends of Fans typically represent a much larger set of consumers (34 times larger, on average, for the top 100 brand pages) and can receive social media brand impressions by way of their Friends. In examples from this paper, the reach of branded content among Friends of Fans significantly exceeded the reach among Fans. 
When a brand focuses on acquiring and engaging Fans it can benefit from a significant secondary effect – exposure among Friends of Fans that often surpasses reach among Fans.
In the case of some brands, Facebook Fans may have different aggregate demographic and behavioral profiles than typical brand purchasers, indicating that social media may require different approaches to marketing strategy. 
The “Value of a Fan” can be assessed in three primary ways: increasing the depth of engagement and loyalty among Fans, generating incremental purchase behavior, and leveraging the ability to influence Friends of Fans.

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