It looks as though the Facebook hate-fest that started around the social network’s decidedly disastrous IPO launch last month has finally started to wane. Online analytics tracker comScore says it will soon release a report, entitled The Power of Like 2: How Social Marketing Works, which shows that advertisements on Facebook are, in fact, effective.
The report directly refutes a Reuters poll, which claimed that four out of five Facebook users “have never bought a product or service as a result of advertising or comments” on Facebook. The problem with such a poll, according to comScore vice president Andrew Lipsman, is that people are generally bad at recalling why they made a particular purchase, which explains why such a high percentage said Facebook ads have nothing to do with what they buy.
As Lipsman writes in a blog post summarizing comScore’s upcoming report:
In this particular case, it appears that the research method used was a survey, which asked users about whether or not they had ever been influenced to purchase as a result of exposure on Facebook. While surveys can be useful in assessing ad effectiveness lifts across attitudinal dimensions such as brand awareness, favorability and purchase intent, people tend not to provide very accurate assessments of their own behavior. And their accuracy in recalling their own behavior over an extended period of time can be especially unreliable. People might be able to accurately tell you how many times they have eaten at a restaurant in the past week, but they would probably do a poor job estimating that number over the past three months.
Furthermore, Lipsman says that reports that users are spending less time on Facebook are also inaccurate, as they too rely on survey data, unlike comScore’s “behavioral measurement of engagement,” through which “time spent on sites is electronically and passively observed.” Using this method, comScore found that the opposite is true — “time spent per user is actually up a few percent” now compared to six months ago.
“More importantly, people generally don’t like to believe that advertising actually has an effect on their behavior, even though time and time again various forms of advertising research have shown that it does,” writes Lipsman. “So, how people respond to a question asking whether or not Facebook advertising (or any other advertising for that matter) has affected their purchase behavior may end up having little correlation with their actual behavior.”
Facebook’s advertising business (i.e. its business) first came under fire after General Motors pulled its $10 million in advertising from the social network, because they found them ineffective. The was proceeded by a popular article on Technology Review by Michael Wolff, which claimed that the “collapse” of Facebook’s advertising business would “take down the Web.”
As Peter Kafka at AllThingsD notes, Facebook will surely pick up on the comScore report and run with it, as it attempts to gain more advertisers and push its stock price back up to a respectable level. And it may already be working; after days of falling quotes, Facebook’s stock price is, at the time of this writing, up 3 percent to $27.10 a share — $10.90 below its initial IPO price.