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TitleUnderstanding the Value of a Social Media Impression
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Page 1

Effectiveness: Understanding the Value of

a Social Media Impression
A Special Report for ad:tech San Francisco Attendees

APRIL 2010

• How social networking and consumer engagement

have changed how brand marketing works

• An approach for understanding the value of earned
and paid impressions in a social context

• How creating a Facebook fan base can drive social
advocacy within paid media, thus increasing its

• Data and insights that directly measure the
effectiveness and reach of paid media, paid
media with social advocacy, and earned media

Page 2

• With the advent of social media, consumer conversations about and with a brand have become more
measurable. Marketers are seeking to better understand this new form of engagement with their brand

• This engagement—also known as “earned media”—can be measured with the same metrics as traditional
paid media: lifts in brand awareness, message awareness, and purchase intent

• New analysis from Nielsen and Facebook that directly measures the effectiveness and reach of paid versus
earned media shows that the two are linked and complementary

• In a social media context earned media is highly effective but often has limited reach and can be highly
variable between campaigns.

• ”Social ads” that contain social advocacy, are a lightweight form of endorsement on ads, and can drive
increased brand lift while delivering reach on a similar scale as paid campaigns

• These insights provide an understanding of the various components of value of a social media campaign
(paid impressions, paid with social advocacy, and earned media)

The data and insights in this report are compiled from a range of Nielsen and Facebook resources. Please
source all data in this report accordingly.

For more information about Nielsen, visit, or Facebook, visit

About this RepoRt


Jon Gibs, Vice President of Media Analytics, The Nielsen Company
Sean Bruich, Measurement Research, Facebook, Inc.

© 2010, The Nielsen Company

Page 6

The concept of earned media is not a new one; it’s
been part of public relations for years. Historically, we
looked at the number of times a brand or press release
was mentioned on the nightly news, the front page of
a news paper or even in a movie or TV program. The
key is that the brand did not pay for the placement and
that the brand message was interesting, entertaining
or newsworthy enough that the media outlet used it as
part of its product voluntarily.

Now that the era of social media is upon us, we’ve
extended the concept of earned media from the
traditional PR sense. Today a media outlet broadcasting
a brand is not the only form of “earned” distribution.
The consumer is now invited to broadcast, and
hopefully endorse, the brand to their online friend. As
a result, brands are turning to the tools and advertising
opportunities provided by social media outlets, such as
the organic impressions used by Facebook.

To meet these needs, many publishers are creating ad
formats that are a hybrid of earned and paid media. In
these cases (such as the Social Impression discussed in
this paper) a consumer’s endorsement is carried with
the traditional ad unit, allowing the reach that can be
gained through paid media impressions, with the impact
associated with an earned endorsement.

These new opportunities have some advantages that
differentiate themselves from traditional earned media.
They are designed to have a controlled message passed
along. If a news outlet talks about a consumer brand,
the brand relies on the guy watching TV at home
to pass along the message through word of mouth.
Unfortunately, like a game of “Telephone” this message
can be degraded. However, using the earned media
tools this message can be controlled more directly
by the brand. Additionally, the brand can “sense and
respond” to earned media – creating a customer
service feedback loop, where the brand can interact
directly with consumers. Finally, the endorsement of a
professional reviewer is always good, but study after
study has shown that consumers trust their friends and
peers more than anyone else when it comes to making a
purchase decision.

New forms of earned media do not replace the older
ones. A mention from a far-reaching news organization
still packs an impressive punch. Brands need to start
broadening their view from traditional outlets and take
advantage of the new opportunities made available
through the growing variety of social media outlets.

what is “earned” Media?

p 6© 2010, The Nielsen Company

Page 7

For the purposes of this case study, we examined the impact
of Facebook advertising on 14 campaigns using the Nielsen
BrandLift methodology. Campaigns selected were representative
of more successful campaigns that included the “become
a fan” engagement unit, and included advertisers from a
range of categories, including CPG, entertainment, and retail.
Results were aggregated across the fourteen campaigns in
order to provide more generalized findings and to ensure the
confidentiality of advertiser-specific results.

Facebook ads from these campaigns are “cutting through” and
being remembered quite well by users. Exposed audiences are
registering nearly triple the lift of the ad recall of control groups
(a delta between control and exposed of 10% on average). This is
despite the strict Nielsen methodology which enforces a 24-hour
delay between ad exposure and measurement (to ensure the
recall is genuine and not prompted by an ad still on the screen).

These campaigns were also successful at changing exposed
audiences’ attitudes about these brands and products. At the top
of the marketing funnel, awareness increased on average by 4%
between exposed and control audiences. Purchase intent also
increased on average by 2% following ad exposure on Facebook.
(Exhibit 2)

CAse studY

Difference between control group and exposed

Delta versus control

Ad Recall Awareness Purchase Intent




Exhibit 2: Impact Of Ad Exposure on Facebook

encouraging brand Advocates

Almost universally, advertisers seek to create and encourage
brand advocates—those consumers who become champions
for their brands and influence the perceptions and purchasing
behaviors of other consumers.

One common and lightweight form of advocacy on Facebook is
through what are known as social ads. For example, if a user’s
friends are fans of a brand on Facebook, the ad unit itself will
contain the names of those friends when it is served to the user.
But does this lightweight form of endorsement actually impact
the effectiveness of the advertising?

Using BrandLift, we compared the responses of those users who
had seen ads with social context against users who saw ads with
no social context from the same campaign. A user would be
eligible to see social context if one of their friends had previously
“Become a Fan” of the brand running the advertisement.

Social advocacy on ad units appears to strongly impact all three
metrics. Ad recall is substantially higher at a delta of 16% (versus
10% for non-social ads) and social coverage doubles the delta
versus control for awareness. Interestingly, purchase intent
increases from a delta of 2% to nearly 8% (Exhibit 3)

Difference between control group and exposed

Homepage ad exposure





8% 8%

Homepage ad – social

Ad Recall Awareness Purchase Intent

Exhibit 3: Homepage Ads With Social Advocacy
Can Improve Campaign Effectiveness

Source: Nielsen BrandLift Source: Nielsen BrandLift

p 7 © 2010, The Nielsen Company

Page 11


As you’ve no doubt already concluded in your own media strategy sessions, buying social media is different than buying standard
online media. It’s critical that we understand advertising not just in terms of paid media, but also in terms of how earned media
and social advocacy contribute to campaigns.

Social advocacy and earned impressions can impact consumers in three important ways: by making them more likely to notice
an ad (ad recall), to take away its message (awareness), and to increase their interest in making a purchase (purchase intent).
The next step is to expand this understanding to offline sales and long-term brand value.

p 11 © 2010, The Nielsen Company

About the Nielsen Company

The Nielsen Company is a global information and media
company with leading market positions in marketing
and consumer information, television and other media
measurement, online intelligence, mobile measurement,
trade shows and business publications. The privately held
company is active in approximately 100 countries, with
headquarters in New York, USA.

The Nielsen Company’s online and mobile solutions deliver
comprehensive, independent measurement and analysis of
digital audiences, advertising, video, consumer-generated
media, word of mouth, commerce and consumer behavior.
Nielsen enables clients to make informed business decisions
about their digital and mobile strategies.

Visit Nielsen at:

For more onlne data and analysis, visit:

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Copyright © 2010 The Nielsen Company. All rights reserved. Produced in the U.S.A. Nielsen and the Nielsen logo are trademarks
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