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Boost Advertising with Earned Social Media

social-media-advertising.jpgYour brand gains exposure in two ways--through advertising and earned media. Advertising is everything you pay for to promote your brand, including advertisements on TV and radio, in newspapers and through social media venues (such as Facebook). Earned media is what results from other business efforts and achievements, such as delivering innovative products, high-quality customer service or winning an industry award. For an example of earned media, just look at how much positive press and word-of-mouth Apple received before it advertised--or even revealed--its iPad.

The same is true, perhaps even to a greater degree, in social media. Not only can you can pay for Facebook ads to increase your business or product visibility, you can also earn social media by maintaining an engaging Facebook Fan Page and having positive interactions with customers. Both are essential. Advertising brings customers in through the doors, earned social media retains those customers and transforms at least some of them into valuable brand evangelists.

The Nielsen Company divides Facebook's social media into three distinct types:

  1. Homepage Ads: Paid ads that contain an image, text and an option to Like the ad or the business or product it represents.
  2. Social Impressions: Homepage ads with the addition of the names of a member's Facebook friends who already expressed their Like for the ad. Social impressions are both paid (the ad itself) and earned (the names of a member's Facebook friends).
  3. Organic Impressions: Stories or status updates that appear on the Walls or in the News Feeds of a member's friends whenever that member interacts with the brand.

Nielsen's research shows that social impressions (homepage ads coupled with social advocacy) are significantly more effective than the ads alone in all three of the following categories:

  • Ad recall: 10 percent homepage ad versus 16 percent social impression
  • Awareness: 4 percent homepage ad versus 8 percent social impression
  • Purchase intent: 2 percent homepage ad versus 8 percent social impression

Similarly, homepage ads perform significantly better when combined with organic exposure:

  • Ad recall: 10 percent homepage ad alone versus 30 percent homepage ad + organic exposure
  • Awareness: 4 percent homepage ad alone versus 13 percent social impression + organic exposure
  • Purchase intent: 2 percent homepage ad alone versus 8 percent social impression + organic exposure

As you would expect, the more organic exposure a brand receives, the bigger the boost:

  • Ad recall: 15 percent homepage ad plus 1-2 organic exposures versus 32 percent (with 3-9 exposures) versus 33 percent (with 10 or more exposures)
  • Awareness: 7 percent homepage ad plus 1-2 organic exposures versus 13 percent (with 3-9 exposures) versus 28 percent (with 10 or more exposures)
  • Purchase intent: 3 percent homepage ad plus 1-2 organic exposures versus 10 percent (with 3-9 exposures) versus 15 percent (with 10 or more exposures)

In short, advertising on Facebook is not enough. Your business must strive to make your ads as engaging as possible to generate more social and organic impressions--the types of media that have a chance to go viral.

Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media, and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook, is now available at bookstores. For more information, visit MikalBelicove.com.

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