How much faith should advertisers have in Facebook and other social media platforms?
Its huge audience, mostly arriving on mobile, allows Facebook to command a 25% share of the U.S. mobile advertising market, according to eMarketer. Two-thirds of all advertisers place bets with the social media giant, with no real idea of how well those bets will pay off. A new process called Emotional Brand Connections Social Media Ad Testing brings fresh clarity. But first, more on the foggy attempts at metrics EBC Social Media Ad Testing is designed to supersede.
The problem of how to assess a social media ad’s effectiveness isn’t specific to Facebook, although its clout puts Facebook in the spotlight. Last year, a series of discrepancies in some of the performance data Facebook had provided to advertisers drew lots of attention and highlighted how hard it is to obtain reliable metrics along the new frontier of mobile social advertising. In response, Facebook increased opportunities for outside auditing of ad performance.
But just what is the proper standard for judging whether a mobile ad is working? A recent article from Digiday says that third-party tests have shown that video ads on Facebook often don’t achieve the minimum standard for “viewability” set by the Media Rating Council (MRC). The MRC has determined that video ads should be seen for at least two seconds to be considered “viewable,” with at least half the player screen in view.
Responding to the article, Facebook argued that people absorb content more quickly on mobile than on desktop, and that the threshold for mobile ads’ effectiveness is in fact markedly lower than the MRC’s standard. “We believe that the value of an ad…is generated the moment an ad comes on screen,” said a statement Facebook gave to Digiday, adding that independent studies have shown that “people can recall mobile news feed content at a statistically significant rate after only 0.25 seconds of exposure.”
So what’s a marketer to make of these conflicting assertions about ad metrics? It wouldn’t hurt to take a hint from Ronald Reagan, who famously said “trust, but verify.” Trust that social media is where ads need to be. But arm yourself with a trustworthy way to verify that an ad can be seen well enough to achieve the intended responses from the consumers it’s targeted reach.
And that’s where Emotional Brand Connections Social Media Ad Testing comes in. Developed by MFour in connection with Kantar AddedValue, it allows an advertiser to test an ad’s chances of success with the target audience before the ad goes live on social media. Here are the key features:
- Test recipients are drawn from an all-mobile active panel of more than 1.3 million U.S. consumers. Its representative demographic makeup lets you target any key consumer audience — including Millennials, Hispanics and African Americans.
- The process injects an ad into targeted consumers’ social news feeds. It shows up naturally, with no discernible difference from regular ads the audience gets. That means test recipients don’t know, at first, that they’re part of a test.
- In its initial stage, the test captures natural passive behavioral metrics: How long did recipients view the ad? Did they turn on a video ad’s sound? Did they respond by clicking, liking or sharing?
- The process then adds a unique human dimension by allowing marketers to double back and survey the same recipients of the test ad for deeper qualitative insights.
- In this stage you’ll first get natural, unaided responses to measure awareness and recall of the ad and brand. Then you’ll seek aided responses in which you identify your ad to respondents and ask them about it in detail.
- If respondents give the ad high marks for concept, content and recall, the advertiser can proceed confidently, knowing the ad is going to achieve its objectives.
- If survey respondents don’t respond well to an ad, they’ll give the feedback needed to revise it. Then it can be retested until it’s clear the ad is well-primed to achieve its goals.
The confusion that so far has permeated discussions of how effective mobile social ads really is no surprise, given how quickly the platform has become dominant. Clearly, the current standard that calls for clocking seconds of “viewability” and measuring how many pixels appear is inappropriate for the age of social media. It’s like using stopwatches and rulers. You need something geared specifically to the nature of social media — something that gives you data and evaluations straight from real mobile consumers who are, after all, the real judges of mobile advertising. For more information, just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.