Nielson Report Gauges Companies’ Approach to Advertising on Social Media
By TANZINA VEGA
Since the arrival of social media platforms, companies have tried to figure out how to best use them to get their messages to consumers, often with mixed results. Some brands have embraced the notion that social platforms like Twitter allow constant interaction, for better or worse, with their customers.
Others have turned away from some strains of social media, as General Motors did last spring when it stopped advertising on Facebook while raising questions about the return on its investment. The move had a ripple effect in the advertising world, with many brands questioning whether the costs of being on social media were worth it.
A new report issued Tuesday by Nielsen and Vizu, a research company owned by Nielsen, shows that brands think they might be turning a corner, specifically when it comes to paying for their use of social media.The report examined the opinions about social media marketing among more than 500 digital media professionals — including brand marketers, media agencies and advertisers — from September to October 2012.
The study found that that 89 percent of advertisers continued to use free social media products. Nielsen did not release the names of specific social media platforms mentioned by the respondents, but they are likely to include Facebook and Pinterest, as well as Twitter.
Three quarters of the companies surveyed said they were also spending more for social media content, which could include paying bloggers to write posts about a product or using third-party technology to push videos on to the Web in the hope that they become viral.
Seventy percent of the advertisers surveyed said they dedicated up to 10 percent of their budget to paid social media advertising, while 13 percent dedicated more than 21 percent of their budget. Those numbers are expected to increase in 2013.
The results come as companies like Twitter and Facebook are making more diverse advertising options available to brands. Last year, Twitter announced a number of advertising and media initiatives, including a survey product that enables marketers to ask Twitter users a handful of multiple-choice questions. Facebook began testing a new advertising mechanism using a technology called real-time bidding, which allows advertisers to place bids on ad space at specific times.
“Advertisers are starting to look at social media as an integrated part of their advertising strategy,” said Jeff Smith, the senior vice president of product leadership for advertising effectiveness at Nielsen.
Still, companies retained some skepticism about social media strategy, the survey showed. While companies may expect to spend more to market their brands, they also want to be able to quantify the results of their campaigns. A third of the advertisers surveyed said they were unsure about the effectiveness of social media. The same percentage said they were unsure how to measure the return on their investment.
The majority of advertisers surveyed, 42 percent, said they wanted to measure their online campaigns using the same tools they use for offline campaigns, like sales generated and gross ratings points, while adding more measurement tools specific to digital campaigns, including “likes” and click-throughs.
Advertisers are able to tailor ads to specific groups of online users using cookies and other technologies, but they have often relied on whether consumers click on those ads as the main form of measuring how effective those ads have been.
At the Advertising Week gathering last year, Facebook announced that it was moving away from counting clicks as a metric and moving toward a measurement similar to the gross rating point used in television. The company said it was able to tell whether an ad was effective by combining data on when the ad was shown to a user with data about whether products had been sold. The move is meant to help what is known as “brand advertisers,” whose goals may be less tangible than those of direct response advertisers.
A Facebook representative declined to discuss the company’s paid advertising business. Facebook will announce its fourth-quarter earnings on Wednesday.