FB social advertising works, because ComScore says so. Really? Let’s look at the evidence. Fetch a copy of Facebook’s ComScore Document (21-page PDF, free, registration required.)

You can go straight to p. 13-16. These contain the key data. FB carried out four-week campaigns for Starbucks, Target, and a large retailer (unnamed). They used control groups.

The Results
There was some lift in transactions. For Starbucks, 0.58% over the control. For Target, Fans were 19% more likely to shop and Friends of Fans were 27% more likely (these are ratios of unstated numbers, which are likely small fractions of 1%). For the unnamed retailer, there was a 0.2% lift for instore and 0.22% lift in online purchase.

Problems with the ComScore Document

  • The lift in control groups also increased. Why would this happen? The control should be flat. The document does not explain this.
  • The important data is missing: ROI, CPL, CPA. ComCast does not state cost-per-lead or cost-per-acquisition.

If you carry out a massive campaign, there will be lift, even if it’s 0.58%. After all, FB itself showed a billion ads to get 0.038% engagement for their privacy vote. But at what cost? FB won’t state the cost of the campaigns or the CPL/CPA. There can be only one reason: the numbers are bad, which means the campaigns were financial failures.

This was FB’s attempt to prove FB advertising works. They failed. It’s also bad news for social media: social advertising does not work for lead gen or sales. Any CFO who sees this will shut down the FB campaigns.

Comparison against Google, Bing, Yahoo
How does FB compare against other digital marketing tools, such as Google Adwords, Bing, and Yahoo?

I have data for a $2.7 million 60-day campaign for a large nationwide US bank. Ads were placed in Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Facebooks. Over one billion ads were shown. The CPLs: Google at $5.78; Yahoo at $4.20; Bing at $3.94; and Facebook at $57.06. There were 2.26X ads in FB over Google (383.7m vs 169.8m ads), but Google’s CPLs were within the target CPL and thus profitable. Google’s CPLs were 10% of the cost of FB CPLs. FB’s CPLs were not profitable. If the money spent in FB had been spent in Google, it would have produced 19,700 more leads.

If your digital marketing is based on sales, FB is not a viable choice. Put your money into Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

For additional analysis, see also: