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Is There a Problem with Facebook Advertising?

83% of Facebook users say they rarely or never click on Facebook ads or sponsored content

Facebook has received a healthy amount of criticism for its platform’s failure to generate returns on paid advertisements. Part of the problem might be on the brand side, though, with advertisers concentrating too hard on direct-response metrics like conversions instead of long-term awareness and engagement KPIs.

Facebook users are disinclined to spend much time with Facebook ads. According to a May 2012 poll by the Associated Press (AP) and CNBC, 83% of Facebook users in the US hardly ever or never clicked on online ads or sponsored content when using Facebook.

This stat may baffle marketers, given the amount and frequency of Facebook usage—and the clear evidence that consumers do engage with brands there. According to the AP and CNBC poll, 30% of respondents who used Facebook said they visited the site several times a day, and 75% said they visited Facebook at least on a weekly basis. However, that time might be split in a number of ways. Even if users do engage with ads, according to Chad Warren, senior manager of social media product marketing at Adobe, that engagement might not last for long.

“There is a lot of churn in the amount of impressions served, just because users are moving from page to page quite frequently,” Warren said in a May 11, 2012, interview with eMarketer. “There is not a lot of time spent on each page.”

Moreover, there’s a discrepancy between marketer intent and user interest—according to a March 2012 poll by social media education company Social Fresh, 61% of US Facebook advertisers used ads for awareness purposes. Yet a hefty 44% expected them to generate conversions.

Another issue for Facebook advertisers is the metrics they choose to track. Getting consumers to click through to brand websites or landing pages is difficult. Adobe’s Warren noted that consumers aren’t eager to leave the Facebook environment. “A very common thing for a lot of advertisers is when they try to direct users off of Facebook, they find that their conversion rates are considerably lower than if they try to keep them within the Facebook environment.”

Warren advocated using Facebook ads for fan acquisition and to drive engagement, rather than conversions. “With fan acquisition, you can directly take action upon the ad without having to leave what you’re doing in the Facebook environment,” he added.

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Check out today’s other articles, “‘Big Data’ Can Be Hard to Harness” and “Video, Social Dominate Digital Spending Growth in China.”

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