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Room for Improvement in Social Network Ad Engagement

Google+ may face attention problems similar to Facebook’s

Many marketers are eager to advertise on Facebook in addition to building up an official presence on the social networking site, and all signs point to similar marketing activity eventually coming to Google+ as well. And according to research from EyeTrackShop, when ads come to Google+ they will likely have many of the same benefits—and drawbacks—as those on Facebook.

The eye tracking solutions firm showed online panelists from Sweden a sample Facebook newsfeed, with ads placed along the right-hand side of the page, and monitored the participants’ eye movements as they viewed the page. They showed another group a mock-up of a Google+ newsfeed, which has a layout almost identical to Facebook’s. Google+ does not currently show advertisements, but EyeTrackShop placed the same ads on the right-hand side of that page, and monitored respondents’ eye movements.

Study participants viewed each page similarly, focusing first on the center of the page, then moving to the left and finally to the right, viewing the ads. This suggests that Google may be copying a winning model for its new social network—Facebook will receive over $4 billion in worldwide ad revenues this year, eMarketer estimates.

But when EyeTrackShop compared the participants’ behavior on Facebook with a benchmark average based on studies of social network ad engagement the firm had conducted throughout the year, it found users were less engaged on Facebook. Just over half of participants saw an ad on Facebook, vs. 74% on average. It also took Facebook viewers longer to notice the ads while viewing the page (5 seconds vs. 4 on average) and they spent 33% less time viewing the ads once they did see them.

Other data has shown less-than-stellar performance metrics for Facebook ads as well, including a 2010 Webtrends study that found Facebook ads had a 0.051% clickthrough rate (down from 0.063% in 2009) and March 2011 research from Chitika that indicated Facebook’s clickthrough rate was lower than Twitter’s.

Twitter, which continues to roll out new ad products as more marketers adopt Promoted Tweets, Promoted Trends and Promoted Accounts, reports average engagement with promoted tweets at 3% to 5%, rising to 7% to 10% when promoted tweets are combined with promoted trends. Many prominent campaigns have boasted much better performance, according to information from the microblogging site and Advertising Age.

Engagement includes clicks on an ad as well as retweets, @ replies, direct messages and marking the ad as a favorite tweet.

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Check out today’s other article, “Gen Xers Are Online Media Kings.”

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