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Paid Social Ads Convert More Customers

Nearly nine in 10 social content interactions are in the middle of the path to purchase

September 10, 2014

The digital marketing world has been abuzz for months about Facebook’s dialing-down of organic brand content in the average user’s newsfeed—and the declining importance of the “like” or page follow in its wake. But Q1 2014 research by Convertro and AOL Platforms suggests that even if Facebook is doing what it can to push brands from an earned into a paid media model, paid ads on social networks do have better conversion rates than organic content.

Conversion Rates for Paid vs. Organic Social Network Advertising Worldwide, by Site, Q1 2014

On Facebook, the jump in conversion rates among Convertro platform users worldwide was just 0.1 percentage point, but on Twitter, ads were more than twice as likely as organic tweets to convert users. On Pinterest, the situation was reversed, but overall, brands using Convertro saw around a 25% lift in conversions with paid social ads vs. organic social content.

For the most part, though, social media is not the last or only touch for consumers on the path to purchase. According to Convertro’s figures, 87% of interactions with social content were a middle touch, while just over one interaction in 10 was either the last or only touchpoint.

Still, some social venues are more geared toward conversion than others. YouTube stood out in Convertro and AOL’s research as the most likely social media property by far to turn a prospect immediately into a customer—likely because video content like that hosted on YouTube can provide 100% of the information an online shopper needs to make a purchase decision.

Stage of the Path to Purchase During Which Customers Worldwide Are Most Likely to Interact with Social Network Advertising, by Site, Q1 2014 (% of total among Convertro clients)

The distance between a social touchpoint and a conversion also depended on the type of product being purchased. The research found that more impulsive purchases—such as subscriptions to services like Birchbox or Dollar Shave Club, personal care items and local services—were more likely to appear as social ads and lead immediately to a conversion, as the last or only touchpoint on a consumer’s journey.

“Social works well as the first or only touch when it’s effectively ‘reminding’ you to make an impulse purchase you already planned on making at some unspecified point in the future,” suggested Jeff Zwelling, CEO and co-founder at Convertro. “And social tells you, in the case of subscriptions, for example, that other people have tried and liked it, and gives opportunities for strong offers like ‘first month free.’”

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