On Facebook, viral reach for branded-content ads eclipses standard ads

If brands want to attract extra attention for their ads on Facebook, they may be better off paying a publisher or influencer to produce a branded-content post through their Pages and paying to promote that post as an ad instead of a post published to the brand’s own Page.

On Facebook, people can extend an ad’s reach by sharing, liking or commenting on it, which can send the ad into their friends’ News Feeds. As a result of this engagement, branded-content ads generate twice as many earned, or viral, impressions as paid impressions, according to a study by social analytics firm Shareablee. By comparison, standard Facebook ads garner less than one-tenth the number of earned impressions compared to paid impressions.

Shareablee examined 833 branded-content ads from 10 publisher Pages and 265 standard ads from 47 brand Pages that were run from July 2017 through October 2017. From that sample, the branded-content ads received 617,986 paid impressions and 1,248,448 earned impressions on average, whereas the standard ads received 375,489 paid impressions and 34,718 earned impressions on average.

The study “certainly does show that branded content is perceived by the average viewer as being much more shareworthy,” said Shareablee CEO Tania Yuki. Branded-content ads, on average, received 7,103 shares per ad, while standard ads averaged 253 shares per ad, per Shareablee.

The news that people are more likely to share or otherwise engage with a piece of branded content than a run-of-the-mill ad may not be so shocking. People are also more likely to share a funny video with their friends than a coupon. However, the extent to which advertisers are able to accrue so many extra — and, importantly — free impressions from a branded-content campaign may be a surprise.

When combining a campaign’s organic reach, paid reach and viral reach, viral reach accounted for 46.82 percent of the impressions for a branded-content ad versus 7.41 percent for a standard ad, according to Shareablee.

These stats should not be interpreted to mean that brands ought to cancel their more traditional ads and redirect that money toward branded-content campaigns. It depends on the advertiser’s objective. If a brand is seeking to maximize attention and minimize spend, then a branded-content campaign may be the way to go. But a brand may only want to reach its target audience with an ad designed to persuade them to purchase a product instead of one that primarily entertains them.

“Oftentimes people think about engaging content and business-value content as if it were a question of ‘Would you prefer your right arm or your left leg?’ and the answer is ‘Ideally both,’” said Yuki.

About The Author

Tim Peterson
Tim Peterson, Third Door Media's Social Media Reporter, has been covering the digital marketing industry since 2011. He has reported for Advertising Age, Adweek and Direct Marketing News. A born-and-raised Angeleno who graduated from New York University, he currently lives in Los Angeles. He has broken stories on Snapchat's ad plans, Hulu founding CEO Jason Kilar's attempt to take on YouTube and the assemblage of Amazon's ad-tech stack; analyzed YouTube's programming strategy, Facebook's ad-tech ambitions and ad blocking's rise; and documented digital video's biggest annual event VidCon, BuzzFeed's branded video production process and Snapchat Discover's ad load six months after launch. He has also developed tools to monitor brands' early adoption of live-streaming apps, compare Yahoo's and Google's search designs and examine the NFL's YouTube and Facebook video strategies.