Two of the companies highlighted in the research are Target and Starbucks. According to the data, four weeks after seeing a Starbucks ad on Facebook, people who were fans of the brand, and those who were friends of those fans, increased the frequency of their purchases by 38 percent, while Target fans and their friends increased their purchases by 21 percent.
Facebook is fighting back against my skepticism by hiring comScore to prove that Facebook advertising does something more than fill up primitive templates running in a PHP script. And comScore will prove the proof at an upcoming meeting of the Advertising Research Foundation.
Well. Let’s begin with Facebook hiring a company to test its advertising effectiveness and then letting that company release some of the results in a public forum. comScore is not operating independently here and is probably prohibited by contract from telling everything it knows. So you can trust comScore as much as you can trust Facebook to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth on this front. You are warned. Protect yourself at all times.
Let’s assume we’re getting a modified partial hangout of the Truth in this quotation. Hey, 38% and 21% increases!
Of course, the increases apply only to fans of the brand. A rabbinical reading of that line says the ads don’t work with the general public of Other Guys, but only with Other Guys who are Fans. Focus is a good thing for persuasion. When you can narrow the TACT that’s good. But, Fans versus The Rest Of The World, is hardly good news. You can reach your Fans in the parking lot or in the aisle and generate sales increases, too.
But what about those Friends of Fans? Again, getting rabbinical (or philological if sacred metaphors burn you), the increases flow from a Conjunction of Fans + Friends of Fans. It’s possible that all the increase or most of it is coming only from Fans or only from Friends of Fans. It would certainly sound better to claim an increase from two segments of Other Guys (Fans and Friends of Fans) than just one.
And four weeks later you get the increase? Maybe they only tracked purchases only four weeks after an ad ran on a Facebook page. Of course, that is crazy as hell. With all the Big Data they’ve got at Facebook and either Target or Starbucks, you could link those databases to track instant relationships, right now. Why report only a four week lag? Well, you can then aggregate all the sales in that period and count them as caused by the Facebook ad. And, you can’t believe that over that four week period, Target or Starbucks ran only one ad.
Now, those percentages, 38% and 21%. Compared to what? I don’t think that these increases are absolute increases, but rather are relative which means they are like those deceptive Risk Ratios so favored by Tooth Fairy epidemiologists. A Small Windowpane would be a 50% increase so we’re talking about one half of a Small Effect and an increase that is heavily doctored to hit even this paltry impact. Geez, run at least a 4 week media campaign on Facebook and you get something barely detectable over random variation. These guys should be running interventions for the CDC!
And, finally, why is Facebook leaking this dribble in the NYT? It looks like good news with even more good news to come when comScore reports more data at that conference. But, when you think carefully about the NYT leak, you realize that there’s not that much there. If you are a Peripheral Route processor reading this story, you might Cue off those percentage increases, offer a little affirmative head nod, then WATtap to the next Cue. If you are a High WATT skeptic, however, you begin to see this Science as Persuasion.
Facebook is a proven persuasion deceiver. What they say and what they do are two different things. They built a nice little photo album and text messaging platform that groups of people could share then sold it as the New New Thing in persuasion all the while knowing nobody was Changing from any persuasion on Facebook. They then purloined all your personal daily information, packaged it, and sold it to marketers and all to virtually no effect as nearly I can tell. Hey, we’re still struggling with a nasty recession – why didn’t Facebook and Big Data create a booming sales economy? Everyone in America has a Facebook account, revealed tons of personal data, and spends gouts of time on the platform and for what?
Facebook simply cannot be trusted to provide honest, reliable, and valid information about its persuasion effectiveness. And, it’s not simply that they will protect proprietary information. They will deceive about it because Facebook isn’t persuasive.
Kids, people do not process ads online the same way they do on TV, radio, billboards, print ad, and on and on with the litany of Your Father’s Oldsmobile Persuasion Vehicles. Facebook, along with the other Web 2.0 ventures, brings nothing but problems to practical persuasion and so far no good solutions. People do not surf Facebook the same way they surf TV or print or radio. People focus on Facebook differently than they do with TV or print or radio. People use the platform differently.
Some day, some bright maven is going to figure out online persuasion and put all that Big Past Present and Nearly Future Data on you to good use. You’ll know because a few businesses will show much greater effectiveness than their peers and for no good obvious reason. Ford will suddenly sell more Explorers and not because those Explorers run on solar power with a safe and reliable robot driver and a perpetual beer tap in back, all for less than a GM Yukon. They’ll sell more Explorers because they figured out an online persuasion engine.
P.S. Guess that Nielsen thing isn’t going as planned?
P.P.S. I ran a Google search on the Advertising Research Foundation on June 12, 2012 and got a warning message from Google that This Site May Be Compromised. While it is always possible that nefarious evil doers are doing evil like this, I am dubious. We seem to be in a SuperSafe phase with all those Defenders of the Web spotting rabid raccoons left and right. You’ll recall a few weeks ago that AVG was sending the Danger Will Robinson message to some Persuasion Blog readers, but not most. I contacted AVG and they changed some bits and bytes here and there and voila, the Persuasion Blog is safe for babies, pregnant women or women who may get pregnant, and those with compromised immune systems!
P.P.P.S. Do you still believe that technology is the New New Thing to end all New New Things?