September 10, 2012 Curve Admin

How Social Media Marketing Works


Executive summary

This report is based on the ëPower of Likeí research series conducted by comScore and Facebook on the effectiveness of social media marketing. This report will summarise the key findings from the research study, primarily focusing on the impact of earned (organic) and paid media exposure.

This research focuses on how social marketing works and enables business to understand useful frameworks for quantifying and evaluating their social marketing efforts. The key findings of the research are listed below.

  • Businesses can maximise the impact of their social media marketing efforts on Facebook by moving beyond the idea of just trying to increase the number of fans ëlikingí their pages. Instead metrics such as reach, impact, sharing and engagement should be whatís looked at.
  • Some brands on Facebook achieve a monthly increase in ëReach Ratioí of between 0.5 and 2.0. Meaning a brand can increase the number of people it reaches through promoting content to ëfriends of current fansí through both earned and paid means, increasing exposure by 50 to 200%.
  • Facebook represents a unique marketing platform that enables a business to leverage Paid, Earned and Owned Media to maximise brand reach, awareness and resonance. Brands can use Display Ads, Promoted Page Posts and Sponsored Stories (Paid) to attract fans to a Brand Page (Owned) and then leverage that channel to market communications that then reach ëfansí and ëfriends of current fansí (Earned).
  • Starbucks noticed that through the effects of increased earned media exposure through Facebook a significant lift in in-store purchases for the four weeks they ran a special social media campaign.


With the birth of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook businesses now have a new way to reach and connect with their brand ëfansí and the friends of those fans. Paul Adams book ëGrouped: How small groups of friends are the key to influence on the social webí explains how reaching ëfansí and then them influencing their friends is the key to getting a marketing message across to the critical mass of people to make an idea spread. Sociological and psychological studies have proven that word of mouth, reaching individual interlinked groups of friends and social proofing are all essential for marketing campaigns to work to their full potential. With the birth of the social web this has all become possible through the internet.

Social Media as a Marketing Channel

The emergence of branded social media channels and pages has revolutionized the communication between customers and businesses online. Branded channels now act as the first touch-point between buyer and seller, but his isnít to say the usefulness of branded websites is coming to an end. They still retain their importance in capturing leads and transactions.

comScoreís research explained through the example of Skittles as to how important branded social media channels are. The Skittles website attracted 23,000 unique visitors in March 2012, while itís branded Facebook page attracted 14 times more (320,000). With this information it is clear the importance of creating content and engaging with ëfansí via social media. The study goes on to prove that many branded social media channels/pages now routinely gain more visitors in comparison to traditional branded websites.

How Social Media Marketing Works

Fan reach, engagement and amplification

While the vast majority of businesses now have a social media presence most business owners still focus on fan acquisition as the most important metric. comScore argue that given a brand has acquired a certain number of ëfansí its target should be to deliver maximum reach, engagement and amplification in order to achieve brand resonance and (hopefully) influence consumers to purchase the brands products or services. Fan acquisition should not be focused on.

The following framework outlines how a brands message should be delivered through a social media channel.

Social media marketing

Fan reach

The first step after getting fans to ëLikeí your businesses social media presence is to communicate directly to them through messages that will appear on their News Feed, where 40% of the average Facebook userís time is spent. After someone has ëLikedí your page you may think each and every message sent through your Facebook page will appear in a ëfansí News Feed. However, this is not the case as Facebook uses a complex algorithm to work out which content to show to each fan. This is based numerous factors, but is known to include how often that fan engages through comment, share, like and check-in.

This highlights the importance of creating highly engaging content that will encourage participation and sharing. If you fail to make great content the messages sent from your businessí social media channels will not appear in ëfansí News Feeds.


A recent study by Adage concluded that only around 1% of ëfansí actually engage with a give brand message. This seems alarmingly low, however when compared to the click-through rates for banner ads, which is 0.1% (DoubleClick 2012), it is proven that social media messages are 10 times greater at creating click-through. Moreover, social media messages also help expand the reach of a brand throughout a ëfansí network after being clicked on. This phenomenon is referred to as amplification.


Amplification is perhaps the most important, yet least understood, element of achieving brand reach and resonance on Facebook. The concept is defined as the way existing ëfansí of the brand whom are exposed to a message can act as medium between the brand and all of their friends. Because the average Facebook user has around 150 friends, each person has the ability to potentially reach dozens of their friends with earned impressions through engagement with brand message. This is because every time a friend of yours ëLikesí or engages with a brand that interaction will be broadcast on that friends page as well as potentially showing up in your News Feed (It is dependant once again on an algorithm, if you interact more with a friend it is more likely that branded message they interacted with appear on your News Feed).

Due to factors like Fan Reach a brand is able amplify its messages by 81x their effort.

Starbucks test

Starbucks conducted an 8 week test to measure the efforts of their social media marketing on Facebook. The test was conducted using a test group vs. a control group. The test group was exposed to Starbucks social media campaign after 4 weeks. The results illustrated in the chart below show the increase in purchase incidence among the exposed group compared to the control group. In the 4 week pre-exposed period both groups nearly had identical rates of purchase incidence.

starbucks social media campaign

Within 4 weeks of exposure via social media there was a 38 percent increase in purchase incidence among the exposed group (2.12 divided by 1.54). Each and every week of the experiment the exposed test group purchased more from Starbucks. With the potential for earned media to drive such increases in desired consumer behaviour clearly brands can realize superb benefits by implementing a social media campaign.


This article clearly shows how social media marketing works in the real world. I believe the key learning can be found in the 3 intermediary steps between actually getting ëfansí to the final desired business objective (e.g brand resonance) in the fan reach, engagement and amplification framework. Other key points include;

  • A brand should look to use a mix of Paid, Owned and Earned media through Facebook to deliver its business objectives.
  • Less time is being spent on traditional corporate websites, with a brands social media channel now being the first touch-point between customer and businesses.
  • Businesses should not focus on the number of ëfansí they have but instead look at engagement, reach and sharing metrics. Doing so, through ëfriends of current fansí a brand can reach more potential customers.


By @hamit