July 14, 2009, 12:00 AM

Social network users do look at ads, after all

A recent study suggests that consumers engage very quickly with ads on social network search result pages. Digital marketing agency Oneupweb reports that 65% of participants engaged with sponsored ads within the first 10 seconds that they were at a site.

Social network users may complain about ads in their space, but a recent study of consumers searching on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter shows that consumers engage very quickly with ads on the search results pages on those social networks.

Digital marketing agency Oneupweb recruited 25 regular Facebook users age 18 to 55 to conduct searches on those three social networks and permit eye-tracking technology to record their behavior. As Oneupweb reported: "A whopping 65% of participants engaged with sponsored ads within the first 10 seconds of their search."

“We wanted to know if people actually look at ads when they are on social sites like Facebook and YouTube. Or in the case of Twitter, where will they likely look for those ads when they do begin to appear,” explains Oneupweb CEO and founder Lisa Wehr. “We found that not only do users spend time viewing paid ads on social networking sites, they often look at these ads before actual search results.”

Oneupweb also reported:

  • The path that consumers’ eyes take on the results pages generated by searches on social networks do not follow the order of the natural search result positions. Often, sponsored ads were looked at before the third or fourth organic search result.
  • Users spend about as much time viewing sponsored ads as natural search results on both Facebook and YouTube.
  • 50% of participants were satisfied with their brand searches on Twitter. Many liked that they could find the most current opinions about a product.
The study-"Seeing Search Go Social: An Eye Tracking Study on Social Networking Sites"-underscores that consumers use social sites differently from how they use other web sites, and marketers will have to adjust their approaches accordingly. “Search is changing,” Wehr says. “As more people engage with social media, the way they are interacting with brands is being affected and their behavior changes. This eye-tracking study proves this.”

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