Stating the obvious, Facebook’s 714 million unique visitors worldwide in May 2011 (according to comScore) make it the largest social network amongst all. The immense coverage of social networks has animated brands to spread their branded content on social networks in general and specifically on Facebook.
Whereas there are more or less tried and tested instruments to examine coverage, brand exposure and so on for the distribution of branded content and advertising on traditional channels for years, for branded content via Facebook this is not the case.
There is hard evidence for the quantitative assessment of users of brand pages on Facebook (so called „fans„), but almost all relate to the pure number of fans. Coverage is equated with the number of fans in most of the cases.
This is only the first half of the story, as current research shows the effect of branded content on Facebook (such as the study in collaboration by comScore and Facebook, link to the white paper (for free, but you need to register)).
In addition to the fans of brands on Facebook, where marketing as well as market research focus on, the friends of the fans are moving increasingly into the centre of interest. One reason for this is the fact that the number of friends of the fans surpasses the number of brand fans by far across almost all brands (comScore states factor 34 for this relationship for the top 100 U.S. brands on Facebook).
Another reason for paramount importance of friends of the fans can be seen in the fact that over 25% of the time on Facebook is spent with reading, viewing and tracking of the newsfeed (timeline). This area is the part of Facebook where messages of friends are displayed, including their interactions with brands that they are „friends“ of. The effect of this pure and additional brand impression is to be evaluated significantly more intense, because impressions don’t come from the brands but from the friends.
Therefore in this case, and unlike to traditional media, it is required to investigate further research in this „B2C2C communication“ to understand the modes of causal relationship.