Facebook ads in desktop and mobile News Feed outperform Twitter promoted accounts

[Update 7/20/12 1:31 p.m. PT – An earlier version of this story said that Sponsored Stories in the Facebook feed outperformed Twitter’s in-stream Promoted Tweets, however, TBG has issued a correction to its report. TBG’s data comes from Promoted Accounts, which do not appear in the main Twitter feed. On desktop they appear in the sidebar and on mobile they are in the Discover tab. Twitter says clickthrough rate for its Promoted Accounts is 1 to 3 percent on desktop. TBG and Inside Facebook apologize for any confusion.]

Sponsored Stories in the Facebook mobile and desktop feed are averaging significantly higher clickthrough rates than Twitter Promoted Accounts, according to a report released today by ad optimization company TBG Digital.

Since Facebook began allowing advertisers to choose whether they want their ads to appear in the desktop News Feed or mobile feed, TBG Digital has found desktop News Feed ads have an average clickthrough rate of 0.588 percent, and mobile ads have an average CTR of 1.140 percent. Comparatively, a recent TBG study found that Twitter Promoted Accounts, which do not appear in users’ feeds, had an average CTR of 0.266 percent.

TBG attributes these differences to targeting. Facebook offers very specific demographic and interest-based targeting options. Twitter’s ads can be targeted to people based on their geographic region, mobile device and who they follow, but because profiles are not as robust as on Facebook where people ad their gender, school and work history, relationship status and other personal details, targeting options are minimal compared to Facebook.

TBG also suggests that Facebook ads could see higher clickthrough rates than Twitter ads because of the social context that is part of Sponsored Stories. Ads that appear in the Facebook News Feed on mobile or desktop include names and photos of friends who are connected to the advertiser. On Twitter, ads can show whether someone a user follows is also following the advertiser, but this is not a precondition for placement as it is on Facebook.

We’d also suggest that the larger, more visual nature of Facebook in-stream ads would be another reason why they outperform Twitter ads. Promoted Tweets are limited to 140 characters and do not include any images besides the brand’s profile photo. Sponsored Stories on Facebook include a friend’s photo and a larger advertiser logo. They can also include more copy.

Whether Facebook ads will continue to perform this well in the feed remains to be seen. New ad formats tend to see more clicks at the beginning because users haven’t seen them before and want to find out what they are. Once the novelty of Sponsored Stories in News Feed wears off, Facebook ads might not seem as effective. If they remain high, it will be a good sign for the social network’s emerging ad model.

Facebook’s traditional ads in the right-hand sidebar are increasingly ignored by users. TBG found that sidebar ads in the traditional headline/image/body copy format have an average clickthrough rate below 0.05 percent. Sponsored Stories in the sidebar performed better at about 0.075 percent CTR, but this is still well below News Feed-based ads.

TBG’s Twitter clickthrough rate is an average based on more than 24 million impressions across multiple clients and business sectors. TBG did not break down the difference between ads that appear on Twitter.com versus those that appear on mobile devices. The Facebook CTRs are based on 278 million impressions served in June.

TBG Digital also looked at a number of other trends in Facebook advertising this quarter, including how costs and clickthrough rates vary by region, business sector and Sponsored Stories versus traditional sidebar ads. The full report is available here.

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