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Facebook ads are effective, says new study

Amid the debate on the value of advertising on Facebook, a new study from ComScore finds that ads do affect the buying behavior of the site's members.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Do Facebook ads influence members to buy stuff? A new ComScore study says yes.

In advance of the study's publication next week, ComScore analyst Andrew Lipsman discussed the impact of Facebook advertising, saying that "Facebook earned media is having a statistically significant positive lift on people's purchasing of a brand."

The conclusions reached by ComScore run counter to recent a Reuters/Ipsos survey claiming that most Facebook members aren't influenced to buy products and services that appear in ads or comments.

But ComScore questions the accuracy of such surveys, saying that people don't necessarily provide accurate assessments of their own behavior, especially when asked about their actions over a long period of time.

"Their accuracy in recalling their own behavior over an extended period of time can be especially unreliable," Lipsman wrote. "People might be able to accurately tell you how many times they have eaten at a restaurant in the past week, but they would probably do a poor job estimating that number over the past three months."

Also, people don't usually like to believe that advertising influences their behavior, even though studies have shown it does. So they may be reluctant to admit if an actual ad affected a buying decision, or not even be aware it did.

The same Reuters/Ipsos survey determined that 34 percent of Facebook users now spend less time on the site than they did six months ago. But ComScore challenged those results as well.

ComScore's own findings determined that time spent per user on Facebook is actually up a few percent over the period of time measured. Again, the recollections of people as to what they did and when may not always be accurate, according to ComScore.

"In the case of the internet, people spend time doing dozens if not hundreds of things online each day," Lipsman added. "It is highly unlikely that their recall of the exact sites they visited, the amount of time they spent there, or their specific exposure to brand messages will be closely aligned with what actually happened."

ComScore will reveal more details on its study -- including its methodology -- next week at the ARF Audience Measurement 7.0 conference in New York and in a new white paper called "The Power of Like 2: How Social Marketing Works."