The reality is that social media delivers the holy grail for advertisers on the Internet: a mass-concentrated U.S. audience reach similar to television.
The top 25 social media networks delivered over 155 million unique visitors in Feb. 2008 with 70 percent coming from MySpace, ( www.myspace.com/candybarwrap ) Facebook and Classmates.com. Add in YouTube and Flickr and you get another 60 million totaling an estimated 215 million humans viewing social media monthly. Compare that to television where an average 24-hour period delivers around 50 million unique viewers.
The highest viewership day of the year, Super Bowl Sunday, has an estimated 110 million unique U.S. residents viewing television. Even over an entire month there is arguably less than 200 million total unique television viewers. The Internet has become a powerful platform for advertisers to reach mass audiences via user generated video too. According to comScore Video Metrix, U.S. Internet users viewed over 10 billion videos online in the month of December alone. Imagine a 15 to 30 second commercial with each video view and the Internet seems ready today to compete with broadcast TV in delivering commercial views.
Advertising on social media is not about clicks or click rate any more than TV commercials are; it's about quickly reaching reaching a huge U.S audience. Sooner rather than later, advertisers will see social media as a great way to reach mass audiences. After all, in terms of audience size there are several Super Bowls every day on Facebook, MySpace and YouTube! It simply doesn't matter what the click rate is for Facebook, MySpace and YouTube because they reach huge audiences that major advertisers like Ford, Pepsi and McDonald's can't help but see the value in. Predictably, Adwords buyers will see the value too. Click rates are a reflection of pageviews and social media sites similar to TV have a large overlapping audience that hang around them all day, every day.
Television would have a low click rate too if an ad campaign were measured over the course of a months worth of programs on the same network, assuming you could click the screen. People also tune in and out of TV just like they do with social media. According to Compete's figures for every unique visitor to YouTube there are 54 pageviews. With Facebook, a unique visitor creates an amazing 564 pageviews in a month and on MySpace each person generates a staggering 1,110 pageviews. The social media audience is loyal, large and habit-oriented just like broadcast TV.
They also hit the prime youth-tilting demographic who are big spenders online and are considered a high value audience by ad agencies and advertisers. Ultimately, what advertisers value is the audience, not just the clicks.