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Hal Licino

According to Your Brain, Social Websites Engage More than TV

Dec 13 2011, 06:10 PM by

A recent scientific study by NeuroFocus examined the neurological impact of advertising in different contexts and has come up with some startling conclusions about the efficacy of website advertising when combined with the social element. The subsidiary of the giant Nielsen ratings provider, which bills itself as a neuromarketing company, compared the impact of the New York Times, Facebook and Yahoo on test subjects by clinically measuring their brainwaves. If you’re shifting around on your seat from the prospect of marketing researchers tapping directly into your gray matter, you’re not alone.
The Brainwave Determination of a Premium Website Experience
All three sites were able to garner a greater level of both emotional engagement and overall attention than the average for similar websites. That qualifies them in the vernacular of the researchers to be acknowledged as “premium website experiences.” The qualification as being among the elite premium sites is measured by the researchers as the extent of the neurological response. By measuring the brain wave pattern of the subjects when they were visiting the three sites, they were able to measure:
Level of attention
Emotional engagement
Memory activation
These three factors are essentially standalone measurements, as one site may engage a viewer in a powerful emotional manner but fail to make a long term impact and is thus easily forgotten. Therefore it would score highly on emotional engagement but poorly on memory activation. The three sites scored as follows:
New York Times – Attention Level: 8.35; Emotional Engagement: 6.2; Memory Activation: 7.25.
Yahoo – Attention Level: 8.15; Emotional Engagement: 6.2; Memory Activation: 6.7.
Facebook – Attention Level: 8.3; Emotional Engagement: 6.65; Memory Activation: 7.2.
We thus see that the New York Times draws a higher level of attention than Yahoo and Facebook but falls to the social network when it comes to engaging the emotions of the website visitor. Yahoo’s content is considerably more forgettable than either Facebook’s or the New York Times, meaning that it fails to make as much of an impact on the centers of the brain that are responsible for filing data away for future recollection.
Surprising Gender Findings
Although subjects from both genders responded similarly to most of the queries posed by the researchers, there were notable variances. Facebook was seen as resonating more with their own individual needs for men over women (a rather surprising finding), while Yahoo was seen by females as stronger in “advice” and “connecting” functions.
Results Are a Boon to Advertisers Everywhere
The most significant conclusion of the study is that the websites that creatively integrate social elements into every aspect of their presentations can create a level of emotional engagement that is quite close to the most engaging medium: Television. The budgets required to reach millions of people on television extend into the millions of dollars, with some corporations spending hundreds of millions per year. Therefore, the discovery that an advertiser is able to achieve a similar level of emotional engagement through a channel that is so relatively inexpensive as websites and social media is a major boon to corporate advertisers and small businesses alike.
Similar or Greater Emotional Engagement than TV
The researchers also measured overall neurological effectiveness to determine “a composite measure of the efficiency of cognitive processing – a weighted combination of attention, emotional engagement and memory activation. One of the most interesting of the various tests was a 30 second advertisement for Visa credit cards that they displayed to the subjects in three different contexts:
In a TV pod
On a Facebook product page
On the Visa corporate website
Overall effectiveness was highest on the Facebook page at 6.6, followed by the TV pod display at 6.3, with the Visa corporate site scoring a low 5.8. This significant difference can be attributed to the lack of social engagement in the Visa corporate site over the social network’s page. However, the revelation that the ad in a TV pod is actually less effective than on Facebook is certainly surprising. As creepy as reading brainwaves for marketing purposes may seem, these conclusions are definitely worth examining!

Posted in Social Media, Current Events

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