PALO ALTO: An increasing number of brand owners are using the advertising services offered by Facebook, the social network, to engage with consumers.

According to comScore, the research firm, a total of 176.3 billion banner ads were served on Facebook in the first quarter of this year, giving it a market share of 16.2% in the US.

The social media platform also exposed American netizens to more banners than any other online publisher in the country, due both to the size of its audience and the long dwell time recorded by its members.

As a result, Facebook overtook Yahoo on this measure in Q1, with the latter of these organisations having registered 131.6 billion impressions in the opening three months of 2010.

It was followed by Microsoft on 60.2 billion ads, although these figures did not include the extensive networks operated by the company, as was also the case for Yahoo.

Verizon, the telecoms giant, Ford, the automaker, and Toyota, one of its major rivals, were all among the brands that have greatly extended their use of Facebook as a marketing tool in the last year.

Elsewhere, Starbucks, the coffee house chain, Cadbury's, the confectioner, and Little Debbies, the snack brand, all recently staged homepage takeovers on Facebook.

Ikea, Denny's and World Wrestling Entertainment have similarly started to take advantage of the highly targeted self-service ad platform run by the social network.

In an effort to further leverage this rising interest among marketers, Facebook recently modified the layout of certain sections of its site, allowing for the inclusion of a greater number of ads.

Linda Abraham, comScore's cmo, said this will have exerted some impact on its results in Q1, and also warned that it "remains to be seen" if Facebook would ultimately steal more share from its rivals.

"The data has to play out over the next couple of months to definitely say that," she argued.

Using a broadly equivalent approach to comScore, Nielsen, the media monitoring specialist, said Facebook held 20% of the US display ad market in April 2010, an uptick from just 2% in April 2009.

However, this still left the social network behind Yahoo, which recorded a small contraction from 35% to 34% in the same timeframe.

A greater disparity exists in terms of revenue, with Yahoo posting sales of $6.5bn (€5.1bn; £4.4bn) in 2009, largely driven by advertising, compared with the forecast of $1bn that Facebook is quoting for 2010.

Recently, Facebook and Nielsen released a study indicating that engagement ads on the social network helped drive up a range of key brands metrics among its users.

The IAB, the digital industry body, reported that display spending, including rich media, video and sponsorship, rose by 4% to $8bn in the US in 2009.

As comScore estimated that 1.1 trillion display impressions were delivered in the first quarter of this year, an increase from 944 billion year-on-year, this medium could be set for further growth in 2010.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal/TBI Research; additional content by Warc staff