LONDON: Facebook, the social network, has cemented its leading role in the UK's online display market, having almost doubled its total number of impressions over the last year.

According to comScore, the research firm, Facebook delivered 19.7 billion display ads in May 2010, an improvement from 11.8 billion in May 2009.

This portal came in ahead of Microsoft's stable of sites on 4.7 billion, with properties owned by Google, including YouTube and Gmail, in third on 2.68 billion.

Yahoo completed the top five on 2.4 billion exposures during the month, but AOL fell out of this group after witnessing a major decline year-on-year.

In terms of unique visitors, Facebook's audience had grown in size from 22.3 billion members to 31.2 billion people in the timeframe under assessment.

Microsoft's varied services generated an increase from 25.2 billion to 31.3 billion, while Google, eBay and Yahoo also all attracted billions of extra netizens when compared with May 2009.

"Facebook's popularity continues to surge not only with consumers but also with advertisers," Mike Read, managing director of comScore Europe, said.

"With eight billion more ads on the site versus last year, there is a clear willingness to test Facebook's ability to drive brand engagement."

Among the organisations which featured on Facebook's pages in May 2010 were Virgin, active in sectors such as transport and personal finance, as well as Telefonica, the telecoms specialist.

This trend is set to gain further ground in the future, with industry bellwethers like Unilever having expressed an interest in utilising this route to engage with current and potential customers.

"You start to see there's a mutual agenda that companies like ours can develop with companies like Facebook or Microsoft," Keith Weed, Unilever's chief marketing officer, said at a recent conference.

Data sourced Media Week; additional content by Warc staff