LONDON/OXFORD: Social media advertising can be a highly effective channel for driving long-term brand impact, but the very best campaigns are those where the brands communicate in a personable and more human way, a new academic study has revealed.

That is one of the key findings from research conducted by Andrew Stephen, L’Oréal Professor of Marketing at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, and Associate Professor of Marketing Felipe Thomaz.

The pair collaborated with Kantar Millward Brown to examine the global research agency’s data from Facebook and Instagram campaigns over the past two years, involving 235 campaigns across 110 different brands.

The campaigns – which ran mainly in the US, UK and Canada – covered Facebook only (49%), a mixture of Facebook and Instagram (48%) and Instagram only (3%).

The academics looked at longer term brand measures, such as awareness and affinity, rather than short-term metrics like clicks or sales, and used natural language processing to test the effectiveness of ads.

They found no strong correlation between campaign success and factors such as industry category, geography, format or the number of creative types. But there was a significant difference when it came to the language used.

“Those brands who communicate using human language, tapping into people’s emotions and avoiding more functional words and phrases, tend to perform better in advertising effectiveness, on brand metrics such as aided brand awareness, ad awareness and aided product awareness,” the research concluded.

Separately, Professor Stephen and his colleagues analysed the effectiveness of digital advertising across desktop and mobile platforms, involving 8,800 global campaigns over the last seven years.

Interestingly – and despite the sums now being spent on mobile advertising – the research found that desktop and mobile are equally effective in terms of brand impact.

“These findings are hugely important for businesses in understanding how they communicate on social media, with those who interact in a human and emotive manner able to capture greater awareness of their brands and products,” said Professor Stephen.

“The research also delivers useful insight on where advertisers should focus their efforts. With brand impact now delivered equally through desktop and mobile, advertisers must consider more carefully their media mix in order to reach consumers across these channels.”

Sourced from Saïd Business School, Kantar Millward Brown; additional content by WARC staff